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November 26, 2014

'Tough Love' Season 2 Interview: Steven and Joann Ward Are Not Your BFFs

by Kim Potts, posted Nov 15th 2009 6:00AM
If it's hand-holding and soothing words of empathy you want, call your BFF. If it's honest (sometimes brutally so) and tough (as the title suggests) advice on how to find love that you're looking for, Steven Ward and JoAnn Ward are just the would-be cupids you need.

The son-and-mother duo, owners of the very successful Philadelphia-based Master Matchmakers matchmaking service, are back for a second season of the "love boot camp" series 'Tough Love' on VH1 (Nov. 15, 9PM ET), and they are indeed twice as tough this time around.

Among the new boot campers: yet another unashamed golddigger; a woman who lost a large amount of weight, but continues to suffer with serious body image issues; and Rocky, the hot mess of a woman whom VH1 viewers might remember from another reality show, 'I Know My Kid's a Star.'

As the Wards celebrate the launch of the new season this weekend -- along with their pithy new relationship advice book 'Crash Course in Love' -- they took the time to talk to AOL TV about Rocky, about how "delusional" some of the boot campers are, about the 'Tough Love 2' contestant Joann "can't stand," and about whether Steven's job helps -- or hurts -- his own search for love.If it's hand-holding and soothing words of empathy you want, call your BFF. If it's honest (sometimes brutally so) and tough (as the title suggests) advice on how to find love that you're looking for, Steven Ward and JoAnn Ward are just the would-be cupids you need.

The son-and-mother duo, owners of the very successful Philadelphia-based Master Matchmakers matchmaking service, are back for a second season of the "love boot camp" series 'Tough Love' on VH1 (Nov. 15, 9PM ET), and they are indeed twice as tough this time around.

Among the new boot campers: yet another unashamed golddigger; a woman who lost a large amount of weight, but continues to suffer with serious body image issues; and Rocky, the hot mess of a woman whom VH1 viewers might remember from another reality show, 'I Know My Kid's a Star.'

As the Wards celebrate the launch of the new season this weekend -- along with their pithy new relationship advice book 'Crash Course in Love' -- they took the time to talk to AOL TV about Rocky, about how "delusional" some of the boot campers are, about the 'Tough Love 2' contestant Joann "can't stand," and about whether Steven's job helps -- or hurts -- his own search for love.

I just watched a preview of the first episode ... is it an accurate prediction that Rocky is going to be a scene stealer?
SW: Well, I don't want to spoil it for you or anything, but yes, Rocky, to say the least, ends up being quite a handful.

Obviously, with 20,000 women applying for season 2, the show made a big impression on a lot of people. Did you approach the second season differently at all?
SW: Well, it's interesting ... it was a lot different, because everybody knew who we were. And not just the women, but also the men that we were recruiting for the show. So this time, when Mom would talk to the men and tell them about what we were doing and why we wanted to introduce them to the women, it was easier for them to go into it with good faith. They [don't] have the normal kind of reservations people would have for just randomly going on a reality show. Mom's not some paid producer, she's a very successful matchmaker. So she works very closely with the men to make sure that their expectations are really managed well and that they knew what they were getting themselves into. And that allowed us to put the women in the position to be very successful. The women, to be perfectly honest, march to the beat of my drum. I mean, a few of them would step out of line every once and awhile, but I would get them right back into step with a little bit of tough love. And that's the premise of the show.

Especially if they saw the first season, they have to know that you're going to be very honest with them, yet, in the first episode, most of them still seem surprised by some of the assessments you're giving them.
JW: Because they all think they're going to change Steven's perspective, and how he [approaches] things. Especially Rocky, as you saw.

SW: And, what do we say, Mom, because they're delusional? But the main point is that they're their because [that's] repairable. They can fix things. Most of the women just need a change of perspective.

Is that the biggest challenge you guys face in general, not even just with the show, but in your business outside the show? That people have an unrealistic expectation of what they want or what they can get or what they're bringing to the table themselves?
JW: I'll answer that one, Steve. Yes. In a word, yes. And Steve can elaborate.

SW: The fact is that most people have an unrealistic self-image, because they've been told their whole lives by their family and their friends that, you know, it's not them ... it's everybody else. But a lot of the things, we bring upon ourselves, and a lot of the aversion that men would have to women or vice versa, is due to the type of things we do to push them away. Our job is to try to get there to be a kind of, I guess a more normal current. To point out that it's about managing your expectations, compromising, knowing what really matters, valuing things the right way and putting things into proper perspective relative to the norm. We believe that if two people are ... on a similar path, they can support each other and they don't feel threatened by each other, and they can communicate, they can trust, they can respect, then a relationship will work.

A big part of your job is clearing out the BS so people can go about meeting someone ...
JW: Yes. And a lot of it is that people don't really understand the definition of communication. It's more than just talking, speaking. It's what comes out of it, as Steven said, the respect and trust and honesty, and all the things that go into making that. The foundation is always communication.

