Before I jump into Tracy McMillan’s new show on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit reality series “Family or Fiancé” now in season two, I want to highlight that Tracy McMillan—in person—is charming! Charming like the big sister you wish was a part of your family. Charming like that confidante that could give you real advice about the ups and downs of love relationships. And to be accurate that’s actually how McMillan started, advising her friends on their love life.
What qualifies her to give such advice? It’s a valid question and one that raises extreme curiosity because the show is on the OWN network. A network known for quality programming and most (not all) reality shows thrive on high voltage drama. In “Family or Fiancé” the objective is to find a place to begin to heal. Note, I didn’t say to keep the couples together. This isn’t a chapter from a fairytale. It’s real people dealing with real-life and sometimes (often) people break up but that does not necessarily mean they don’t heal. Following me? McMillan considers herself a relationship expert because she’s been married and divorced three times. Three times. And her logic is sound. She’s already made a lot of the mistakes that new couples need to learn about and McMillian is generous enough in her spirit to share her painful mistakes. That’s how you begin to heal. It takes guts, honesty, and faith.
“Family or Fiancé” follows engaged couples who bring their disapproving families together for three days under one roof. I’m leaning toward an image of an illegal dog fight. It sounds good on paper but in my experience, families at war don’t hesitate to take emotional “chunks” out of each other. It’s packed with tension as you can imagine.
It is a high-stakes social experiment where the couples and extended families participate in activities designed to strengthen their bond, unpack their differences, and show some very complicated relationships in a whole new light. In the end, the families’ concerns might leave the couples to reconsider their unions, or revelations might cause any concerns to fall away.
Her rise to fame began when McMillan’s 2011 viral blog post “Why You’re Not Married,” shook it up making it the most-viewed article on HuffPost for two years.
Driven or shall we say motivated, she wrote a book based on the piece, Why You’re Not Married… Yet which was published by Ballantine (2012). She stretched her writing muscle and became a screenwriter. Some of her credits include Mad Men, Necessary Roughness, Chase, Life on Mars, and The United States of Tara. She’s mastered this art form and won the 2010 Writers Guild of America Awards for Dramatic Series for Mad Men, along with other writers of the series.
Back to love … as a relationship expert, McMillan’s made numerous television and radio appearances, including as a matchmaker on the NBC dating reality show Ready for Love, as well as The Today Show, Katie, Bethenny, Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers, and Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.
Comfortable sharing her wisdom with curious love hunters, as an author, McMillian penned her memoir I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway (It! Books, 2010) and followed with her debut novel, You’ll Know It When You See It, published by Gallery in 2015. She lives in Los Angeles and continues to write occasional pieces in the Huffington Post.
Here’s what Tracy McMillan had to share about love, life and the second season of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit reality series “Family or Fiancé” from Bunim/Murray Productions. New episodes are now airing.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: What makes OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit reality series “Family or Fiancé” different than most reality shows that dare to take the deep dive into messy families and their drama?
TRACY McMILLAN: Great question. Our families go through a transformation. We look at where it started [in conflict] and we take it here [in resolution]. I know that Oprah loves the show and I think that it’s very consistent with what she’s trying to do. And it’s not like a woo-woo version of spirituality. It’s like real people having real problems and people don’t always act right all the time.
LAS: How does the show impact the families?
TCM: Great question. It’s really about looking within! It’s very easy for these families to think that they are not a part of it. Everyone needs to look inside [and ask] what’s going on inside of you that you are bringing to [this conflict].
LAS: You are now in season two? Did you experience a difference in couples?
TCM: The couples coming into season two are way more understanding of what the process will be but even they [are stressed out] by day two they are like ‘what’s just happened’ I mean they have no idea and I try to prepare them.
LAS: I should hope so.
TCM: (laughing) Yes because by now I am clear about the process.
LAS: What’re the most common issues that families seem to have with couples.
TCM: That they are moving too fast. One of the reasons that some couples move too fast is that they are trying to resolve something from their past.
LAS: Makes sense. Please, continue.
TCM: Yes and they think that if they can get into the new relationship that will make it go away but it doesn’t work that way.
LAS: Is fear a part of moving too fast?
TCM: Yes for some they fear that the relationship is not going to last and that’s not a great sign. I would say that’s huge. If you change the relationship with change but a lot of times people don’t change is because they don’t want the relationship to change.
LAS: That’s deep.
TCM: It is. Couples have said to me that if they went to couple’s therapy they would get a divorce. They know. They don’t want to go to couples therapy because they don’t want to get a divorce. You are only half alive and if you unpack you might get 100% alive. It doesn’t mean you are getting a divorce it just means that this marriage is going to end and you can create another one in its place but people don’t have faith, they suffer from lack of imagination. They think that if they can’t see it [then] it’s not there. I think that one of the things that happen in the show is what can happen if you dare to tell the truth in your relationship and what’s really going on in the family.
LAS: Well, to be frank, I think that families often have a better view of the couple than a couple has of themselves. I’m leaning into that fishbowl analogy.
TCM: Families usually see something real in the couple. Families are willing to look at things about the couple that the couple is not willing to see.
TCM: (laughing) Well [the couple] …. I’m in love. The sex is too great whatever. Every family in the history of families have wanted to control what their kids are doing. It doesn’t work that way. Both people must want it. It will not work if only one part of the couple wants it.
LAS: Let’s talk control.
TCM: The person who wants something the least is who controls it in a couple. That’s one of the paradoxes of being in a couple. Whoever wants less sex controls sex. You often see people underbidding their partners. I’m not recommending this but I see it a lot. It’s a way of keeping power.
LAS: Are you in a relationship now?
TCM: No, but I was with someone for almost five and a half years. It was the beginning of a process, in October [I began examing it] and by April, I thought this needs to end.
LAS: So, do you think that if you don’t want to get married that a relationship should end?
TCM: Not necessarily. Remember. I was in a relationship for five years and seven months. Now, I am at a stage of life where I don’t need to get married. It’s not like I’m spending eggs on this guy. I have my kid. I’m in my 50’s.
LAS: Can you expand on that last statement.
TCM: Sure. Being in your 50’s is like being in your 20’s in some ways because you have a lot of freedom.
LAS: Why do you think it’s important for the couples on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit reality series “Family or Fiancé” to come on your show?
TCM: There is the potential to be free. Now some of them don’t realize for some, free means that they aren’t going to be engaged anymore when the episode ends but that’s ok. That’s ok because if your agreement with the universe is that I want what’s in the highest good, the highest good is about to unfold.
To watch full episodes of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit reality series “Family or Fiancé” http://www.oprah.com/own-familyorfiance/where-are-they-now