By Samantha Simon
Updated Mar 26, 2019 @ 11:00 pm
Temptation Island
Credit: USA Network

After 11 long drama-fueled weeks, our time on Temptation Island has officially come to an end. And if your Twitter feed hasn’t already told you, the first season of the rebooted reality show went out with a bang.

To recap, the USA series took four couples — each plagued by different commitment issues in their relationships — and whisked them away to a tropical paradise, where they were subsequently split up. The four boyfriends were sent off to live in a house with 12 single women, as their girlfriends unpacked their bags alongside their new roommates, 12 single men. For the next 30 days, there would be no communication between the couples as they dated singles, partied, and reflected on their relationships. But it wasn’t all fun and games Each week, the men and women attended separate bonfires, during which they were shown clips of their significant others’ time on the island — the good, the bad, and the downright heartbreaking.

It was a messy journey for the couples (warning: spoiler alerts ahead). In the two-part finale, we watched as super-fit Nicole Tutewohl and Karl Collins realized that their relationship was more superficial than they thought and said their goodbyes. The clearly-wrong-for-each-other Kady Krambeer and John Thurmond couldn’t move past their issues — mainly, that she didn’t think he was “manly” enough to be a husband and father — and parted ways. And after being together on-and-off for 10 years, Kaci Campbell and Evan Smith imploded in the most bonkers way imaginable, with Evan leaving Kaci blindsided as he declared his love for one of the singles, Morgan Lolar (ultimately, in the six-month flash-forward at the end of the finale, we watched as Evan proposed to Morgan, an unexpected move, since he’d rebuffed Kaci’s marriage ultimatums for years).

Temptation Island
Credit: USA Network

While we certainly didn’t see that proposal coming, it wasn’t the only one we got to witness. In the end, only one of the couples survived the experience in tact: Shari Ligons and Javen Butler, who after nine years together — and past infidelity on Butler’s part — got engaged as their time on the island came to an end. InStyle caught up with the couple ahead of the finale, and as it turns out, they were just as surprised by what went down in the other relationships. “From the beginning, I thought everyone was gonna make it out,” admits Butler. “I knew that there was gonna be some bumps and bruises, but I never pictured anyone actually breaking up or leaving with someone else — that idea scared me.” Ligons agrees: “I was really shocked [by the breakups], because going into this, we were all real couples,” she says. “It was hard to picture anybody without their partner.”

That mindset quickly shifted as their time on the island progressed. “It got to a point where nothing was predictable,” says Butler. “I was like, ‘Can you really fall in love and forget about your partner and meet someone else?’ Like, this is real life. These are real people, we're interacting, we're hanging out, and spending all this time together. Eventually I realized that everyone's on their own journey and at the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. It was a crazy ride, and you really had to find yourself and make a decision.”

Though Ligons “kind of expected” that she and Butler would find their way back to each other in the end, she did have her doubts. “I didn't know where his test was at, and I didn't know if he was going to see me at the final bonfire and be like, ‘I love you, but I want to be single,’” she says. “That was always in the back of my head, for sure.” Though she was never tempted to strike up a romance with one of the singles (“In my heart, I knew that Javen was my soulmate,” she says), Ligons did question Butler’s commitment at times. “I was most nervous that he would possibly make a connection with another girl and leave the island with her, or just figure out that he wants to be single,” she says. “Those two things were overplaying in my head initially, and that's why I was overreacting and feeling overwhelmed. I had put my relationship on the line to be there, and I was freaking out. But once I came into my own and developed more confidence, that helped me. I realized that it was too late to back out of it!”

Keep reading for our full chat with Butler and Ligons to find out their take on the most shocking hookups (and breakups), what they wish they’d done differently, and their own fairytale ending to Temptation Island.

Why did you decide to sign up for the show?

Javen Butler: I had been wanting to redeem myself in my relationship because of my past. We’d been fighting, having some arguments and stuff. We still felt strongly about each other, but it was always in the back of our minds that we hadn't dated anyone else but each other. If we were going to move forward with a future and decide to have kids and everything, we wanted to make sure that this was real. And if we’re wasting our time, then let’s just end this now.

Shari Ligons: We were kind of at a crossroads. We’d been together since we were 16, so what better way to see if we're meant to be together? We made the decision to test our love this way.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you’d known going into the experience?

SL: That it was going to be such a crazy ride. I thought that it would be super simple! We've been together for so long, it’s no big deal, it's just going to be 30 days. I thought it would kind of be like a vacation for us. And then when we went there, it was just a completely different story. It got real!

JB: I wish I knew how difficult my temptation would be before coming in. I didn't realize how real the situation was gonna be and that it would be so in-your-face. It was definitely hard living with 13 women and waking up, coming downstairs, and they were just there. You're drinking, you're hanging out with all these people and getting into deeper levels with them. We didn’t have phones or TV, so there was nothing but natural, organic interactions. It’s a controlled environment where people go out and cheat naturally. It’s just like dating on steroids. But it’s also very realistic!

Temptation Island
Credit: USA Network

Did the fact that your significant other would see clips of your experience affect the way you acted?

JB: Knowing that Shari was going to see my bonfire didn't really affect how I was acting. But I know Shari, and I know how her mind works, so I knew that just me talking to a girl would probably bother her. My biggest thing was just making sure I was being myself and not being misled by anyone else. Whatever I did, whatever decision I made, I wanted to make sure it was on me.

SL: I was always just myself, no matter what. I didn't know that a lot of people gave me crap for it at first, when I was just really reserved and not really wanting to socialize or try to be too involved in this experience. I still knew at the end of the day that my heart was with Javen and I always kept in the back of my head that he would see how I was acting at bonfires, so I always wanted to leave a positive impression.

