How ‘gaslighting’ led a ‘Love Is Blind’ fan favorite to be jilted at the altar

A woman curled up on a sofa wiping away tears.
Nancy Rodriguez in Season 3 of “Love Is Blind.”

Finding “happily ever after” on “Love Is Blind,” the Netflix dating show we can’t stop cringe-watching, turned out to be harder than unclogging a toilet without a plunger for Nancy Rodriguez.

Each week since the third season premiered last month, viewers have watched in frustration as her pod partner, the vain, gym-obsessed 25-year-old Bartise Bowden, openly shared his attraction for another fitness-loving contestant, Raven — all while Rodriguez, a giggly 31-year-old speech pathologist and real estate investor, stayed hopeful their love would prevail.

But after Rodriguez shared her “I do” at the altar, Bowden made the decision not to marry her.

From the start of Rodriguez’s journey, the outcome seemed almost preordained: While vacationing in Cancun, Mexico, in January, she received an Instagram message from a friend with a link to a casting call for the show’s third season, which was seeking singles in her hometown.


“I was like, ‘Girl, please, ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m running businesses. I’m traveling. I’m single as can be,” Rodriguez recalls. “Dating was kind of going OK even though I wasn’t meeting the people I wanted to meet. I really did feel like the people that I was meeting weren’t ready to accept me for who I was; meaning where I was financially, where I am at the level of my career.”

Spoiler alert: She applied. But it took some persistence. Midway through her first attempt at filling out the lengthy online application, the Wi-Fi connection went out. The next day, she gave it another go. Again, connection was lost. Ignoring any signs the Wi-Fi may have been attempting to relay, she tried a third time days later, at the airport bound for home, this time with success.

The Times spoke with the fan favorite about signing on for the TV dating fishbowl, daring to get deep with a prospective life partner by having a discussion about abortion, and much more. The following has been edited for clarity and length.

Chris Coelen, the creator of the Netflix reality show, talks Season 2 expectations, why certain couples aren’t featured and those casting criticisms.

Feb. 11, 2022

How would you describe what the last few weeks have been like?

It’s one thing to live it, it’s a whole other thing to watch my individual story, and then the story of me and my partner, with all my friends and their relationships. It’s as I remembered it.

I think the main thing about what’s happening right now is that I do feel really grounded. My parents have always been very humble people. They’re both immigrants — just having that mentality of what you have, you don’t take for granted. A lot of what I have been feeling is a lot of gratefulness. In a positive way, the biggest surprise is like so many in the Latin community are reaching out. It’s just so inspirational, to be honest.

Do you feel like you got to express your feelings at the reunion, as it relates to Bartise?

Absolutely. The altar was my final answer. So I took it as his final answer... On the wedding day, I was so heartbroken. It was just the biggest heartbreak I’ve ever had. The reunion for me was just like, ‘Look, let’s lay it all out, OK?’ Because at that point, I saw the show in the perspective of both parties. I’m seeing his side of it. So, yeah, I feel like I had my chance to say what I couldn’t say or what I didn’t even know on wedding day. I was blindsided on wedding day.

Having now watched the episodes, do you think the show did a fair job in depicting your relationship with Bartise?


Yes, I do think that our relationship was portrayed as it was. However, there are hundreds of hours that you don’t see, and so many sweet moments that you as the viewer don’t get to feel. The love that I was able to offer, the love that I remember, the embracement that I had for my fiancé — that story to me is real. That was me. I love and I love hard.

A couple walks into their kitchen
Bartise Bowden and Nancy Rodriguez in “Love Is Blind.”

Once the engaged couples have met and set off for Malibu to get to know each other, there’s the moment where all the couples are hanging out for the first time. And Bartise gets his first glimpse of Raven. We see the conversation that he has with you after all that and I’m pretty certain there was a collective rage among female viewers watching it. Looking back on it, should that have been a turning point for you?

