“People are claiming our relationship has triggered victims of domestic violence, but then Channel Nine says they’ve done their due diligence by us, but viewers are still interpreting it like such – something has clearly gone wrong,” a frustrated Mel adds, explaining the heavy claims have motivated her to want to take things further.
Bryce says he knows viewers will blame him before producers, but refuses to back down on exposing their “tactics”.
“Everything was my words, but producers definitely lead you down the path to make the drama,” explains Bryce, who feels his reputation has been destroyed by the show.
The persistent scandals that plagued their time on the controversial series quickly saw Bryce become one of the country’s most contentious TV grooms and Melissa, his “victim” – an image they say is so far from the truth that “it’s laughable”.
No mention of Bryce and Mel is complete without the words “secret girlfriend” – the basis of one of this season’s biggest plots, where Bryce was accused of having a romance with another woman in Canberra during filming.
“The whole thing was made up – it’s that simple,” Bryce says.
“In my final audition I was required to open up and share all my relationship history, and that short-lived romance came up and was just used to stir drama,” Bryce recounts, insisting he was used as the show’s villain.
“They couldn’t get an affair out of anyone, so they used me for ratings.”
Interestingly, Bryce reveals that Rebecca Zemek’s “bombshell” confession, where she insisted Bryce had mentioned his alleged “affair” during a gym session, was completely manufactured.
“I never mentioned anything about another girl,” he says, revealing at one point he tried to make contact with the hotel reception team to retrieve the footage and prove his innocence, before it was shut down by crew.
While viewers at home might have expected the duo to simply walk out, the couple, both 32, says it was never that simple.
“It’s their mind games that keep you there; they convince you, saying things like ‘there’s room for redemption’ and ‘your story isn’t over – we need you to work this out,’ so you think something good is going to happen by staying,” says Mel.
“If they say that’s not working … they go down the path of very polite threats, like ‘you don’t want the public to see you like this, so if you don’t stay and fix it, you will become hated,” she adds.
Sadly, the couple explain the ongoing psychological effects have been the hardest to reconcile, with Bryce confessing he has been diagnosed with anxiety.
“I used to able to go down the street and not panic, but now I get looks and I think, ‘have they seen the show? Do they hate me?’” he says. “We’re basically living in fear.”
Meanwhile, Melissa admits, without Bryce by her side, things might have been worse. “I have sought independent psychology since the show has gone to air. It was probably in the last few weeks of it playing out, where I was not suicidal, but headed down that path.”
“Days went by when I couldn’t get off the couch and I couldn’t change my clothes. I stopped taking calls from [Channel] Nine and I couldn’t eat – all the signs of depression and anxiety, and it was really tough,” she explains.
Motivated by change and the promise that “next year we’ll be old news”, Mel and Bryce say they’re looking forward to a “real wedding”.
“We had no say in our wedding – not the venue, not the barn feel – and now we get to start over,” shares Mel. “We just can’t wait to get engaged and put this all behind us – the future is bright!”
If you or anyone you know is struggling to cope, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.