At the beginning of June, TLC reality show 90 Day Fiancé introduced a whole new cast of long-distance couples, but there’s one couple viewers have yet to meet. Tim, a 34-year-old account manager from Dallas, and his Colombian fiancée, Melyza, who will make their debut on the show Monday, June 29. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, the couples' last names are withheld.
90 Day Fiancé follows Americans who are engaged to someone who lives outside the U.S. The show is so named because of the K-1 visa, which gives the partner who is not a U.S. citizen 90 days to visit the U.S. and determine if they want to get married.
The season airing now, 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way, is one of the series’ many spin offs. It flips the typical format of the show on its head, instead following the journey of the American as they move to their partner’s home country.
Tim hasn’t been mentioned in the first few episodes, but a bio for the show teases his relationship with Melyza. It describes how they met at a bar in Iowa, where he was attending college and Melyza was working as an au pair.Melyza had plans to move to Dallas to be with Tim, but they changed after a mysterious trust-shattering incident.
“To prove his love for her, Tim is now moving to Colombia,” the bio reads. “Melyza’s mother also doesn’t trust Tim, and thinks he has a lot to prove for her to support their relationship.”
Repeat viewers will know that all of the relationships on 90 Day Fiancé face significant conflict — that’s just a rule of good TV— but in a conversation with the Observer, it’s clear that Tim’s story doesn’t fit the typical mold.
A common cliffhanger on 90 Day Fiancé is whether the Americans are being catfished, but that aspect is completely absent from Tim’s story. He’s one of few people to have met his partner in person first versus on social media or through an international dating site.
“I really wouldn’t say it puts me in a different stratosphere or anything like that, but the majority of the couples don’t have that benefit,” he says in a friendly Southern drawl.
While many people who appear on the show have a history of dating long distance, the experience is somewhat new for Tim. He says he’s always been open to the idea of a long-distance relationship, but past girlfriends were against it.
When he met Melyza, he recalls he wasn’t looking for anything particularly serious, but that quickly changed.
“When I laid eyes on her for the first time it was obviously someone who was very gorgeous, but she also had this kind of aura to her,” he says. “I knew I had to try.”
Technology makes distance easier to manage, but Tim admits it still poses its challenges.
“The Catch-22 is that you might be pursuing something for longer than you would have otherwise because you’ve invested more in the long-distance relationship,” he says.
Taking on a reality TV show would only complicate his relationship with Melyza further, and he says they thought long and hard before deciding to accept the offer to be on the show.
“We didn’t know how it would affect our relationship,” he says. “We knew the audience would be able to see us for better or for worse.”
Fame was not something Tim says he was seeking.
“It just happened. Reality TV is one of those things that I always watched, but I probably wouldn’t admit to watching as much as I did,” he says. “I never saw myself as being on TV, especially reality TV, because of the negative stereotypes.”
On most seasons of 90 Day Fiancé, there is at least one couple who wins over audiences, but the show has also featured lots of divisive, unlikable personalities and trainwreck relationships. Its entertainment value is often rooted in schadenfreude.
“Yeah, that was something that concerned me,” Tim says, when asked why he decided to go on a show that invites so much judgment. “I’m just a goofy guy and it kind of took me some years to just accept that’s who I am.”
“Everyone likes to think that they don’t care what people think about them,” he continues. “I think even the most comfortable people in their skin still care what other people think about them.”
But Tim says as he talked to the producers, he got more comfortable with the idea of appearing on the show.
“They said, ‘Hey, we’re just going to tell your story. We’re not going to give you lines or anything like that.’”
What’s the main thing you can expect to see during Tim and Melyza’s story arc this season? Relatability, he says. “I think people can expect to see growth, not just as a couple, but as people.”
There will also be some curveballs, and he hopes they offer lessons.
“I think they’ll [the viewers] start out with preconceived notions and I think how it progresses will make them think differently. Not just from the perspective of our story, but also from the self-reflection that they’ll have,” he says.
Some of the things that happened during filming caught Tim off guard as well. While he can’t reveal his current relationships status — that would be a spoiler — he says being under the microscope of a film production actually benefited their relationship in some surprising ways.
“It really kind of made us analyze and examine our relationship in a much more positive fashion than I thought we would have been able to do,” he says.
One of Tim’s main takeaways from the show is that it’s not always a great idea to rely on the advice of family and friends.
“We have friends and family that try to be there for us, but it’s always biased,” he says. “People that care for you the most are going to try to paint a picture of you that’s somewhat rosy.”
He’s also valued learning from the experiences of other couples on the show. The relationships between cast members — who interact during tell-alls and other special episodes — aren’t always friendly. But Tim has no bad words to say.
“I feel like we’re this family, in a sense,” he says. “We’re all in different relationships in different areas of the world but going through a lot of the same challenges.”
A particular favorite of Tim’s is the relationship between single dads Kenneth and Armando. “I love being part of a season that has that story to tell as well, because it’s a similar situation [to mine], but it’s also something that is deeper than that and goes deeper than the show. It helps to break down stereotypes that I want broken down.”
He hopes his own story will speak to people in a similar way.
“One of the things I do like about this is that there are people out there who can find similarities to my story or her [Melyza’s] story.”
Tim hasn’t actually seen his segments yet, but he’s no longer worried about how he might be depicted.
“If you’re not really genuine and being honest with yourself, then you’re not going to like how you’re depicted,” he says. “I was 100% myself.”
He thinks watching the show back as it airs will be another learning experience.
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“The show’s trying to craft the story in a way that makes sense to the viewer, but it’s all true and it’s all valid, and trying to see myself from an outside perspective allows me to see what I truly am compared to what I’ve been told I am,” he says.
The fact that he swore off social media a year ago certainly helps.
“I don’t really care if people are laughing at me, but it’s a lot better if people laugh with me,” he says.
90 Day Fiancé airs 8 p.m. Mondays on TLC.