‘Love Is Blind’ star Zanab Jaffrey reveals she needed therapy after her relationship with Cole Barnett
Love Is Blind
Warning: This article contains spoilers about the Love Is Blind season 3 finale and reunion.
Season 3’s most dramatic will-they-won’t-they couple had an intense relationship throughout filming that ultimately ended when Jaffrey said “I don’t” at their wedding. Before she left, she gave a powerful speech about why she couldn’t marry Barnett. And later, during the reunion (streaming now on Netflix), Jaffrey revealed she actually developed an eating disorder during filming as a result of his comments to her about her body and eating habits. Jaffrey wants viewers know that she loved him despite all the negative aspects of their relationship.
” Watching the reveal back, I was screaming at the television. ‘What happened? “What happened? EW speaks with Jaffrey. “I tried to get back to that every single day we were engaged. I did fight for our relationship. I did. And I did play with him, and I did laugh, and I know how to have a great time, but a life partner is a serious decision, so if I seemed a bit serious or intense at times, it’s because I am 32, and I do want a partner for life. It’s a serious decision. It’s heavy. I wanted to make sure that we were making the right call for us both. “
Below, Jaffrey talks to EW about her relationship with Barnett and the eating disorder that she developed while filming. She also discusses how she is doing now.
Love is Blind Season 3
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After you finished filming, how did you prepare to deal with the response to the episodes and your journey when the season finally premiered?
ZANAB JAFFREY: I feel very deeply, and I was very much in love at the time. I was devastated when I had to leave my wedding. I wasn’t married at the time. I went to my mom’s house for a few days to grieve. But I knew this would happen. This was the whole point of it all, that I would have a chance to relive it someday. I went to therapy after the wedding, a year and half ago. This is what has happened. It’s a great way to get in a good place for the release. It’s just space. I don’t want to be influenced by men and just take the time to release.
Therapy sounds like the perfect way to deal with the aftermath of everything you went through.
Yeah, couldn’t agree more. Therapy is a huge advocate for me. Therapy has been a part of my life many times. It is possible for everyone to benefit. It was clear to me how emotionally I was during the experiment and the experience. I wanted to be able see myself and feel the emotions, and then be able detach from it and know that I’m not there anymore.
You and Cole had the most tumultuous relationship out of all the couples this season. How does the reality of your experience compare with the portrayal in the episodes?
It’s thousands of hours of footage all condensed into 10 episodes. We laughed a lot and we loved each other very much. I mean, I would love to have ended that experiment with a husband but that was not the course of our relationship. And while I wish him well I stand behind everything I said on our wedding day. I didn’t just say “no” to Cole that the rest of the world saw. I said no to Cole that I was living with and I got 24 hours a day.
At what point did you decide you were going to say no and deliver that speech to him at the altar?
I really was torn. Cole and I had very high highs as well as quite low lows. I was the hopeless romantic in myself and the person who saw my friends Alexa and Brennon have a smooth sailing trip and people looking like they are going to get married, and I wanted that for myself. I said that I wouldn’t know what I wanted until I was at the other end of the aisle. I was trying to hold onto the good times and hope they would cancel out the bad. He looked terrified when I looked up at them as I walked down that aisle. I knew that this is how your groom should look at you. It wasn’t as if I was walking down to my best friends, or that I was walking down there for the man I know will love me forever. I hoped that I would be able to get a yes on my wedding day, but I think I just waited and made the call when he was there.
Have you watched the reunion yet?
I’ve not seen the reunion, no.
When you filmed the reunion, how did you feel it went for you and Cole?
It was heated. Cole and I don’t speak much, so it was our first time speaking together since the wedding day. Although I don’t know the details of the episode, I feel like I communicated clearly. I also know that Cole is probably upset about some of the things that were said.
How did it feel having a lot of the other cast members supporting you during the reunion?
Their support means everything. This was a video that was shot over a year ago. I can see the places where I may have appeared harsh or unhappy, or that Cole couldn’t make me happy. But there was so much more. It was so important to have the support of my girls and that they had my back. It did happen. People noticed how it was affecting them and were concerned. I am grateful to them for speaking up and supporting me.
You revealed that you developed an eating disorder throughout filming. I am sorry that you went through this. What are you doing now?
Thank you. I’m doing very well. I was pretty broken and beaten up when I ended that relationship. I began therapy and have been on a journey of self-love ever since. I reintroduced food as quickly as possible, and my body and metabolism hated me for it. It was a very real thing in the past but it was very real now, so it was important to talk about it. They are very real issues that people deal with. I want to be open about them, because it makes them less taboo. There are many societal standards that define what a woman should look like. I was 100 percent trying to do everything I could to make my fiance crazy about me physically. I will always be honest with my feelings and openly discuss them, especially if it helps someone, anyone hearing it.