I’m a big believer that you have to let people do what they need to, want to do. And then I can decide if that’s something that works for me or doesn’t. At that point, I’ve only met this man for less than 10 days. And there was a period that we didn’t even talk after we got proposed to. So there was a, there were a lot of factors. I could have reacted. I could have judged him for his answer. Or I could have sat back and be like, “OK, your honesty is brutal. Yes, it’s disrespectful. But I’m not your mother. And I’m not going to correct you like that. Like, do you, boo. And let’s see where this goes.” Any woman I think would feel like, “What in the world?” But, also, I just knew that if I really wanted to fall in love — well, I was already in love with him, so if I wanted to continue to stay in love with him — I needed to let him be who he was. And then I could decide: “Bro, is it for me, or is it not?”

Again, it was disrespectful, but we’re in a unique situation. I think that’s where maybe a lot of the viewers kind of get lost in this idea of like, “Oh, my God, they’re dating.” It’s like, no, y’all, we’re engaged and it’s only been 10 days. It’s very rushed. I do pride myself on being a good listener. I’ve worked really hard to get here, and to not be defensive. And I think in that moment, it was me allowing him to have whatever word vomit needed to happen, and I was holding the bucket for the word vomit.

And then the moment at the pool happened, where Bartise has that conversation with Raven. Raven shuts him down. Having now seen what went down, what did you think of how he handled it? And how Raven handled it?

Totally inappropriate. Sir, you are engaged. I need you to get it together and figure out your words. The take home from that conversation is that Raven shut it down like no other and I love her for that because she truly recognized where his compliments were coming from — not from his heart and emotions, but from the physical being. I think having reunion, again, I got a chance to lay it out there for him. I was like, “You said it once [that] she’s attractive, but did you really have to say it four or five times? We get it, she’s hot. But guess what? I’m hot too.”

I want to talk about your decision to have a conversation about abortion. It’s something we hardly ever see on reality dating shows, and it is one of the most important issues that should be discussed before you get married. And obviously, it’s a key issue in the news, and you live in Texas, where it’s been outlawed. Did you know going into the show that you wanted to have that discussion?

Absolutely not, girl. I also didn’t know I was gonna pick somebody who was 25. At this point, we’re in the “real world” and I want to know real-world hypotheticals, right? It’s one thing to be in the pods and ask ourselves like, “Hey, how would you handle this conflict? Have you ever been cheated on? If you had, what did you do? Why did your last relationship not work?” To have somebody face to face and be able to have those hypotheticals is so important... What I really appreciated about Bartise is that he was very receptive to it. And the take home of our very private, very deep, very controversial conversation is that we stayed poised, we stayed respectful, we shared our opinions. And at that time, I didn’t really feel like he was using it against me, but then later as I watched the show, that was my biggest letdown. I never heard the other side of it, which was really him using it against me.

When I’m thinking about potentially marrying someone, we need to be family planning. I hope that viewers can really take this as an opportunity to have more than just surface-level questions with the people that they’re dating. Because for me, it was very serious. The older I get, the higher the potential of being at risk for pregnancy [complications]. You notice that even as I’m asking, I’m discovering questions that I want to ask in that moment. As organic as you see it on camera is exactly the way that it happened.

Fan favorites Natalie Lee and Deepti Vempati open up about their relationships with Shayne and Shake on the Netflix show, from the pods to the altar.

March 11, 2022

Were you worried how your honesty and vulnerability would be received by viewers? What’s been the feedback you’ve received, particularly from people living with disabilities or genetic disorders?

I was speaking [about] what I’ve experienced, and I even said this: Before I was an SLP [speech-language pathologist], I did not feel this way; when I became an SLP, I experienced what I experienced that really made me think about my choice if I had options. The conversation was about my voice, my choice, and my right to do what I need to do for my body. Another thing that I said was just, like, “Look, I know that this is not a decision I will make on my own, it will be a decision of me and my partner.” So it was never a set-in-stone “this is what I need to happen.” Unfortunately, people took it personally when it was never their story to take personally.

There’s a spectrum, because it’s not just one type of birth defect. And that’s where I think people got stuck on a type. [In the series, Rodriguez specifically mentions Down syndrome as part of a conversation about birth defects and the resulting medical complications more generally.]... My fiancé also did not know what genetic testing was, and so we had to do some education about that. I hope that the take home of that conversation is that it’s OK to have realistic, thought-provoking conversations with someone that you’re wanting to marry.

