“I really do believe that even if I didn’t go through this process for marriage, God still would have matched me with someone regardless,” she told us over the phone. “I would have known that the time would come, keep strong in my prayers, know He’s got me. I still would have dated, still would have talked to people and hoped I would find the person God wanted me to be matched with, even without the show. I still would have walked by faith.”
But when the opportunity came for her to do more than wait on that time and special person, she went for it and took matters into her own hands. When it was announced that Married at First Sight was coming to Charlotte, as a fan and single, she jumped at the chance to be matched by the experts. Now the 27-year-old is getting married to a stranger on tonight’s episode of the popular Lifetime series. That she was chosen for this process has made her even more assured in her faith.
“The fact that they actually wanted me on here was like, oh my God,” she said, “and then when they found a match for me, it was even more so like, oh my goodness, everything is just happening as it’s supposed to.”
Before we get to see how marrying a man she doesn’t know goes over a span of eight weeks, we talked to Iris about her journey to tying the knot on TV, the dating scene in Charlotte, and why she was especially nervous to talk about being a virgin — the show’s first — in front of the world.
MadameNoire: As a young woman saving herself for marriage, what was the dating scene like for you in Charlotte?
Iris Caldwell: The dating scene for me was pretty difficult. No one was interested in real relationships. They wanted “situationships” or just wanted a fun time or just wanted something else. For me, I really wanted a real, committed relationship, and that was really difficult to find. I used to live in New York, and it was the same thing there. I don’t know if it’s just my age group, or what’s going on, but it seems that guys don’t want to fully dive deep into a real relationship.
I know women who feel the same way. There are often complaints about men having so many options that they’re not ready to settle down. In some cases, when they are, they want to move too fast. For women in both situations though, they tend to say they’re just going to wait and see what happens, focus on themselves and whatever is meant to happen will. What pushed you to go another route and seek out Married at First Sight instead?
I really wanted to get married at first sight because I was just like, “Why not?” I had been through this bad relationship and that bad relationship and had been watching the show since Season 1. I said to my mom, if this show ever comes to Charlotte, I’m going to apply. When it did I said, this is destined to happen, I have to do it. I was just going with the flow and saying, whatever happens, happens. I just gave it to God and said, hey, if this is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do, I know that God’s got me.
Were you nervous about taking part in this experiment as the show’s first virgin? Were you thinking of holding onto your virginity until after getting through the full eight weeks?
I definitely was very nervous, with the perception of virgins, in general, and now I was taking part in this show where it’s definitely shown. I don’t talk about it much, but on the show I had to talk about it lots of times. Also, I was just nervous about the person I was matched with, if they would be okay with that. Would they be willing to still commit to this marriage and relationship knowing that information? Would they really look past that and want to get to know who Iris is, while also knowing, sex is going to come eventually? But I really wanted to get to know who this person was that I was matched with and why we were matched. We were matched for a reason. At the same time though, he’s still a stranger. So I’m slowly figuring that out, and it’s definitely a learning experience I’m taking on.
In Keith’s case, he grew up watching his parents, married almost 30 years, and his grandparents, married for 55. Because your parents divorced when you were young, what relationships did you look up to and were inspired by when it came to your current desires of being married, and not only that, having traditional gender roles within that union?
I looked at a lot of my really great friends. They have amazing relationships and their parents have great relationships. I also looked at a lot of my family members who have been married for 50 plus years together, some 20 and 30. So I had a lot of friends and family support when it came to seeing the type of marriage I wanted to have for myself and for my family eventually. And it’s really great to have this support system of your family and friends and knowing that, hey, I may not have had this particular thing within my nuclear family, as in my parents, but I know have this support system I really look at and respect. Plus, there are all of the great couples that we’ve seen in our Black community, like Michelle Obama and Barack Obama. All of these great people that we have to look up to as great household names for Black couples and Black relationships are something I was truly able to foster inspiration from, as well as my family and friend units.
I wanted to ask that because when some people’s parents get divorced, it can change a child of that relationship’s views on marriage.
I look at it as, my parents were only meant to be together to make me at the end of the day and they still have a great relationship. They just know that some things may not work, but the end result is still meant to happen. I definitely see that in them, and my mom and dad never showed or never let me look down on marriage because theirs didn’t work. They said, “Ours didn’t work because of this, now go forth and be better than us.”
I know you said you are very strong in your faith. How did you feel comfortable as a person of faith in somewhat taking things into your own hands and asking these people to find a partner for you in this way?
My favorite line for that is, “I can trust the experts, but my faith is in God.” I truly am walking by faith and getting married by sight [laughs]. For me, I think it’s just a really great thing that I can pray and ask God for direction, for clarity, for so many things that I need to help me realize that this is where I’m supposed to be. At any time, God could have said, this is not for you. He could have told me that a long time ago, but he didn’t. He allowed me to stay in this. So I said, I’m going to do my best. We’re all nervous about things, but truly trusting God and knowing that He’s got your back regardless of what you’re going through just means so much. That’s truly what it was for me and my faith. I knew that God wasn’t going to put me in something I’m not supposed to be in. Regardless of that, I know He’s got my back through it, too.
Were you nervous about doing this in front of the world? And lastly, what would you say to people in the world who might say that marrying a stranger requires a bit of desperation?
It’s very nerve-wracking to kind of put your life out there for the whole world to see. You’re also putting your married life out there, with someone you’re just meeting. And for me, on top of that, I’m putting my virginity out there for everybody to see and take this walk with me. Now I’m having to express my sexuality on TV in front of the world and that is hard. People keep saying, “It’s a nice thing you’re a virgin.” Yeah, but that’s not only me. There are so many layers to Iris and that’s only one part. I’m also going into this hoping my husband would see and realize that about me too, that my virginity is only one little piece of me. But it is very nerve-wracking to know that cameras are going to follow me around with my new husband to see how we’re going to go about life and just knowing that hey, as long as me and my husband are good, we’re good. Whatever happens, happens and we’re good.
The perception that people have when it comes to the show, as you said, “Oh my gosh, people are so desperate that they can’t find a husband or wife on their own,” is interesting. Clearly half of America can’t because so many of us wouldn’t be single. So yeah, we do have this awesome resource of people who are willing to help us, so why not take part in it? Why not say hey, let’s see what happens and allow that to go ahead and take its course? You’re going with the flow of what’s going on with your life. If it’s supposed to be like this, then it’s supposed to be like this.
Overall, I just want people to understand that hey, you guys are taking a peek into just a small part of our lives. Not everything that has to do with who we are is not based on the few clips you see. We’re much more as people than this.
Married at First sight airs on a new night, and at a supersized 90 minutes now. Tune in for new episodes Wednesdays, at 8:30 p.m. EST/PST, on Lifetime.
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