Mother-and-son Master Matchmakers JoAnn and Steve Ward are back for a whole new type of Tough Love. As always, Steve will be checking in with weekly commentary on each episode via this blog. Below, he talks about the show’s back-t0-back sixth and seventh episode…
This episode had an explosive setup, between bringing the exes in and Dennis’ mom.
For Dennis, having his ex there turned out to be a non-issue. It became more about putting him in a stressful situation to see how he’d handle it. He handled it well.
Heather’s past with Mike seems really messy, since she was with him both before and after she’d gotten together with Larry. Is that why the idea of Larry and Mike talking so bad to you?
Clearly, Larry had issues with the fact that she was hooking up with Mike before she met Larry and while they were broken up. She went back and hooked up with him again, and Larry has every reason to believe that if things ever got difficult between him and her, she would run into Mike’s arms again. So it was a very real threat. In group when I said, “Larry do you feel threatened by Mike?” she said, “Yeah, he does.” That’s why I didn’t think it was going to be a good idea for them to talk. I think Larry had a pretty good reason to feel tension with Mike, because obviously Mike’s not saying positive things about Larry. He is kind of poisoning the well. I mean, when you think about it, what’s the difference between what happened with Ryan, Axelle and Sherry versus what happened with Larry, Heather and Mike? The only difference is Larry never asked Heather what happened, and so Heather never told. When Heather was there, Heather was honest. Now that the cat’s out of the bag clearly it gives him a reason to feel on guard. Just like Axelle felt towards Sherry.
What did you think of Heather getting really aggressive with Larry later? He wasn’t even pushing her buttons at that point.
I think Heather looks for a certain reaction from people. She kind of responds to what the other person is giving her. So if Larry isn’t really playing into her emotions or her trap or anything, it’s just going to drive her nuts. And that’s what it did, it drove her nuts. She wanted to fight, and he wouldn’t.
Eventually it got to a point where you put a one-year ban on Mike. How did you get to one year? What was the rationale there?
I needed it to be a long period of time — something that could be substantial and could be a goal. Something they could work towards. A year from now, according to those two, they wanted to be married then anyway, so that’s plenty of time to solidify their relationship. At this point, they’re vulnerable.
Did you buy what Dustin said about his behavior on his date – that it was calculated to make Courtney jealous?
He acted like a 14-year-old. Grow up. Start being a man. This is everyday life. He should be able to do deal with the fact that she’s spending time with someone other than him. She’s not your girlfriend, you’ve got to learn to deal with it. It was meant to be a good lesson. The fact that he tried to make her jealous is childish. It’s childish and petty. Let me tell you something: his date was hot. For him to say that he wasn’t attracted to her was bulls***. He didn’t want to admit he was attracted to her because he didn’t want to make Courtney feel bad.
Yeah, it definitely seemed like there was more going on that just Dustin trying to make Courtney jealous.
He wouldn’t have tried to kiss the girl in private if he wasn’t attracted to her. He was playing games. He was playing games with me and I didn’t like it.
He’s been in a power struggle with you almost the entire time.
I was giving Courtney more control. By giving her more control, she’s feeling at liberty to make up her own mind and decide for herself who she wants. And she tells it point blank, she doesn’t want to deal with this anymore.
You did lift the ban on their break up.
At that point it was just like, “Do whatever you want.” Good for you, now you’ve got to handle it. I think this whole exercise was very empowering for her. It was like taking the training wheels off a bike.
And that’s what she needs, right? She has security issues.
Right, exactly. The first week of boot camp, I kept the training wheels on the bike. Now I’ve taken them off and she’s peddling on her own.
At the end, it was Dennis and Simone who ended up in the hot seat.
I was like, “All right, Dennis. You still haven’t convinced Simone that your mom’s opinion isn’t going to affect your opinion about her. So now you need to convince her by going into the room over there, telling your mom this is what you are doing, no questions asked.” And he did it. He manned up. I’m very proud of him. He did a great job.
What do you think was up with his mom, anyway? Was she just protective and of the mind that nobody would be good enough, or was it an actual issue with Simone?
