Roku's The Marriage Pact Proves You Can't Force Romance In Situationships

In 2002, "The Bachelor" franchise launched a worldwide fascination with reality dating shows. Today, there are successful, multi-season series, like "Love Island," "Love is Blind," and "Too Hot to Handle" — and they're even more network flops. On "I Want to Marry Harry," women competed for a Prince Harry look-a-like. (Not to worry, this was long before Meghan Markle entered the picture.) On "Joe Millionaire," a working-class bachelor convinced 20 contestants he had a $50 million inheritance. And don't get us started on the nightmare fuel that is "Sexy Beasts..." 

The newest addition to the reality TV arena is "The Marriage Pact," which premieres Friday, August 4 on the Roku channel. Here's the idea: friends who entered a marriage pact (i.e. "If we're both single by the time we're 30, let's get married...") must decide whether to follow through on their original deal or end their will-they-or-won't-they era for good.

"With high-stakes promises between real people with real history at its core, 'The Marriage Pact' showcases relationships dynamics unlike any other reality show," Olivia LaRoche, head of alternative originals at Roku, said in a Roku Newsroom statement. If you've ever had a crush on a friend, found yourself stuck in a situationship, or struggled to communicate how you really feel, this show is for you (as long as you're willing to sit through lots of exposition and a few petty fights). More so than anything, "The Marriage Pact" proves you should probably cut ties with your will-they-or-won't-they friend before things get toxic...

Intimacy is awkward after years of friendship

We all have those "what if" people in our lives — one-time hookups, high school crushes, or long-time friends we wonder about settling down and adopting a dog with... That's certainly the case for the six couples on Roku's "The Marriage Pact." There's Brie and Armani, friends who wrote their marriage pact out on a napkin at a sushi joint; Grace and Marcus, who hit it off in a Miami club; Cody and Julie, who had a tumultuous relationship in college; family friends Mary Ann and Dennis; former roommates Alysha and Quentin; and last (but certainly not least) Logan and Trevor, who bonded as teenagers over their shared faith. With a classic Caribbean backdrop, plenty of free champagne, and cameras circling them like sharks, the six couples have three weeks to date before deciding whether to tie the knot (or not). Spoiler alert: the road ahead won't be easy for any of them. 

On the first night of the retreat, all the couples steer clear of physical intimacy. Julie is still struggling with the fact that Cody cheated on her. Cody, on the other hand, doesn't like that she dated his best friend as "revenge." Meanwhile, Grace doesn't feel like Marcus has her back, Trevor isn't sure he can hold out on this whole "wait until marriage" agreement with Logan, and Armani's dancing gives Brie the ick. Alysha and Quentin are also having trouble seeing each other as more than friends... attraction can't be forced. Neither can romance. 

Sometimes it's best to move on, not in

The bottom line? Cameras won't solve years of bubbling resentment. Quentin, for instance, let Alysha down in their past — twice. There's a lot (arguably too much) riding on this last chance at love. Julie has had difficulty opening up to Cody ever since their relationship went up in flames (she literally set fire to the last bouquet of roses he bought for her). "For us to be able to be physically intimate with one another, he's gonna need to gain that trust back again," she explains. Gifts won't turn this situationship into a full-blown relationship. 

That being said, cheating isn't an end-all-be-all for everyone. As "The Marriage Pact'" host and professional sex therapist Shan Boodram explained on "Watch What Happens Live,"  "[People] can change, but you gotta change a whole lot more than just your mind." In her words, it's about "won't" power, not "will" power. Start by breaking it off with bad influences and investing time in your partner instead. 

For many of these couples, 21 days aren't enough to resolve years-worth of drama, figure out romantic compatibility, and most importantly, decide whether to say "I do" at the end of it all — rushing into anything, especially a marriage, is a recipe for disaster and divorce. Stay tuned to see which couples make it out with rings and which ones leave with more Instagram followers.