Temptation Island
Credit: USA Network

What was it like to watch the three other relationships around you crumble?

SL: Honestly, it was just shocking to see just everything else go down. For me and Javen, we were just being ourselves. He is my best friend, and we definitely have a strong bond. So to see the other relationships falling, and some new ones forming, I kind of knew that this is what we signed up for. I never judged any of my cast mates for their decisions, because I knew that we all had our own reasons for being there.

JB: It really put my relationship into perspective and made me value what I had and what I needed. Being around these guys and girls on the island, going through the motions right along with them and seeing how things happen, I just realized that I just can't give myself to another woman besides Shari. Seeing all these other interactions going on just made me miss my girl and love her even more.

What was the biggest shocker during your time on the show?

SL: Getting a new ‘single’ [in the house.] I wasn't expecting that. That shocked me, for sure. And then Kaci and Evan [breaking up] surprised me, I’m not going to lie. Being there for Kaci was just something that I think was second nature to us girls, because we did have a bond. Whenever any of us were feeling down, we just always made sure to support each other. Seeing Kaci going through what she went through and still being so strong after it is just really is inspiring. It's only made her stronger and happier, and I feel like she's in a good space.

JB: When we were having our little group session towards the end of the season, where we were all sitting around the couches and having a conversation, and then Evan brought up the fact that he decided to make Morgan his girl. I think that caught everyone by surprise, based on the situation. That was the biggest curve ball out of everything.

Is there anything that didn’t air that you wish had made the final cut?

SL: There really wasn't that much drama in our house. We had a lot of fun things that didn't get aired! We played charades, truth or dare, and Capture the Flag and had this funny talent show. We did a relay race. We were kind of like a family at a point.

JB: There was a lot of drama in our house. There was a lot of crying, tears, drinking, partying, screaming, yelling. A lot more arguments and moments where people had realizations [about relationships]. There was a lot going on, and I'm surprised a lot of it didn't make [the final cut]. But I'm happy with what’s been shown. They probably could make a few more shows [with the rest]!

Temptation Island
Credit: USA Network

Do you keep up with any of the singles from your house?

JB: At one point, I was keeping up with some of the women from the show. But after a while, some things died out. People kinda got a little different after the show. I do talk to the guys — Evan, Karl, and John — though. We have a little group chat we tag each other in and talk.

SL: I don't necessarily keep up with any [of the guys], per se. But through social media, you can stay connected with certain people here and there. I’ve just been living my life and and focusing on so many other things, like moving, and planning our wedding.

A key point of your relationship on the show was that neither of you have friends of the opposite sex. Has that changed?

JB: Yeah, I do have platonic friends. It’s interesting because before this experience, having friends of the opposite sex always ended badly for us. Someone always ends up liking us or trying to do something. We have a weird relationship; I don't think we're normal when it comes to new people. Shari's very attractive, she's hot. So a lot of people play to be her friend, but in the long run, they really want to get close to her. I guess the same thing has happened to me. I have a better outlook now and I know how to control my friendships and my relationships with people. But I still watch people closely.

SL: Yeah, we're definitely open to male and female friends. For sure.

After watching the show, people likely have misconceptions about you. Is there something you want to set the record straight about?

SL: I'm not crazy! And I'm not controlling. I feel like a lot of people finally got to see a soft, genuine side of me, and I'm glad they did. I'm feisty but I'm also a sweetheart. I mean well.

JB: I'm a very shy person. You can ask anyone who knows me. It takes a while for me to open up, so that was one of my issues. I spent a lot of my time on the island being shy, and looking back, I wish I would have braved the experience a bit more and just been a little more open to give some people the chance to know me better. I'm proud of my decisions that I made and how far I've come, but I still think that I could have showed more of my personality and been a little bit more open.

You got engaged in the season finale. Congrats! Was that something you had discussed happening at the end of the show?

JB: Of course, before the show actually aired, at a point in our relationship we talked about being married and getting engaged. But it just kind of happened this way. After we shared our video [messages] with each other, I was like, ‘This is too much. I need my baby girl. She's the one, I know it.’ I was making connections, but none of these women even come close to Shari. I knew I was going to propose, but I kept it to myself because I was still assessing everyone. I didn’t want to mess with the other guys’ energy and affect their decisions in any way. It would have been weird to bring that into the environment at the time, so they didn’t find out until towards the end.

SL: I was completely surprised. It’s something we had talked about wanting to do in the future, but I never thought it would happen on Temptation Island! I didn’t expect it. I mean, at this point I wasn't even sure that Javen wanted to be with me still. I hadn’t talked to him; I didn't know if he wanted to leave single. So I was stunned that he proposed. I don't even know how I reacted. I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was just so overwhelmed with joy. And so surprised!

Temptation Island
Credit: USA Network

It’s already been announced that Temptation Island is coming back for a second season. What’s your advice for anyone thinking about going on the show?

SL: I would say, make sure that you're ready for this experience if it's something that you think you need in your life. I'm not going to tell anyone not to go on the show, but I will say that if there's any kinks you can work out before the show, maybe try counseling fist. Otherwise, it's definitely a wild ride so prepare yourself. But hey, you could end up engaged! You just never know on Temptation Island.

JB: If you're brave enough, and if you're really looking for answers and want to get answers, it would be a good idea. But you have to be prepared for the worst. Going on the show, you run the risk of losing your partner forever. You’re exposing your partner and yourself to something that you may never have had before. These are real people; nothing is scripted.