Married at First Sight

MAFS stars James and Sam’s heartbreaking split

The MAFS favourites explain why they couldn’t make their relationship work
An image torn in half of MAFS stars Sam and James

It’s the break-up no one saw coming. The golden couple of Married At First Sight New Zealand, Samantha Best and James Hunt, left the show loved up and looking forward to a promising future. But only a couple of months after filming wrapped, the two called it quits.

Speaking exclusively to Woman’s Day, James, 31, confesses he’s still a bit confused about why it ended.

“She had her reasons, but I don’t think I was good enough for her in the end,” the British-born teacher says sadly. “I did everything I could possibly do. But after she ended things, I sat down to think about it and I was proud of the way I was in the relationship. I was 100% in.”

Going from a reality show to real life, the couple knew they had challenges to face. James lives in Christchurch, while influencer Sam, 26, is raising her son, six-year-old Kaelin, in Auckland.

Sam and James holding hands and walking on their wedding day

During filming, James seemed reluctant to leave his life in the South Island, but he knew he couldn’t ask someone with a child to move away from their support system. In fact, when Sam ended things, James had already written his resignation letter and was in the process of moving to Auckland.

“Distance wasn’t an issue,” he insists. “As soon as the show finished, I got on the phone to Immigration New Zealand. They said it takes two weeks to turn it around, so all I had to do was find an accredited school, which there’s quite a lot of in Auckland, then I could move up. That was the plan.”

James was already travelling to the City of Sails most weeks at that point. “One weekend, I went up and felt something was off. I spoke with Sam about it and that’s when she basically said she didn’t want to break up with me but felt she needed to. It was a shock. I was heart-broken. Those first few weeks were very tough.”

Sam and James kissing cheeks on their MAFS wedding day

Telling her side of the story, Sam says the “pressure” of the relationship got to her and it only got more intense when James’ move was finalised.

“Reality crept in,” she reflects. “There were issues and there were things we both needed to work on. But I really, really liked James. He’s such a wonderful person. I would’ve loved it if he lived in the same city as me, so we could date like normal. It was just so much pressure and it basically got on top of me. I’m not good at handling stress.”

James is the first person Sam has introduced to her son, Kaelin, after breaking up with his father.

“Trying to prioritise a long-distance relationship while also having a child was very, very hard,” she tells. “For my son, it wasn’t just a case of, ‘Mum’s going out for the evening to go on a date.’ It was someone coming over for the whole weekend. That really threw him and it took a while for him to get back into routine. It honestly just got very heavy.”

A group photo of all of the MAFS NZ 2024 contestants with the experts
The pair were the strongest of all the MAFS couples.

For James, who can’t wait to be a dad, the connection he made with Kaelin made the break-up a double blow. He explains, “The bond with her son was strengthening every time I saw him. We were doing school pick-ups, drop-offs and days out with him. It was everything I ever wanted.”

Thinking back to the instant chemistry he and Sam had when they met at the altar in Vanuatu, James recalls, “It was all so natural. No matter what happened on the show, we stuck to our own bubble and supported each other. I’m proud of the way we did that.”

Now he’s had time to recover, James says, “The break-up was tough, but the one thing I did was hit the gym. I had all this sadness and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I used it as fuel to work on myself. Now I feel like I’m mentally and physically in the best nick I’ve ever been. I think I’m ready to put myself back out there.”

James isn’t a fan of dating apps, but he’s willing to do anything to meet the girl of his dreams. “I still want to have that family. I don’t think that will ever change.”

Catch up on Sam and James’ season of Married At First Sight New Zealand today on ThreeNow.

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