Seven Year Switch: The Reunion
After the cameras stopped rolling for show where four couples switch spouses and live with another participants, they reunite to try to clear the air.
May 24, 2016
The Seven Year Switch reunion special gave us a marriage, a separation and two pregnancies. But what it didn’t give us was even a hint of the relationship experts weighing in on Brad’s appalling behaviour towards Tallena.
That was left to Tim, who went from Man-Child to Wise Man of the couples-in-crisis reality show in its last gasp.
“I don’t really want to comment on their relationship,” said Tim when asked his thoughts on the Brisbane couple. “He seemed very controlling from my point of view, and Tallena was sort of stuck in the middle of it.”
Clearly, he really did want to comment on their relationship, and thank goodness for that because Jo Lamble and Peter Charleston seemingly had nothing to say. Which is baffling, because few who witnessed the dynamic between Brad and Tallena could have failed to see reason for concern.
Asked what he’d say to Brad when he joined them on set, Tim said: “Brad, lighten the f— up.”
Man-child Tim manned up and became the unlikely hero of this reunion special.
He didn’t quite say that to the man who had so clearly wanted to punch his lights out when the pair met during the series, but he had done enough to stoke the fires.
When Brad led Tallena out – his grip on her arm looking a little like that of a warder leading his prisoner to the dock – it was to something like a chorus of concern, if not outright condemnation, from the others.
Ryan said watching Brad he had thought “this guy’s a sook”, though he was sure that wasn’t the real him. Cassie said the footage of Brad was “confronting, and it was sometimes shocking, and the way he treated Tallena was hard to watch”, though she said she was impressed that he seemed to have taken so much away from the experience.
Happily ever after? Brad and Tallena got married at last.
Certainly Brad was making all the right noises. Judging by the pregnancies – Jackie is 25 weeks along, and said she had conceived “literally when we were reunited”; Cassie is further along on a pregnancy that began just before filming started – it has been about six months since last week’s episode was filmed. Plenty of time for a man to reflect on his failings, or to learn how to look like that’s what he has done.
“I was the main cause of the problems,” said Brad. “I was definitely controlling.”
Of the Brad he saw when he watched the footage, he said: “It’s hard… you’re the devil of your own creation.”
Of his behaviour towards Tallena, which struck many observers as emotional abuse: “It was nothing that you’d ever want to do to your partner or anybody that you loved or cared about.”
It all sounded spot-on, but there were a few warning signs.
They got married after that shocking final episode. It was a small affair, with about 60 people, but still Brad got tense. “I was Bridezilla,” he said. “I just wanted everything to be perfect after what we’ve been through.”
Possibly the world’s most uncomfortable key party.
Tallena joked that he got himself worked up about the fact there were petals on the ground. As Tim might say, lighten up, man.
When host Edwina Bartholomew put it to Tallena that perhaps she had secretly enjoyed it when Tim took off his pants in the spa, everyone laughed. Everyone, that is, but Brad, who stared daggers at his wife while clutching her hand tighter. She deflected it by saying Tim loved his body; Tim agreed. Tension deffused [sic], as Brad put it in one of his many tortured love letters last week.
But let’s put our doubts aside for a moment and imagine Brad really is a reformed man, Tallena really has found her voice, and theirs is not a relationship riddled with danger signs. Good luck to them.
What of the others? Cassie and Ryan are expecting – any day now, judging by the size of her bump – and appear to have made some of the changes they needed. He has ditched his electrical business, is working regular hours, is more present and no longer using work to avoid the issues in their relationship. And all this without having to relinquish his skateboard!
Tim and Jackie are expecting too. They have moved to the Gold Coast, redefined their roles within the business and adjusted their expectations and behaviour within the relationship. He tells her he loves her “three or four times a year” now. She’s learnt she can’t command him to show her affection.
We saw footage of him proposing to her on the beach, pulling out a ring box inside which was a scrap of paper. An IOU for a ring, Jackie asked? “A voucher for a tattoo,” he said. “A tattoo ring.” If humour counts for much in a relationship, they have a chance, but Jackie is under no illusions of what the future holds. “I’ll now have two children,” she said.
Interestingly, her controlling tendencies were called out by the counsellors.
“It’s good to have boundaries but I’m not a fan of the ultimatum,” Jo Lamble said. “Too many people say, ‘If you do that, that’ll be it’. And then it happens and they realise, ‘Oh, I don’t want it to be it’.”
It was sound advice but why was Jackie being singled out when Brad was getting off scot free? It felt horribly unbalanced.
Therapists Jo Lamble and Peter Charleston once again had nothing to say about Brad’s behaviour.
And finally Jason and Michelle.
Few will have been surprised to learn they had split up, though Michelle insisted her mind was not made up from the start, no matter how it looked.
“I love Jason, with all my heart,” she said. “He is my best friend. I’m the luckiest woman in the world because I got to have my babies with my best friend.”
To absolutely no-one’s surprise, Jason and Michelle separated.
She said they would always be in each other’s lives – and any divorced parent knows there’s more truth in that than not – and insisted: “We will always be a we. I love my children more than I could ever be angry or dislike him. He is still my children’s father, and I love them and they need him, so I need him.”
Which Jo Lamble praised, characterising their split as, “Two people who are showing it is possible to put the children first and have a mature, amicable separation”.
Which just left the question of regret. Not regret in their relationships, but whether or not they regretted going on the show. With applications open until May 31 for the next season of Seven Year Switch, you couldn’t help but suspect this was asked to allay the concerns of any troubled couples who were wondering if a television show watched by a million people a week was really the best place to work out their issues.
Strangely, only Jackie confessed to any such pangs, which makes you wonder whose decision it was to come on the show and what their motivation was (Tim, I’m looking at you). Yes, she got the outcome she wanted – she’s engaged, there’s a baby on the way, they’ve moved to the Gold Coast – but was everything as rosy as it seemed?
“Good has come of it,” she said, but “we’ve had a lot of stressful things going on at the moment while the show has been going to air.” A hint of trouble in paradise, perhaps?
And Brad and Tallena? He regretted “having to go on the show to find myself,” but he was thankful he’d had “the opportunity to see myself in a different light. I hated the scenarios I was put in because of the person that I seen [sic] and I didn’t like.”
But all was good in the end, right? “Here we are now. We’re bigger, stronger, happier people.”
“Look, at the end of the day we have both moved past that,” said Tallena. “We’re happy now, we’re married now, and that’s all that matters for us.”
Let’s hope she’s still able to say that seven years from now.