SW: And in order for people in general to have success in their relationships, they need to really concentrate on making sure that they're doing the best that they can with what they've got, period. That's what it boils down to. It's not about having an ax to grind or being competitive or defensive. It's about just making the best of and making the most use of what God gave you on this earth and in this life time. You just have to have the right frame of mind, not live in fear, and sometimes people need help seeing that.

Do you ever meet people who you kind of determine are probably unmatchable?
SW: Of course.

JW: I think everybody is matchable. I mean, everybody deserves love, and I think there's a lid for every pot. But it becomes about whether or not they're realistic, and if you can get through to them in what they're looking for. For instance, a non-smoking person generally doesn't want to date somebody that does smoke and vice versa, and you can't convince them otherwise. That's just a small [example]. People who want children aren't good matches for those who don't. Everybody is matchable as long as they're on the same wavelength. Like on the show, with the women who are golddiggers, and Steven asks then what they're bringing to the table other than their looks. Their looks are only going to take them so far. You want to meet you equal. So whatever you bring is what you're going to get. You know, you give what you get.

With 20,000 people applying to be in the boot camp this season, how did you begin to pare that down? What were you really looking for in the people that you would end up putting on the show?
SW: Wow. Well, I'll give the diplomatic answer for us. Mom and I are not network programmers, so it's not up to us to select the cast, though [the producers] appreciate our input. And we have really made it known that we want to be much more involved going forward, so that we really put together a class that we think would work very well with one another. It gets pretty packed [in the house] this season, and there's a lot conflict between the women, because I think that's what everybody was really looking for when they put together this group. The producers were extremely diligent in selecting the women, because they have a responsibility to make sure that they're psychologically prepared for this, emotionally prepared for this. This is a very traumatic experience to some of these women. There's one episode where I'm sitting in a room and it's me and my mom and the women, and all of them were bawling their eyes out. There was so much estrogen in the room that I almost started to bawl my eyes out, and started thinking of football games that I use to play in, in order to try to take my mind off of it. It was really intense.

There seems to be a bigger, or different, at least, variety of issues the women are dealing with this season, like the woman who had accomplished a big weight loss.
SW: Yes. I mean, the girl who had these body issues comes flat out and tells us she never felt loved by either of her parents. It hurts to sit there and see some of these people so damaged, with such poor self-esteem, where they never felt loved or feel they have experienced love in their whole lives. And we have to match her up with a guy. When you watch the show, there's a guy who genuinely takes an interest in her, a guy who's a handsome, worldly, educated, doctor, who has every interest her, and she sabotages it at every turn.

She was one of the most likable characters, at least in the premiere ...
SW: Likable or identifiable?

Both.
JW: Oh God, you're in for such a rude awakening.

SW: Oh my God, I'm telling you, the same thing happened to me the other day. I swear to you.

JW: I hate that girl! Can't stand that girl.

SW: Mom, don't say that.

JW: I don't mean that, but let me just go back and explain what I can't stand, why I say that. She has so much to give, so much to offer, she's such a good person inside and out, but she sabotages herself, and it's frustrating. Like Steven said, we had a really great guy for her. When I told him that this girl at one time in her life weighed over 200 pounds, he was okay with it, because he told me his mom was once overweight. He understands it, and he's willing to embrace and work with her, and she just let this guy go. I get so sick to my stomach that this guy could have been her life.

SW: We [also] bring back men from her past. One man is a guy that she's had an on-and-off, nine-year relationship, if you want to call it that, with. The other one is a guy that she actually loved in college and never had a chance to tell. And we brought both of these guys back, and we put her in a position to be successful with both of them, but she continued to handicap herself. And the thing is, she's the most intelligent girl in the room.

JoAnn, most mothers would probably like to have some say, give some advice, to their sons in terms of dating, and this is your job ... do you advise Steven on his love life?
No. I trust Steven 100 percent. I trust Steven's judgment, and he knows that. He's never going to bring someone home that his family wouldn't love and accept and embrace. And so we all, as a family, we know that Steven always does the right thing. I did match my other son, though, with his wife. I've matched a lot of people, actually, in this family, which is really great. I matched my sister-in-law with her husband, I matched my uncle with his wife and I matched my ex-husband with his wife.

So Steven, the question to you then, is, how does your business affect your approach to dating? You obviously have a better understanding of women than a lot of men do.
Yeah, but unfortunately, I also understand a lot of women better than they understand themselves. That's the problem that I've run into. You know, it is very difficult for me to meet my match. The person that I would be a good fit for has to be very enlightened. And it's difficult, because I also have to have a strong physical attraction to them, and like my mom said, they have to fit in very well and understand the demands of my career and what my life consists of. So it's very complicated being with me. Fortunately, I have no trouble dating and finding company, and that's a good thing. At this point, I'm always looking for a great relationship, but it's going to be pretty extraordinary circumstances that would have to prevail in order for it to really materialize.

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