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The cast members of Lifetime’s Married at First Sight have always weathered their fair share of online criticism. But after the first few episodes of Married at First Sight season 12 in New Orleans aired, one of the show’s experts, Dr. Viviana Coles, spoke out about what she saw as online bullying.

Coles, who is known on the show as “Dr. Viviana,” spoke up in a passionate defense of Erik Lake and Virginia Coombs, two of the 10 newlyweds featured on this season of Married at First Sight. Some fans agreed with Dr. Viviana’s comments, while others took the chance to debate the Lifetime matchmaker.  

Wedding rings
Wedding rings | Rick Rowell/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Erik Lake and Virginia Coombs got hitched on the second episode of ‘Married at First Sight’

Erik, 34, and Virginia, 26, tied the knot on the second episode of Married at First Sight season 12, which airs on Lifetime each Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST. Erik and Virginia seemed to be into each other right away, with Erik calling his wife “absolutely gorgeous” and Virginia saying she’d never felt such an “instant connection” with someone before.

But some fans thought the couple seemed like a far-fetched match. Erik is a reserved, traditional commercial pilot who wants to start a family right away. The Married at First Sight star was already married once, and he’s hoping his second marriage works out perfectly.

Meanwhile, Virginia is outgoing, known among her friends as the “life of the party.” She admits she often sabotages her relationships, and she struggles with insecurities about relationships and abandonment as a result.

Many Married at First Sight viewers questioned Virginia’s drinking habits at her wedding. She imbibed quite a bit in between grabbing and kissing her noticeably more reserved husband.

Erik Lake and Virginia Coombs
Erik Lake and Virginia Coombs | Kinetic Content

A clip of Erik and Virginia attracted negative comments on Instagram

Lifetime shared a clip from the most recent episode on Jan. 22 that highlighted the contrast between the extroverted-but-jittery Virginia and the much more introverted Erik.

When Erik asked what his wife liked to do for fun, she listed sporting events, concerts, festivals, and bar-hopping as some of her favorite activities.

“I go out a lot, honestly,” the Married at First Sight star told her husband. “I’m not even gonna lie.”

Looking apprehensive, Erik admitted, “I don’t as much.”

The 34-year-old told Lifetime producers, “From what I’ve gathered, she might go out a little bit more than I do. It’s just kind of out of my comfort zone.”

The clip attracted negative comments from many Married at First Sight fans. Some suggested that the couple was far too different to work out, while others complained about Virginia’s alcohol use. Others accused the producers of matching the unlikely pair for “drama” and “ratings.”

“The experts were drunk when they matched people,” one Instagram user commented. “Or are getting pressure for better ratings.”

“She def gives alcoholic vibes,” another Married at First Sight fan wrote.

“Worst pairing of all time,” another commenter agreed.

Dr. Viviana Coles called critics out on social media

Dr. Viviana called Married at First Sight fans out in response to the criticism.

In a comment on Lifetime’s Instagram post, she wrote, “These comments are disgusting. I can’t hold my tongue anymore. These are real people. I’m so glad you ‘care’ about them but your accusations and assumptions don’t reflect that. Wish them well and watch their journey. Anything else is just mean-spirited and thoughtless. You don’t know them. You likely won’t ever know them in their hearts. Stop the nastiness.”

Instead of jumping to conclusions, Dr. Viviana suggested that fans try to make predictions about the couples’ futures in a kinder, more analytical way.

The Lifetime expert’s comment garnered nearly 2,000 likes and a great deal of support from many Married at First Sight fans. Many commenters congratulated Dr. Viviana for taking a stand against online bullying.

“It is upsetting that people are being so hateful,” one fan wrote. “Thank goodness you are there for support.”

“Much respect to you for sticking up for them,” another agreed.

Some ‘Married at First Sight’ fans argued with the relationship expert

Of course, not all Married at First Sight fans agreed with Dr. Viviana’s comments. Many viewers pointed out that fans were simply pointing out what they saw on-screen – which had been carefully curated and edited by producers. They suggested that she should direct her ire at the crew instead.

“While I agree, the caption specifically says ‘Thoughts on the newlyweds?’ so viewers are giving their opinion,” one critic wrote. “The show has shifted over the years and seems to be all for the drama and not so much matchmaking so I feel that’s what the comments are reflecting.”

Another viewer agreed, writing, “So the edited footage the network ran was supposed to present a different version of the couple? All they ever emphasize is this girl’s desire to constantly drink and his uncomfortable looks about it. The cast and crew are the ONLY ones who see the real people. All these comments stem from what the network shows.”

Other fans blamed the experts themselves for matching couples they saw as highly incompatible.

“As an ‘expert,’ how can you not see that some of these people are not compatible?” one Instagram user asked Dr. Viviana.

Another wrote in the same vein, “What’s disgusting is y’all matched them together and clearly got it WRONG…again…don’t do it for the ratings and actually do it for long-term love and you won’t have people [making] these comments.”


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Dr. Viviana stood her ground in the ongoing debate

Still, Dr. Viviana stood her ground, reminding viewers that they had only seen a few minutes of Erik and Virginia’s marriage to begin with. She suggested they refrain from judgment before knowing more.

“It’s expected for all viewers to have thoughts on what they are seeing, but calling people names and attacking them on social media is not a useful or healthy way to behave. EVER,” Dr. Viviana insisted. She also argued that some of the comments were “beyond the pale” and ventured into “verbal assault.”

As fans continued the passionate debate, the Married at First Sight star left a final comment about her surprise at the level of anger she saw from viewers.  

“I have always let all of our participants know that I support them both publicly and privately,” she wrote to one critic. “I’ve never seen such hateful bullying happen so incredibly early in a season, so I’m very concerned that it will get any worse. I’m commenting today, but seeing the barrage of irrational and unmoved nature of the responses I’m getting, seems like a complete misuse of my energy to do so again here. But I had to try. #mamabearcameout.”

While it’s unclear what will happen in the coming weeks, it’s evident that some viewers are frustrated with the direction of the popular Lifetime show.