Married at First Sight Newlywed Sam Role Opens Up About I

By Gerri Miller

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Married at First Sight Newlywed Sam Role Opens Up About Interfaith Relationship

December 22, 2015

Sam and Neil Wedding Married At First Sight
At her wedding to Neil, Sam wore her late grandmother’s jewelry and a dress she chose because it reminded her of her grandmother’s gown. Credit: FYI

Arranged marriages are common in many parts of the world, but unions where the bride and groom don’t meet until the ceremony are less so—except in reality TV. In the hit FYI show Married at First Sight a team of experts match up three sets of singles who are complete strangers to each other until they walk down the aisle. The newlyweds get to know each other as they navigate the first six weeks of marriage. After the six weeks, they must decide whether to stay together or get a divorce.

Season two included an interfaith couple, and season three continues that tradition with the marriage of Sam Role and Neil Bowlus. Sam’s father is Jewish and her mother is Hispanic and Catholic. Neil, who doesn’t practice any religion is Indian on his mother’s side. 

Sam, a 30-year-old banker from Atlanta, is a lively, outdoorsy animal lover who identifies as Jewish. Her parents are divorced, but her paternal grandparents were married for over 60 years and are her relationship role models. She has had Jewish boyfriends, but was open to dating men who are not Jewish. Neil, whose grandparents were an arranged match, was eager to see if it could work for him, too. But a few episodes in, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the couple. While she couldn’t discuss the outcome of the marital experiment, Sam explained her reasons for signing up and her attitudes toward relationships and religion in this revealing interview. 

IFF: Why did you want to participate in Married at First Sight?

Sam Role: My biggest reason to do this was because of my grandmother and grandfather. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer last November and sometime after, she was put into hospice. When the selection process began for Married at First Sight, she was the only one I told about the experiment. She loved the idea! My grandmother thought that it was such an interesting way to meet a potential husband. Unfortunately, she was never able to find out I was matched with someone as she died before I was told.

My secret with her really drove me to move forward with everything. I believe that if you really want something bad enough that you will make it work. There may be some road bumps along the way, but you always have each other to lean on. My grandparents supported each other for 63 years. Online dating wasn’t getting me anywhere and I have faith in the matching process with the experts. I see why people would think I’m crazy for committing myself to this experiment, but it just felt right.

What were your first impressions of Neil?

I thought that he was really nervous, and I can’t really remember my impression because I was just proud of myself for making it to the altar. 

What qualities do you look for in a man?

Top qualities would be patience, forgiveness and being supportive.
 
Sam and Neil Married at First Sight
Sam Role and Neil Bowlus. Credit: Zach Dillard/FYI

You grew up in an interfaith family—how did it impact you?

I was raised Jewish all my life. I identify myself as Jewish. It’s what I believe and it’s how I was raised. Some of my fondest memories are of celebrating Hanukkah with my parents, my brother and my grandparents. When I lived with my parents we only celebrated Jewish holidays. I went to temple with my little brother when I was younger. 

But my mother is Catholic. It impacted me to be open about religions. I enjoy being able to celebrate other’s beliefs.

How important is faith and religion to you? 

Religion is important to me, but I’m OK with a partner having different beliefs. We don’t have to have the same religion, but should support each other in what the other person believes.

Your wedding was not religious—was that your choice or the show’s?

I think that the wedding was exactly what I wanted. I was with the love of my family, friends and faith. It was amazing.

Neil said he doesn’t practice religion. Yet you included the traditional breaking of the glass. Why was that important to you?

The breaking of the glass has always been one of the things I imagined would happen at my wedding! It wasn’t something that I demanded, though. I just so happened to ask if it would be OK, and then I found out it was when Neil smashed it! 

Will religion (or lack thereof on Neil’s part) impact the relationship at all?

I don’t think so, as long as he’s OK with my belief in Judaism.
 

What have been the biggest challenges for you both?

Our biggest conflicts are probably communication and rash behavior at times. 

What do you think is the key to making an interfaith relationship work?

You have to be willing to be open to someone else’s views.
 

Were you to have children, do you think about whether to raise them in a faith, and which one(s)?

I would raise my children to believe either religion. I just want them to believe in something.





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About Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, FromtheGrapevine.com, Brain World, HeathCentral.com, and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.