I think she was projecting her fears of a bad marriage onto Dennis. I think she believes that the best way to prevent a bad marriage is by not getting married. I can understand where she was coming from. And keep in mind that Dennis initially had issues about getting married, and a lot of the time he couldn’t even understand why he was afraid to get married. He couldn’t even articulate it. Finally he just calmed his fear center down enough. In boot camp it was almost like taking a vacation. You know how they say that it sometimes takes people being on vacation a few days to actually get into vacation mode? It’s because that unconscious fear center in your brain needs to calm down. Dennis calmed down, he was able to think clearly and he realized that his fears were irrational. That’s how he came to the decision concretely to go forward and marry Simone. And then that’s why I re-introduced his mom, because I knew she would be involved in his life going forward. I think it was all just a matter of facing his fear. It’s great, it was remarkable. I’m proud to be a part of it.
The second episode of the week was all about confronting everyone with the enormity of marriage.
Yeah. They have no idea. The think, “Oh cool, we’re going to get married.” They don’t get it. They don’t realize how much it entails.
Mario’s financial fears made me wonder if you ever considered revising the ultimatum of this show: get engaged or break up.
Getting engaged doesn’t always mean that you have to spend money on the other person. In fact, getting engaged often means you save a lot of money. You move in with the person, you share expenses, you share bills, you cook for each other and you help each other out any way you can. That’s what being married and being in a relationship is all about. People fail to realize that.
Do you think that by focusing on the money Mario and maybe a few others were kind of fixating on stuff that wasn’t as relevant as the internal issues that were going on?
Well that’s the point, it shouldn’t really matter. The things that people do in order to make their relationships stronger have nothing to do with money. Money is just an illusion to provide security in relationships. A lot of people use it as an excuse to mask other, deeper unconscious fears. My mom and my dad, they had nothing when they got married. Nothing. They made themselves successful people by working hard and staying committed to each other and loving each other and doing the very best they can for me and my brother and my sister. My parents did it, and the odds were seriously against them. I don’t want these people to try to get away with saying, “We shouldn’t get married just because I can’t afford to pay for a wedding,” or, “I can’t afford to pay for an engagement ring.” It’s not about that. You can go down to city hall and get married by the justice of the peace. If you have to blow a ton of money on your wedding in order to feel that’s what signifies being married, then your priorities are out of order.
You also brought in divorce experts, one lawyer, one author, to talk to people. Was that more enormity-confrontation?
These people were intended to provoke them and see if there’s any lingering fears that would maybe challenge the decision to move forward in the relationship. Putting some of these naysayers or critics in front of them and having them say, “No, we’re confident in our decision,” should have made each of them even more confident in making their decisions.
At this point were there any couples that you thought should break up instead of getting engaged?
That’s sort of a loaded question. I think it really just depends on coming to terms on what you want out of life, and I don’t think I should put my expectations on any of these individuals. I was really just there to try and be an arbiter and try to help them decide for themselves where they want this relationship to go. Once I got rid of Ryan and Axelle, because it’s obvious that she deserves better, then fine. Does it seem that Dustin has atoned for his wrong doings? Seems like it. It’s up to Courtney to decide whether or not she accepts it. It’s not up to me to accept that for her.
Even as an arbiter, you were confused by her behavior.
Oh, absolutely. She was totally contradicting herself. She just really didn’t want to disappoint this guy. It’s sad. It seems that she was really holding back from making a personal decision to move forward with her life because she didn’t want to hurt this guy. That shows to me genuine care. Genuine feelings, genuine love. I think she genuinely loved him.
Do you think there’s anything a little bit selfish there, too? Breaking up would make her out on her own for the first time in eight years.
Yeah, but what could she be afraid of? So what, she has to take care of herself. I think she’s capable of taking care of herself. My advice would be: consider yourself free. Consider yourself liberated.
At the end of the episode, you’ve split everyone up…
Yes. I separated them so that they would ultimately make the decisions on their own and do what’s best for them as a person – without being influenced by their partner. Just as we saw with Dustin and Courtney, I wanted to avoid them just making the decision that their partner wants, because bootcamp is first and foremost about growing as an individual to be a better mate.