Married at First Sight

MAFS NZ stars Jesse and CJ share their rocky beginning

The intruders reveal what really went on behind the cameras after that fight
Jesse and CJ on their wedding day

When Married At First Sight New Zealand’s surprise bride and groom were introduced at the altar in idyllic Vanuatu, it seemed like this could be a coupling that just might work. Both attractive and nervously excited, Cara “CJ” Huxford and Jesse Brooke looked picture-perfect together. But even then, tensions were brewing.

“She said something about being sassy in her vows,” Jesse, 30, tells Woman’s Day. “I wouldn’t call it a red flag, but it’s something that stuck in my mind.”

And the Auckland mortgage advisor was later unimpressed when he heard that CJ had challenged the other brides to pick which of their husbands they’d “kiss, marry, kill”.

He tells, “I wanted someone who was kind and that didn’t seem like a kind thing to do.”

But CJ, 32, had her own reservations. “He was younger than me,” she says. “I thought they would have matched me up with someone older and more mature.”

For the Christchurch property consultant, it quickly became clear that Jesse wasn’t her type. She recalls, “After we arrived back in Auckland, the film crew were given a day off because they worked really hard in Vanuatu, so Jesse and I were able to go explore Auckland together.

“We were told not to talk to the other couples, which was fine. But then everything just started escalating during the day, with Jesse wanting to go around to different restaurants and tell people we were on MAFS. I was like, ‘Let’s not do that!’”

Jesse and CJ linked arms walking down the MAFS aisle

Alarm bells started ringing for a perplexed CJ and she began questioning whether Jesse was there for the right reasons.

She recalls, “We were turning up and getting free drinks and I was like, ‘I’d rather just pay for the drinks.’ Then we met up with his friend at a pub, which was great for him, but I didn’t have any friends in Auckland, so I was out of my comfort zone, especially while filming a TV show too.”

When CJ excused herself to go to the bathroom, she returned to find the vibe had changed. She explains, “It got a bit weird. I thought we were having a good time, but then his friend had to leave and Jesse said, ‘Well, my teeth are really furry, so I’ve got to go and brush my teeth.’ It was just really odd.

“I thought there might be something deeper there. When we got back to the hotel room, he didn’t brush his teeth. I said it was strange and he’s like, ‘We can go back to the bar if you want.’ I was wondering why we left in the first place.”

Jesse admits it’s not unusual for him to do impulsive things, like buying a toothbrush in the middle of a date. He says, “I’ve had ADHD my whole life. It’s not something I tell someone that early on, but I also didn’t think buying a toothbrush was a weird thing to do.

“I mean, we were on our way home at 7pm after being at the bar since lunchtime and my teeth were furry. It just made sense at the time. I didn’t think it would be an issue.”

The following day, Jesse suggested they just get through a few more episodes and write “leave” at the first commitment ceremony.

Jesse sitting next to a visibly upset CJ on the MAFS couches

“I didn’t like that,” says CJ. “I told him I would just be open about everything and that’s when he started being nice to me again. I’m proud of myself for speaking up and not letting him dictate that situation.

“In the past, I’ve kept quiet – even in the show, you can see I want to keep him happy – but I was actually getting more miserable by the hour.”

CJ recognised a behaviour pattern that was very triggering for her. She tells, “I’ve been in a previous relationship where this has happened and that’s where my intuition came in. I was like, ‘Hang on a minute. I’m feeling the signs here.’”

And her feelings were solidified when Jesse asked CJ if she was “loopy” after the first dinner party.

“I regret that,” says Jesse. “I wasn’t thinking. The conversation was really heated and alcohol-fuelled. My walls came up because she was throwing jabs at me and calling me immature. I got defensive and it wasn’t constructive. All I can do is fall on my sword and apologise.”

As for whether the two will kiss and make up, we’re not holding our breath.

“Cara brought out the worst in me,” confesses Jesse. “I’ve only been mad four times in my life and one of them was on national TV!”

Married At First Sight New Zealand screens 7pm Sunday to Tuesday on Three and ThreeNow.

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