If you watched last week’s premiere of Temptation Island, then you probably asked yourself the same question we did: Why TF are Shari Ligons and Javen Butler there? As soon as the couple arrived, they started bickering — and when they opened up about how Javen had cheated in the past, we were like, WTF, these people do not need more temptation in their lives. But as it turns out, both the stars think being on the show might actually be a good thing for their relationship. And with host Mark L. Walberg hinting that we may be rooting for them by the end, we figured we’d give them a shot. When we sat down to talk to both halves of the couple, we started to understand how this whole thing might actually work out okay.
“We’ve seen it as kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Shari, 25, exclusively told Life & Style. “I mean, when do you ever get a chance to date 12 other people? And honestly, it was just one of those things that made sense in our life at that moment. We were at a crossroads and pretty stagnant in our relationship so we wanted to test it out and see if we really are meant to be together … I felt like it was the perfect thing in order for us to determine if we were ready for the next step in our relationship.”
But what does that mean for them? Did they need to get any potential cheating out of their systems? Or was it about proving that they wouldn’t cheat even when the whole point of being there was to go on dates with other people?
“We both had our own reasons to come,” Javen, 25, explained, though he admitted Shari was the one that suggested going on the show. “It was for me to redeem myself — not just talk, but actually apply and show her that I’m a different person.” But he also wanted Shari to have to confront temptation, too. “She’s never dated anybody besides me. It’s not that I want her to date people, but I wanted to see how loyal she was.”
They both admitted that Javen’s cheating was what pushed them to come on — even though that happened five years ago when they were attending college at different universities. In the aftermath, Shari transferred to Javen’s school so they could be together, but they’ve never been fully able to put the issue behind them. “We just had a lot of heartfelt conversations [after his cheating] where we just laid everything out there,” Shari said. “And I just knew that I felt that he was the person that I wanted to be with. We just decided to move forward after everything happened. But of course you say move forward and it’s easier said than done when the damage has already been done … I’ve always had my reservations there.”
Javen is doing his best to put those fears to rest, but he’s got some fears of his own. Namely, the fact that Shari had never been in the same kind of partying environment alone that he had — and that she might be just as vulnerable to temptation if given the opportunity. “She’s never been in that kind of environment before,” he told Life & Style. “She’s a human. She hasn’t really been through any of these phases yet. Out of all things, to take her to Temptation Island and put her through the ultimate test, that’s pretty big on her part too.”
But neither of them had ever dated anybody else. After meeting in person and then connecting on MySpace back when they were just 16, they’ve only really been with each other. “[I wanted] to make sure that he was able to get the questions answered for him that he needed,” Shari said about her boyfriend. “It’s kind of hard when you’ve been with someone since you were 16, you kind of forget that you have your own individuality. For me, it was really important to feel like we accomplished that at the end of it all … I wanted Javen to go into the show to platonically date these other women and just basically see how awesome of a girlfriend I really am.”
And he had pretty much the same hopes for his girl. “I was there battling to keep my relationship and fight urges and prove to myself I’m different from my past … For me, [going on the show] was to kind of revive my relationship, bring things back. Get my girl back secure and invested in me and let her know that I’m there for her and no other woman can come between us … I thought that she would come there, be a queen, take charge, boss guys around, not lift a finger, respect me to the highest standard, [and] keep me in mind.” And he thought it’d help them put all his cheating past behind them. “My whole thing was, if I can make it through this, you shouldn’t be able to say anything to me. Twelve women? [It’s] the ultimate [temptation].”
But just because going on the show and (kind of) dating other people is what they both wanted, it doesn’t mean that it was actually an easy thing to do. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to [be comfortable on the dates] at all to be quite honest,” Shari said. “Javen is the only guy that I’ve known since I was 16. It was definitely a challenge for me to open up to these guys and get to know them.”
And as far as how watching Javen go on dates went, she said, “There were a lot of trust issues there for me, and when we were there I guess it just all hit me at once. It just felt like things are definitely starting to get real … Me and Javen were bickering pretty much the whole [first episode] … I was really worried. You know, I did have those feelings of anxiety. Will Javen fold under the pressure? It was a lot for me.”
The show, though, just might be the perfect format for the couple to find what they need — whether it’s their way back to each other or a new start. “We knew that at the end of it all, we had to face each other,” Shari said. “We liked the transparency of being on the show. Yeah, it is on national TV, but at the same time, in real life, things would be hidden, and on this show, everything was laid out. And we both got to experience something that we’re both going to see for the first time when we watch it on TV.”
Tune in to a new episode of Temptation Island on USA Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 10 p.m.