Spoiler alert!: This story reveals details of Netflix’s “Love is Blind” finale. To avoid any spoilers, stop reading now, lock yourself in a pod to watch and then come back!
If you’ve seen the “Love is Blind” finale, you know there was no need to raise a metallic champagne glass to Mr. and Mrs. Mark Cuevas (should Jessica Batten have wanted to take the last name of her all-in suitor, a decade her junior).
“It’s my wedding day, and I couldn’t be happier,” Jessica says on Episode 10 of Netflix’s captivating and cringeworthy new dating show, explaining that she found “full-blown love” with Mark and making it seem as if she would say “I do.” Even at the altar, she praises and professes her love for Mark, who was 24 when the series was taped in fall 2018.
But when it was her turn to commit, Jessica, then 34, said she thought the two weren’t ready. In her defense, they had met just weeks before, “dating” while isolated in pods and unable to see each other until they were engaged. As the show went on, they moved in together.
Following the finale, we had so many questions, and honestly couldn’t wait for the reunion, taped Feb. 18 and available Thursday on Netflix’s YouTube channel. So we asked the couple a bunch of them (edited for clarity).
Question: Honestly, did you go into the show expecting to walk away with a husband?
Jessica Batten: Absolutely.
Q: Wow, no hesitation?
Jessica: OK, with a husband? Maybe not with a husband… I went into the show feeling like I was going to fall in love, because I’m someone who thinks everything happens for a reason, and I over-dramatized all of it (laughs).
Q: You fell in love. You got very close to finding a husband. How did you feel waking up on your wedding day?
Jessica: I was actually quite ready for it to happen. It had been a month and a half of a bit of a struggle and some frustration. I was memorializing the experiences and taking it all in, but I was definitely ready to sort of let it play out. I already knew what my decision was gonna be. Mark and I had already had conversations about the future of our relationship, and I felt like I was in a good place and I was ready to walk down the aisle and do what I needed to do.
Q: You knew before (the wedding) that you were going to say no, is that what you’re saying?
Jessica: I did. I knew before the wedding day that I wasn’t ready, we were not in a place to commit to marriage that day.
Q: When did you know that you were not going to say “I do”?
Jessica: In Mexico, I started having a lot of reservations, and a woman’s intuition was saying that this probably was not going to happen for us. And I was honest with him then, I was honest with him every moment that I felt anything. I felt like I had gotten in over my head. So I immediately told him in Mexico: “Oh no, I think I am not necessarily ready for this. I think we have a lot to figure out,” and all that.
Q: In the episode on your wedding day you’re saying you’d found “full-blown love” and you “couldn’t be happier” and you’re ready to exchange vows. So it definitely makes it seem like you’re going to say “I do.” And then you say I’m “too much of a realist to take this big of a chance.” So why that contrast?
Jessica (who has not seen the edited finale): Gosh, I didn’t have any of that context, so thank you. I figured what would play out is I look a little relieved that day, and I’m excited and all of those things, and I felt like me and Mark were on the same page. I really wanted to get out of a pressure-filled situation that was leading to a marriage that I didn’t think we were ready for.
Q: So you and Mark had already had a conversation. Were you were surprised that he said he wanted to marry you then, on the altar?
Jessica: Yes, to say the least.
Q: And what were you feeling when he said yes?
Jessica: It was interesting, because we had discussed a lot of the details of the wedding. He and I had to choose who are we going to have as our bridesmaids and a lot of the details… but when the doors opened I realized there were, like, five more groomsman than we discussed, and I thought, “Oh, welp, I think he’s gonna say yes,” and that’s exactly what happened.
Q: In the episode, you say “I’ll apologize to whoever I need to apologize to.” Did you apologize to Mark, or anybody?
Jessica: I did apologize to him, and I apologized to his mom. You know, I apologized to him every single day of that experiment (laughs) to be honest with you. I was like, “I’m so sorry this is happening,” or “I’m so sorry that I don’t feel like I can do this or that because it’s untruthful.”
Q: Ultimately, why couldn’t it work between you two?
Jessica: The pods (were) very 15 minutes today, an hour tomorrow. I probably spent four or five hours in total talking to him. Once we were in Mexico, and you’re with somebody 24/7, there’s a lot of other dynamics that play in – interactions with other people, and you’re having very long conversations and you’re spending day in and day out together. It just wasn’t right. We’re just at different life stages, and it became very apparent.
