At almost a year-and-a-half into our marriage, I finally realize that undeveloped, underdeveloped or unstable relationships are best kept off reality TV. Some time in late 2011, shortly before our wedding the following year, we were being considered for a reality show about newlywed life. We did a few interviews with producers, and one of the things they liked about us was that we were Black, since they’d been having a hard time with diverse casting.
Everything seemed to be going well until they asked us to do a video interview so they could get more of a sense of our personalities. The types of questions they wanted us to address were how we met, what our communication style was like, how often we argued, and if there was anything major going on in our lives that we needed to work on.
Our personalities were fine. We’re both laid back and well adjusted (for the most part), but after watching our own video, we came to the conclusion that we’re too boring, because there was no major drama going on. But the producers still seemed interested and said they’d call us.
We were excited about the concept because it was presented innocently enough, but then a good friend of ours warned us not to do it. Our goal was to promote a positive image of Black love as well as our brands, but said friend reminded us of the dangers of doing a reality show.
There are, of course, the couples that have infamously broken up after doing reality TV (Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, Porsha and Kordell Stewart), but our conclusion was that the cameras just sped up the inevitable, and that we’d be different because we were solid. Our friend’s second point was something to the tune of, how can we get a rhythm down pat as a married couple with cameras in our face for most of it? Especially with producers trying to manipulate and engineer our lives for the sake of a storyline.
They were all valid points, but again we were more about promoting our brand and the anti-stereotype, and in hindsight, we were naïve about the challenges that the first year of marriage could potentially bring. Sure, we cohabitated beforehand, but being husband and wife really is a new game. In the end, none of our thoughts and concerns mattered because we didn’t get chosen for the show.
I was bummed about it at first (more so than Mr. Rocque) until I saw the show’s premiere episode and realized that we definitely wouldn’t have fit in, because again, there’s no juicy drama. And even if we had made it, we might not have made it, because year one, for us, was rough—more on that in a bit.
The show’s intro brought up statistics about how 50% of marriages end in divorce and that the first year of marriage is the hardest. And after introducing each of couples, the intro’s conclusion posed the question, “Which one of these couples will make it?”
Out of the four couples chosen, there’s a woman whose father won’t give her groom the time of day because he’s not his preferred race; there’s a couple where the man wants his wife to give him complete control because, you know, women are supposed to let men guide them since they’re not capable of making responsible decisions on their own (insert sarcasm here); there’s a couple with a major age difference who are also from vastly different financial backgrounds (and it shows in their conversations and interactions); and then there’s a couple that got engaged after being together for six months and married within the year, so they’re still getting to know each other.
Obviously, there’s a slightly more dubious undertone to the show than we realized.
At the time of our interview, the Rocques were just a couple from Brooklyn that worked in the media. We don’t have heated arguments where we’re insulting each other or being hostile. We talk out our problems like human beings and with respect, and the biggest drama for both of us was uninviting our dads from the wedding. But even those situations were addressed appropriately with all parties involved. We’re not perfect, but we are at peace most of the time.
Now about our first year of marriage.
Again, what we expected marriage to be, in theory, was a legalization of how we’d already been as boyfriend and girlfriend. What it was in practice was a challenge, as we figured out how to become a family and run a household as a unit. We relocated to a new city months after our wedding, and things got really hectic in terms of adjusting while still trying to tackle the aforementioned.
In the process, we discovered we’re not comfortable with the new city. Eventually I started to struggle with depression in a major way that I’d never experienced before. We traveled a lot, my father died, and career-wise, Mr. Rocque works a very demanding job. We definitely wouldn’t have wanted cameras and interference there for that, because it would’ve magnified our problems and added extra stress that didn’t need to be there.
By that point in our lives, we’d forgotten about the show, and the producers had obviously forgot about us. But their oversight was a blessing. We do share bits of information about who we are and our relationship, but it’s something that we control and we’re both thankful for that ownership. We’re also thankful for a true friend who was trying to look out for us, and for major lessons learned in hindsight. In the age of reality TV and social media, some things are better off private and free of outside judgment and manipulation.
Mr. and Mrs. Rocque are the couple formerly known as Anslem Samuel and Starrene Rhett, journalists who found love in between bylines. Follow the newlyweds’ musings of a marriage in progress here, on Twitter and via their joint blog.