Spoilers are ahead. Jessica Batten received a stream of hurtful comments on Instagram after being made out to be Love Is Blind’s "villain" in early 2020, but now, the photo app holds a different place in her heart: It's also where she found love. As explained on the new three-episode special Love Is Blind: After the Altar, Batten started dating her now-boyfriend after the show aired. But while Batten seems very happy with her relationship in the recently released episodes, her boyfriend, Dr. Benjamin McGrath, did not join her for filming. The decision was based on a couple of very well-thought out considerations.
“He actually contacted me on Instagram, and at the time, Instagram was such a tough place for me to go, so I had handed it off to a good girlfriend of mine,” Batten told Refinery29 following After the Altar’s premiere. “She was on there kind of swiping left, swiping right on different guys who were coming into the DMs.” McGrath stood out to Batten’s friend, so they set up a date. “We ended up meeting up one night, and the next day we went on a bike ride, and the rest is history. This was back in March of last year, so it’s been about a year and a half. And it's been really amazing.”
Batten and McGrath met the day before Los Angeles (where she now lives) went into lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she says the timing worked out well for their relationship. “It gave us time to really get to know each other and there was nothing else really going on,” she said. “It’s actually been really great and the pace has been nice, just to not have that pressure like what was there with Love Is Blind.”
Watching the show, McGrath clearly didn’t form the same opinion of Batten that some viewers did — a view that many fans may be going back on now that they’ve seen After the Altar. As you may recall, Batten didn’t seem all that into her fiancé Mark Cuevas on the original series, eventually leaving him at the altar, but as the new special shows, there was a lot more to the Mark and Jessica saga.
“I think he definitely saw through the narrative and figured that there was probably another side to the story,” Batten said of McGrath. “I’m glad that he saw through that and reached out. And he’s been my biggest supporter, honestly.”
So don’t construe McGrath not appearing on After the Altar as a lack of support or disinterest. “He definitely would have been there for me, if I was like you absolutely have to go on this show so that I can walk in having you on my arm or something like that,” Batten said. She wanted to do the show alone for two reasons.
“We want to keep our relationship private, based on things I've seen with couples putting their relationship on television. I don't think I could handle anyone bashing my relationship.”
But, more importantly, she found strength in returning to the series alone, especially after what she’d been through as a result of being villainised online. Showing up to the reunion was about her, not who she's with.
“The way that I got through the past year and a half — though having my relationship has been great — has really been doing the work myself,” she said. “Rather than keeping on with this narrative that love is the end-all-be-all, I think the more important thing is to get through the tough times on our own, as well. The relationship is nice to have, but for me, it was more important to just walk back in there by myself. It would have been the easy way out to bring him. That was important to me — and to us – to tell the story that, hey, it doesn't have to be a marriage at the end of the day and a family. At the end of the day, getting through something on your own is just as great.”