Q: In the pods, you also had a connection with Barnett. Do you think things could’ve worked out with him?
Jessica: No. I don’t. I don’t think that would’ve worked out, either. I don’t think my guy was there, unfortunately, but I tried really hard.
Q: Were you surprised that Barnett and Amber made it all the way and got married?
Jessica: I was initially shocked. But after we got out of the pods, and I saw them together and they were so happy, I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew they were going to go through with it… and I was just super happy for them. There was no resentment, no “I want to go get your man,” or anything like that. I was fully supportive of them.
Q: You mention you had hopes of falling in love when you signed up for the show. And it appeared that you were very hurt by Barnett and that you had a special connection. And then you went back to Mark. Looking back, do you feel like Mark was any sort of fallback guy, or were your feelings for him genuine?
Jessica: I can see how it looked. It literally looked like I went from one room of being broken up with to the next room, accepting an engagement. There were a lot of feelings that I was processing during that time. Barnett represents a guy that I normally go for who’s unavailable… and the whole time Mark had been there. He had been wanting a relationship since Day 1, and that also represents someone in my life who I don’t tend to go for. So, I was drawing all of these parallels from the pods to my real life, and I felt like this is what was meant to be. I’m supposed to walk away from this guy who’s eluded me before, and I’m supposed to end up with the guy who’s been there since Day 1.
Q: But you were genuinely in love with Mark?
Jessica: 100%. I watch the episode back, and I was fully in love with him. I wouldn’t have told him I loved him if I didn’t feel that in the moment, but I think a lot of it was sensationalized due to the uncomfortability of the living situation. I hadn’t talked to my friends, I hadn’t talked to my family. You have no TV, no internet. You’re with these 15 women in this pod which is really a soundstage in south Atlanta. Life starts to get pretty weird, and you’re having these connections with these men, and it feels different than if you just met them in the real world.
Q: Are you dating anybody now?
Jessica: I’m actually dating around, but nothing serious. I didn’t date for a long time, after the show, but I recently started up again. It’s been really great. I’m actually in L.A. now. So it’s been a nice change from Atlanta. Atlanta is a tough place to date…
The day after talking to Jessica, we talked to Mark.
Q: Jessica said you guys had conversations about not being ready to wed. Was that true?
Mark Cuevas: I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I made this promise before I did this experiment that I’m gonna stay true to myself no matter what. Even though those conversations might’ve been (had), once I saw her walking down the aisle, I just felt what I felt in the moment, and I think the hopeless romantic in me was like, “We can do this.”
Q: Were you shocked that she didn’t reciprocate and say, “I do?” or did you expect that?
Mark: I mean, it hurt. I was disappointed, but it was such an intense experience, and we were both trying to figure it out. Jess is always gonna have a special place in my heart no matter what.
Q: You said you needed to be honest for yourself, but is there any part of you that wishes you hadn’t said “I do” just so Jessica wouldn’t have been surprised?
Mark: Once you’re up there and you hear the music come on and they open these doors (and) she walks down the aisle … I still get emotional thinking about it because that day no one could’ve told me anything. I was on Cloud 9, and I had that same rush because to me it’s like, “Wow! I deserve this love.” And sure, the outcome didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to, but living in the moment you can never regret the things you do, because everything’s a lesson.
Q: You’ve identified yourself as a hopeless romantic. Do you feel, looking back, that you genuinely loved her the first time she said hi to you?
Mark: People say love at first sight, for me it was like first voice. All the women in this whole experience are beautiful people and wonderful. It’s just Jess was the one that stood out no matter what, and it was real to me. I was 24 at the time and, again, I love hard, and I don’t regret anything from it.
Q: What was it like seeing Jessica at the reunion?
Mark: It was good to see her. She looked as beautiful as ever… We talked, we were friends, and it was water under the bridge.
Q: Have you connected with anyone like you did with Jessica since the show?
Mark: It’s hard to compare how I connected with anybody as I connected with Jess.
Q: For those criticizing Jessica, what should they know?
Mark: We’re the first people to ever do this. Jess was figuring it out just as much as I was. I really wish people would cut her some slack, because she is beautiful and a really deep, loving person.