At what point were you able to recognize that your eating habits had become unhealthy, and how long after filming ended did you seek out professional help?
I didn’t seek out help for an eating disorder. I was just spending time with my family. My mom was very supportive of me going out to my mom’s. She said, “You’re really thin, not really eating, so let us eat.” I have always been a good cook. I love food. I don’t turn down desserts. I’m not the girl who makes bread. I have never been like that. It was quite shocking for my system. It is hard to stress how much my body hated me after that. I gained a lot of weight once I started eating again and eating more regularly, but that was soon stabilized. It was therapy and my family that helped me to realize I had to change my thinking and treatment of myself.
Love is Blind Season 3
Had you spoken about your eating disorder with Cole before you talked about it during the reunion?
We don’t speak. We don’t speak the same language. Since then, he and I have not had a phone conversation. There was never any communication before. We did have conversations, regardless of whether it was on the show. I believe there was a clip with cuties. I wasn’t eating and he made several comments about food that I didn’t understand. I was like “Well, it is the first time I eat today” or “I’m going eat this because it is the first time I hear it.”
Speaking of the cuties/tangerine clip, they do show that footage in the reunion before the credits. It’s exactly as you described.
Well, I’m glad that it was shown. I’m not crazy. This is what happened. [Laughs] So I’m glad they used it. This was a wild ride, and the producers were all very — I mean they’ve always listened when I voiced concerns to them, so that’s something I really appreciate. It’s there. It’s all there. I know that it is. I’m grateful that they looked it up for me and used it.
You also revealed that the night before the wedding, Cole told you he got a girl’s number at the bachelor party, but he denied that too. Is there anything you want to discuss about this moment?
Yeah, absolutely. Cole provided this information to me. This is not third-party information. It is not via telephone. It doesn’t make it to the reunion. He was saying that I had promised there would be no drama at my wedding. But 20 minutes later, we were just talking and he shared that he tried to kiss a girl at his bachelor party. He said, “I’m about getting married.” I want to kiss another girl. “Can I kiss you?” Evidently, she replied, “No, we don’t cheat.” I was like, “Oh! How nice. There are many good women in the world. I felt something inside me asking, “Cole? Did you get her number?” He replied, “Yeah, yes, I did. But I didn’t do any with it.” “
So yes, I did promise that there would be no drama at my wedding. But 20 minutes later he shared with me that he tried to kiss [another woman]. I don’t have to make up anything. I don’t need to make up anything. He shared this information with me. He denied it at the reunion. He can call me a lie. This would be false. It’s not the kind of behavior that would make someone want to marry. If there was ever a moment when I was leaning more towards no, it was that moment. It’s very disrespectful.
Now that you’ve had time to process everything that happened, gone to therapy, and watched this season onscreen, how are you feeling about how this experience went for you?
I’m so thankful for the experience. It taught me a lot about my self. It was a great experience to see yourself in a relationship and have the world weigh in. I am grateful that it led me on this self-involved journey over the past year. I would do it all over again, knowing the outcome and knowing that I would be where I am today. I feel the best version of myself and have learned a lot about my own self. I hope that my next relationship will be my forever one. This experience is what I am grateful for. I am overwhelmingly grateful.
What has the response been like so far now that the whole season is out?
Overwhelmingly positive. It’s a lot women supporting me, which is something I love. I am a girl’s girl and will do anything to help another woman. The support I receive from women is amazing. Then, of course, there’s the part of the internet that … [pauses]. As I watch him eat with me, I can see the places where I seem to be nagging and how miserable I look. I would stop and ask viewers why they think that. It’s impossible to win over everyone, but people who have worked on themselves, have healthy boundaries, and are comfortable standing up for their rights will see what I did. Those who haven’t done these things won’t.
What do you hope Cole learned from the reunion?
I hope he looks inward, maybe some self-awareness and accountability. I have always tried to treat him with kindness and will continue to do so because that’s all I can do. He was someone I loved once and cared deeply about. I hope he can do self-work. I hope he can be a good partner and treat women better. This will help us have a long-lasting, healthy relationship. You don’t treat people the same way across all genders. You shouldn’t treat people the way you love them, or how you are meant to treat them. It’s not healthy to do so. I hope he breaks this pattern.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Love Is Blind
Love Is Blind
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.