Shaina Hurley said her courtship with her husband, Christos Lardakis, is dramatic enough to merit a reality TV plot line.
"My mom would keep saying, 'People need to record this.' It was definitely a roller coaster with this one," Hurley, 32, told TODAY in a Zoom call alongside Lardakis, 40.
And she would know: Hurley was a cast member on Season 2 of "Love Is Blind," the Netflix reality show that sees people meeting and getting engaged, sight unseen.
For the "Love Is Blind: After the Altar" special, Hurley introduced audiences to her new relationship, which actually started a year and a half before Hurley became a cast member of the second series in the spring of 2021.
Hurley explained that she and Lardakis met through a phone call with a mutual friend. "I heard her voice. I didn't see a picture," Lardakis said. "Love is blind. Her voice drew me to her and built a connection. I'd never seen her before."
They began seeing each other in 2021, but Lardakis explained he was "very honest" about not being in a place to start a relationship due to a number of life circumstances.
A restauranteur with a chain of Greek-inspired brunch spots in Chicago, Lardakis was struggling with COVID's impact on his business. Then, his father had recently been diagnosed with dementia, and he also learned he was having a child from a "past situation," as he puts it. (Lardakis has a daughter).
"I had just met Shaina, and even though it felt everything felt so right, I knew I had to take care of all my things first and figure out my part. It was hard, but I had to let her go. It was sad," Lardakis said.
Hurley said, at the time, she was "trying to be there for him" but realized she "couldn't keep doing this to herself." So, she set out to find someone who could commit — a decision that landed her on "Love Is Blind."
"I got approached for the show. I'm like, 'What if this is my chance to meet a man who is ready? What if I meet my husband?' Hurley said> "I went on the show and we let each other go."
Through that process, Hurley got engaged to Kyle Abrams, but broke up shortly after leaving the pods, as they were unable to reconcile their religious differences. (Abrams is now dating cast member Deepti Vempati and opened up about their slow-burn romance in an interview with TODAY).
Calling it a life-changing experience, Hurley said "Love Is Blind" helped clarify what she needed in a partnership. "It helped me become who I am. I've learned to be more forthright and stick with my gut, and be honest in situations," she said.
When she met Lardakis again the summer after "Love Is Blind" came out at a wedding in Greece, she was ready. "One of the first things I asked him was, 'Do you love Jesus?'" she said, laughing, not wanting a repeat of her situation with Abrams, who is an avowed atheist.
Lardakis and Hurley are aligned in terms of religious beliefs. "A lot of our morals and values do align," she said. Lardakis, whose father was involved in weekly services at the local Greek Orthodox church, said, "Even though she isn't Greek, we have the same love for God, and we believe in the same faith."
The second time around, with the timing right, their relationship went fast. "When I saw her in July, I knew at that moment — I'm not ever gonna let her go," Lardakis said.
"It sounds cheesy, but we do have that soul connection where we just understand each other," Hurley said. "We’re equal, it’s easy. He's everything I ever wanted in a man."
They started dating upon their return to the United States, got engaged at Chicago's SoHo House in March 2022 (Hurley said it was the best of her three proposals so far), and married in Greece in July.
Now, they're looking forward to the next chapter. Lardakis said after years of his Greek mom and grandma pestering him to get married, they've started asking about babies.
"I think we're ready (for kids)," Hurley said. Lardakis replied, "We're on the same page. Three to five." Hurley said, "We'll see when we get to one or two."
Hurley, a hair stylist, is also considering getting her real estate license so she can join Lardakis in real estate – he's also a property developer.
For now, they're enjoying life without the cameras, and all its ensuing drama. One example of said drama? Hurley's relationship with Shayne Jansen coming into question during "After the Altar." Jansen's ex-fiancé Natalie Lee says that she saw inappropriate texts between Hurley and Jansen, who had connected in the pods.
Hurley denies this exchange ever took place. "It's honestly funny. I laugh now because there's actually absolutely no validity. The timelines don't match up. I think people viewers can tell there's no truth to it. I want to know what the messages are. I hope she moves on because it's kind of pathetic," she said.
Lardakis has watched some of the show: "It's fun to watch it — but the reunion was even more fun."
For Hurley, the special was a way to show her relationship to the world. She said she loved having Ladrakis there. "He was like my bodyguard," she said.