The romance — or lack thereof — between Kelly Chase and Kenny Barnes may not have led to a happy ending on Netflix’s Love Is Blind, but it was, to some degree, the ending they intended.
Long before Kelly said “I don’t” at their wedding, she and Kenny agreed they had no intention of getting married on the show, and they viewed their engagement sight unseen as more of an opportunity to spend more time getting to know each other than a binding betrothal.
“We were adamant about we’re not going to get married,” Kenny tells PEOPLE. “And really, the engagement was just to extend the experiment. And we were both committed to that.”
The couple may have been on the same page about not saying “I do,” but it turns out they weren’t exactly on the same page about what would happen next.
“I thought that we were going to continue dating, because that was communicated between us,” Kelly says. “And then it was our last filming day, and he had a conversation with me like, ‘Hey, I think I am not emotionally available right now. I need to take some time apart from you.’ I felt very rejected, like, ‘That wasn’t the plan. What the heck?'”
“A week or two later, we hadn’t talked,” she adds, holding back tears. “I’d just talked to him for six and a half weeks straight, and then I didn’t talk to him. So it was like I lost someone. It was hard.”
For Kenny, taking a break from Kelly was more about himself than it was about her.
“I just needed to focus on myself,” he explains. “We’d been so adamant about we’re not getting married, we’re really not engaged. We’ll pursue, dating afterwards, but to be candid, it was in that moment, because of the stress that it caused my friends, my family, also hers, it was like, I was just being cognizant of this is all real, these emotions are real. What we went through was a real experience. But life is way more complex than this. And I need to get my framework right.”
A few weeks after they finished shooting and hadn’t had any communication, Kelly reached out to Kenny.
“I actually wrote him a handwritten letter, not like saying like, ‘I’m in love with you,’ not crazy, but just like, ‘I really enjoyed getting to know you, and I do love you and I want to continue loving getting to know you even more,'” Kelly admits. “I never got a response from it, which maybe just freaked him out, but I was just releasing a lot of emotions.”
Kenny never responded to the letter.
“Looking back, I think it’s reflective of how I had been and how I have evolved since then,” she says. “I don’t like being rejected, for one. It’s happened, but also it’s me trying to have control of the situation, and I lost control. He let go, and I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ And so it was me trying to, with writing the letter, I wanted to make it happen, and I just needed to take a step back. And I did.”
A few months later, Kelly reached out again, with a different approach.
“I don’t remember what I said verbatim, but I just apologized,” she explains. “I was like, ‘Maybe that was too much, that letter. I was just expressing how I felt in that time.’ I said, ‘But it’s water under the bridge at this point.’ And that was it. I didn’t bring it up again.”
“I felt like I lost someone,” Kelly continues. “That’s why I’m emotional now. And that’s probably why I got emotional watching the show back myself. All these feelings started coming up again for me. … Maybe had I not written that letter and maybe had I just let him go and reset, who knows what would’ve happened? Maybe he would have been like, ‘You know what? I actually do miss you. And I’m going to come back.’ I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter.”
She turns to Kenny, saying, “I really do care about you and I do love you. And I know I love the person that you are — and I am so happy for you. And I know that everything happens for a reason, and it did work out the way it was supposed to.”
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Since the show, Kelly dated a friend (who actually attended her Love Is Blind wedding!), and that didn’t work out, but Kenny has found love and been in a relationship for a while now.
“The experience made me really focus on the things that matter,” Kenny says. “I wanted to get back to my roots, so I committed the next seven, eight months of just self-improvement, and it ended up putting me in a position to be truly open and to respect someone and know that there are people out there who are willing to meet you in the middle. They want to love you just as much as you want to love them. And that’s been a beautiful thing for me, and I would not be there today without this experience.”
“I have zero regrets,” he adds. “We’re all perfectly imperfect.”
Love Is Blind season 1 is available now on Netflix. Watch the cast’s reunion on YouTube here.