After Love Is Blind ‘s most dramatic breakup yet, Cole Barnett has decided to look back at his failed relationship in a positive light.
“Going into it, I just didn’t have a lot of faith in it because I was like, ‘I’m dating 15 girls. What are the odds that the girl I’m going to marry is in those pods?’ So I was pretty shocked that I really did click with someone who I could see myself marrying,” he tells EW. “Obviously, things didn’t work out the way that either of us would’ve wanted. But overall it was a really good learning experience.”
Below, Cole Barnett dives deep with EW about his relationship with Zanab Jaffrey, what people didn’t see in the episodes, that infamous “cuties” scene, and more.
Warning: This article contains spoilers about the Love Is Blind season 3 finale and reunion.
Did you anticipate the response you would get after the episodes came out?
COLE BARNETT: I had no clue. We all know that we’re on a TV show, we all know that there’s a potential fame at the end of it, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be the way that it is. But it is what it is: you have a lot of people who hate you, and you have a lot of people who love you. It’s not like, “This is so fun now that I have a bunch of people who really don’t like me and a bunch of people who do like me.” I have to try harder to be away from my phone more because you kind of just want to sit around and read everything online. But I’ve done my best to disconnect from what the internet is doing and just still be my same self in my life.
What has it been like watching the episodes back now that it’s been some time since you went through the experience?
It was difficult. It was not at all what I expected. We had a lot of happy moments that aren’t seen in the show, and it was hard to watch our worst moments be seen on the show, my worst moments, things that I said then that I’m even looking at now and thinking, “I have no clue why those words came out of my mouth because I don’t even think that way.” But then it’s also exciting to see your best moments and see, “Wow, we were really close to making it work. We had some incredible moments together and dates together to where it was looking like it could really work.”
Have you watched the finale and the reunion yet?
I’ve seen the finale once. I haven’t seen the reunion, but I’ve seen the weddings.
Did you have any warning that Zanab was going to say no during your wedding?
I really thought she was going to say yes. The last thing that we had spoken about the night before, she had told me she was “a thousand percent” ready to marry me. That’s why I was questioning her so hard. And in the show, it’s a very uncomfortable conversation that we’re going through, and that’s because I really was feeling like we weren’t ready to be married in our relationship.
We didn’t get to where you would’ve needed to get to to have a wedding the next day, and so when we were talking that last night, when we’re having dinner, I was definitely in some ways pressing and pushing to figure out, “Wait, you’re really ready to marry me tomorrow? Because it just doesn’t feel like that.”
And so when she was telling me, “I’m a hundred percent ready. I’m a thousand percent ready to marry you,” I was believing that, but I was also challenging why she was saying that. And then it turns out, yeah, I was right to challenge that because at the wedding she obviously was not a hundred percent ready to marry me.
What was it like filming the reunion?
The reunion was rough. I mean, the reunion was horrible. I went into the reunion hoping for it to be a reunion of all of us coming back together after a year and a half of not being on the show, and us being able to be happy about the fact that we created something together and we did a show together, and speak more to the highlights of it. But it seemed like everyone really wanted to come and just lowlight everything.
The girls all stuck together, banded together, and I guess they were proud of it.
The guys — or at least I know myself and some of the guys — are not proud that we didn’t get married. We’re not proud at how things went in our relationships, and we kind of just sat there and wanted to mention those things and then speak to what it could have been, and what we were trying to make it, and it wasn’t.
I just think the reunion was very difficult because it seemed like the girls were on a very different page than the guys.
I didn’t watch the show and think, “I’m going to go stand up for myself in all these ways.” I was like, “Let’s keep working through things.” The girls just stood up for themselves a lot and attacked in some ways.
During the reunion, Zanab revealed she developed an eating disorder throughout filming. Did you know about that before the reunion?
No, that’s the very first time I’d ever heard about her eating disorder. I had no clue, not during our relationship, not since I had seen her even after the show. She hadn’t mentioned that to me. I mean, I hadn’t heard of anything that anyone said at the reunion, like the stories and the things that I was being accused of, even though I had spent time and gone out to restaurants and bars [with some cast members] within a month or two prior to reunion.
It’s just really difficult to work with people who will only say things to your face whenever there’s cameras around, and whenever there’s not cameras around and y’all are together no one’s saying things to my face.
I flew on a plane with Brennon from Dallas to LA to film the reunion, and we talked. He never said anything. Then we sit down at the reunion and he tells me that he disrespects me. I don’t even know how to deal with this if no one is willing to actually speak to me about anything, but everything’s behind my back, or it will be in my face but only when there’s cameras around. [Those are] pretty difficult relationships to have.
It doesn’t help that I’m being told one thing by people when there’s not cameras around, and then I’m hearing about the way that people feel about me through other people instead of directly from them.
It’s very difficult. If someone has something to say to me, I wish they would just say it to my face. They did say it to my face at the reunion, but we had a lot of interactions before then and no one just wanted to say it to me. It’s fine if that’s how they want to live — I just don’t think it’s a great way to live, but okay, sure.
