Reality show Married at First Sight‘s second season has been shrouded in controversy, but Jamie Otis, a contestant from the series’ inaugural outing, insists the unique dating process does work – with effort.
“I truly believe MAFS works best when you want the help of the experts and are willing to admit your flaws, background, needs and wants right from the very beginning,” Otis, who is still married to her match Doug Hehner, exclusively told PEOPLE.
The show, which just finished airing its second season, pairs six singles together with the help of four experts – a psychiatrist, sexologist, sociologist and spiritual guru – creating three new couples. The catch? The matched couples don’t meet until they’re exchanging vows at the altar. After six weeks of cohabiting, the couples either decide to remain together or get divorced.
“It may seem like a fairy tale unfolding when you watch a successful couple – but it isn’t. There’s so much work involved,” Otis told PEOPLE.
Otis and Hehner, who celebrated their first anniversary on March 23, are one of two couples still together from the show’s first season. Both couples now have their own FYI spin-off show, The First Year.
The three pairs from the show’s second season all opted to separate during the reunion special on Wednesday.
One couple, Jessica Castro and Ryan De Nino, have since been locked in a dramatic public feud. Castro obtained a restraining order against De Nino, claiming that he threatened to kill her on more than one occasion.
Her attorney, Marc Rapaport, told PEOPLE Castro is “terrified for her life.”
Otis said she went through several rounds of casting before the show’s big twist was even revealed.
“It wasn’t until final casting – when I was in a room with all four of the experts and the producers – that they kind of dropped a bomb on us,” she said. “They told us that this ‘love experiment’ they’re working on is indeed titled Married At First Sight and you will marry your scientifically compatible partner without knowing anything about him – not even his name.”
The star said that “nearly half” of the final candidates left the process afterwards, but she decided to stick around. “I wasn’t having luck on my own, I knew I needed the help of someone – anyone – why not four experts?” she said.
Despite finding a “healthy relationship” and happiness with her “amazingly patient hubs,” Otis insists their journey wasn’t easy.
“MAFS isn’t a fairy tale,” she told PEOPLE. “It’s taking a flawed soul who doesn’t know how to be in a healthy relationship and transforming them into someone who learns how to be a wife/husband.”
Otis insists the experts are rooting for the couples to have successful marriages and put careful thought into the pairings.
“The drama that unfolds isn’t ‘edited’ in the way we see reality TV these days. And I know because I’ve been on both types of shows,” she said. “It truly just documents what happens and shows the couple’s journey.”