You said yes at the altar and I’m curious what still had you feeling secure about that love?

Two weeks before our wedding — actually, right after that group outing that we had together — I told Bartise I was gonna say ‘no,’ off-camera. I said, “Look, boy, you are not what I thought you were like; it’s a no for me.” And he asked me to give him a second chance. And so there’s a scene where ... we went dancing, and he thanks me for giving him another chance. Because he really wanted to turn things around for me. And this is, unfortunately, where the blindside comes in. I gave a chance because this is someone I really loved. And I really wanted to believe that he wanted to put his all into it. So, the last two weeks of our relationship was confirmation, was verbiage of “we,” “us,” “at our reception,” “at our wedding.” It was the gaslighting that led me to say “Yes.”

It’s obvious to viewers that Bartise has some red flags — did they feel like red flags to you as you were experiencing them? Did you have that intuition and were ignoring it?

I don’t think “ignoring” it is the right word. When I was seeing how he would make me feel upset about things, again, this is like my trial fiancé, right? I need to let you be you. And if I step up to you, and I tell you like, “Hey, this is not working for me. What are you going to do about it?” And then you do something about it, then I’m opening the door for you to try again. For me, what you would consider red flags is really just trying to accept people for their differences and trying to really love them in their hardest of times. And I know that there were things that his mom said to me, like, “If y’all get married, just know it’s going to be hard, because he’s still learning.” And I respected that because I knew that if I said yes to him, there would be things we’d have to work on. But life is hard, right? It’s just a matter of who you want to do life with. Did we argue? Yes, we did. Was it respectful? Yes, it was, for the most part. And so I think for me, it was like I saw myself doing life with him.

A smiling woman having a drink in a pool
“You said it once [that] she’s attractive, but did you really have to say it four or five times?” Nancy Rodriguez says of fiancé Bartise Bowden’s interest in fellow contestant Raven. “We get it, she’s hot. But guess what? I’m hot too.”

OK, can we talk about fellow contestant Andrew Liu for a moment? What did you think about that performance with the tears? [A number of viewers accused Liu of using eyedrops to fake cry after Rodriguez turned down his proposal.]

I thought it was so disrespectful that he took it upon himself to be like, “OK, I’m out the door, one last hoorah, let me make a scene of myself.” I don’t think he anticipated that it was going to be in the final cuts. It was disrespectful and kind of just immature for him to do.

Any regrets about going through what you went through so publicly? And with it over, what are your thoughts: Can love be blind in today’s world?

I don’t have any regrets. The biggest learning lesson that I have from that, and what I went through this last year in my healing process, is setting boundaries and knowing what those boundaries are for me, and knowing that there’s a way to step back from something or really learn from a situation. Whether it’s friendship, romantic, or professional relationships, I have been working on my boundaries.

I think, overall, for me, love was blind. I was in love in the pods. I stayed in love and although I was hurt along the way, it was getting to the altar, being convinced that this man was for me — per his actions, per his words leading up to the wedding. And so, yeah, love can be blind, you just have to really be at a point where you know yourself, you love yourself, to be able to receive someone... Bartise still has some learning to do.

Before I let you go, I have to know: Were all the women given a pair of lucite block heels at the start?

Oh no, girl, we were all in tune. And our nails were very similar, I’ll tell you that.

Also, the plunger story? Help me understand.

So, I’m a handy woman — and I’m so proud of that, OK? It was actually really important for me, in the pods, to find out if the guys had tools in their house and what they did with them. So I’m like, “Do you even know how to use the drill?” And so one of the scenes that you didn’t get to see was at Bartise’s apartment and I ravaged through his closet and found his toolbox and I was like, “OK, this will do, honey, this will do.” I love anything DIY and stuff. It’s just me being me, quirky AF. And I just thought it was something I wanted to talk about and it happened to be that I kept like un-plunging the tub we were in, which is just hilarious. That is my weirdest scene, probably my most cringey scene. But girl, that’s me.