What was your reaction when Zanab said that she had stopped eating because of how she felt she was treated during the relationship?
I hate that. I absolutely hate that. I would never want that for anyone. I can’t believe that. If that really did come from our relationship, I am to the core of myself sorry that that ever happened. I wish that I could in any way help her, but I had no idea, and I still have no idea what that’s like for her because we’re not really on talking terms.
During the reunion, the tangerine/cuties conversation was discussed, and you said that if there was footage of that scene then you wanted the producers to show it. That scene is played before the credits. Have you watched that scene back? Did you know it was going to be included in the reunion?
Oh, so it is played in the reunion now?
No, I haven’t seen it. I had no idea.
How do you feel knowing that they did include that scene?
I don’t even know what the scene is, to be honest. Can you tell me what the scene is?
It’s the moment she had described where she had grabbed two tangerines, and you asked if she was going to eat them both. When she said that’s a serving, you said she better save her appetite for dinner later.
I don’t know. I’d have to see it to make a comment on it, to be honest with you. I’ve been told the story in 10 different fashions and manners ever since it happened. I’m just so tired of hearing about it. That’s why at the reunion I literally said, “Please play it if someone has it.” I was being asked where and when did this happen, and I’ve been telling people, “Please play it because I don’t know, to be honest.” I have not seen it. I don’t know how that conversation went. This was two years ago. If I in any way made her self-conscious by the words that I said, I’m very sorry. It wasn’t my intention, but, I mean, I’d have to see it first to even speak to it.
Zanab also claimed that you had told her about getting a girl’s number at the bachelor party, but there isn’t any footage shown of that. Is there anything you wanted to say about that?
The story is the same as what I said at the reunion, which is I didn’t try to kiss a girl at my bachelor party. We went to a rodeo. We chased cows around, and we went to a saloon that was specifically designated for us. There [were] no other people there. And then I Ubered home with an Uber that was bought for us by Netflix. I went to my apartment and went to sleep. I didn’t go out with the guys. I don’t even know if the guys went out or where they went, so I don’t know the origins of that story. I just think it’s a ridiculous story when you see that she was feeling on other men at her bachelorette party. So I just don’t understand the premise of that one.
Now, the thing that Brennon was accusing me of, I don’t know if that’s shown in the reunion. It probably is. Brennon was claiming that I hit on a girl right after getting engaged. That really caught me off guard because I didn’t know what he was talking about.
Since the reunion, I thought about it, and talked to the guys about it, and remembered that we went to our hotel after I had got engaged. I did go up to people and I was telling people that I had gotten engaged to a girl I’d never seen because I was kind of in shock. All of us guys got back to the hotel and we were all like, “Dude, this is the weirdest thing ever. We’ve gotten engaged through a wall.” We had to wait two or three days before our reveal, just locked in that hotel, so I would talk to other people in the hotel, and they’d ask what we’re doing there. I would tell them, “I’m engaged to a girl who I’ve never even seen.”
We weren’t really supposed to be telling people, but I was anyways because it was a ridiculous feeling to be going through. For Brennon to say that I hit on a girl is just not true because I was just talking to people about the fact that I had just gotten engaged to a girl I’d never seen.
I was taking it very seriously, which is why I wanted to tell people because I was like, “There’s a girl on this planet who is engaged to be my wife, and I’ve never seen her.”
I had to tell people because we didn’t have our phones, I couldn’t call my family, I couldn’t call my friends. I was freaking out, so I did approach the people that we would meet at the bars, and I would tell them that. I guess Brennon took that as me hitting on another girl. It’s not at all the case. That’d be so stupid. It just doesn’t make sense to me that I would try to hit on a girl right after getting engaged that day. I didn’t do that.
What’s your relationship with Zanab like now?
I don’t think we’re ever going to be together again or anything like that, but I’d love to at least be able to be friends with her and talk to her and work through any of the pain that I’ve caused her. I’m in a place where I want to do my best with however I can make things right with her.
It’s not to say that we’re ever going to have a romantic relationship again because she’s obviously pretty much done with me, but with our lives being on display for everyone to watch and our relationship being on display, I’d like to at least have an open line of communication with her. She reached out and asked for all the photos and videos I had of us, and I sent those to her. Then from there, she just won’t really talk. Any message I send, she just likes it and then leaves it.
Is there anything else you wanted to say about your experience on Love Is Blind or your relationship with Zanab that the cameras didn’t show?
I don’t have anything else to say, but I am curious because I haven’t seen the orange clip. You’ve seen the cuties clip. Does it look like I pretty much put her down or am I attacking her with what I said?
It is pretty much how she described it during the reunion. I wouldn’t say you were attacking her, but you said what she said you did.
Okay. Yeah. Well, I will just have to see it and go from there.
Did you like Love is Blind season 3?