Married at First Sight

MAFS NZ stars Maddie and Nate share how they’re overcoming their age gap

This unlikely bride and groom are embracing the positives

Married At First Sight New Zealand’s Nathaniel Drury and Madeleine Gilbert might seem an unlikely couple. She’s a free-spirited reiki healer, while he’s a gym-going adventure junkie. Not to mention the seven-year age difference, with Maddie ready to settle down and have kids at 37, as opposed to footloose and fancy-free 30-year-old Nate.

However, since their romantic nuptials in Vanuatu, it’s become clear why these two have been matched by the experts. Their big hearts and positive attitudes transcend the age gap. But do they have enough in common to get out of the friend zone?

Speaking to Woman’s Day about their wedding, Tauranga accounts manager Maddie laughs. She says, “I remember coming down some pretty steep stairs wearing these great big heels. I was just trying not to eat s**t! But I may have rolled my ankle a little when I got closer and saw Nate. My first thought was, ‘Oh, he’s not the usual type I go for at all,’ but that doesn’t mean that it’s a no. I knew I had to embrace the moment.”

Nigerian-born, Wellington-based aviation officer and personal trainer Nate agrees. He says, “The age gap was a surprise, but as the day went on, I could see little bits of why we were a match. Like our values. I wanted someone positive, outgoing and with a sense of humour – someone who didn’t focus on the negative. It was clear from the get-go, the night after we got married, that we weren’t each other’s usual types, but we were willing to see how things went.”

First impressions

MAFS NZ star Nate piggybacking Maddie

While she might be the positive ball of energy Nate had requested, Maddie’s spiritual side did throw him off a bit.

“The reiki confused me,” laughs Nate. “Even just watching the first episode, when Maddie has the crystal bowl and the guinea pig, I was like, ‘This looks like some voodoo.’ If my Nigerian mum saw that, she would probably start praying for me!”

Maddie may not have cast a spell on Nate immediately, but spirituality is a big part of her life.

“I’ve always been into nature and natural things ever since I was a little kid,” she explains. “I was into alternative healing and it really amplified when I left my previous relationship about eight years ago.

“I took a lot of time off to soul-search. To heal and to understand the lessons that I needed to learn in that relationship, which also stemmed back to a trauma from when I was younger.”

Taking a break from relationships helped Maddie to get where she is today, as did alternative therapy.

She says, “It’s not a quick fix. Healing takes time. You can go five steps forward and take a couple back, but reiki really helped me find myself.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to love who you are unconditionally before you can love anyone else. I love that saying from Shrek – that an ogre is an onion with heaps of layers. I love discovering layers within myself and also in others.”

Nate’s sensitive side

MAFS NZ stars Nate and Maddie smiling at each other over a drink

Nate’s deep, emotional side was likely another reason they were matched, he tells us.

“Everything is really heightened on the show. I don’t hide my emotions at all. I’m very open to everything. I think that openness comes from living in two different countries, and having to adapt to a completely different life and culture.”

At just 17, Nate moved to Aotearoa from Nigeria to live with his Kiwi father Garth.

“It was a big culture shock, coming from a big country where there were a lot of different cultures, to a smaller country with a different way of life,” he explains. “Even little things, like what people worry about and don’t worry about – those were major changes to get used to.”

Nate’s mother Henrietta is still in Nigeria and he hasn’t seen her in 10 years. It’s something he struggles with.

“I was meant to go back five years ago, but then COVID happened and the country shut down,” he says. “I’ll get there someday soon. Hopefully, Mum can watch the show somehow!”

As for Nate and Maddie’s relationship, viewers will have to stay tuned to find out if they’re destined to be soulmates or simply great mates.

Maddie tells, “I knew coming into this that I’d either walk away with a beautiful husband or a beautiful friend and I’m OK with either.”

Married At First Sight New Zealand premieres Sunday 26 May on Three and ThreeNow.

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