90 Day Fiancé: Before The 90 Days personality, Ben Rathbun, is spilling the inside tea about his dicey romance with Mahogany, the woman he wooed online before meeting face-to-face in Peru.
The fitness model spoke to ET about his TLC journey, addressing the couple’s significant age difference, and how he handled catching Mahogany Roca in multiple lies.
Ben Rathbun, a former pastor, and Mahogany, who told Ben she was 24 when she was actually 22, initially connected over their religious faith. Fans of the show know that Mahogany’s online photos were heavily filtered, and that she would not converse with Ben via video chat. Mahogany stood Ben up upon his arrival, but later showed up to meet him at a restaurant in her home town.
Ben explained why it didn’t bother him that Mahogany’s photos did not match her in-person appearance.
“In my opinion, there’s two different kinds of people that do social media,” he said. “One is someone that wants to show what’s going on in their lives every single day and they want to be real and authentic and show everyone who they are. When I see Mahogany’s page, it’s not like that at all. She posts maybe once every two or three months and it’s just for fun, it’s more for art. Like, if you look at her page, it’s just a bunch of pictures of selfies that look really well done, and some are like from two or three years ago. She doesn’t, you know, update. So, in my opinion, she’s not really trying to deceive anyone, she’s having a fun time.”
He continued,“So if she’s a young girl at 20 years old and she finds an app that kind of morphs your face — so we’ve all kind of done Snapchat filters and had a good time with it — she just posted it. She never thought the entire world would be looking at that and judging her for it, you know, she was just having fun. So I don’t have any problem with it … it’s fine, it doesn’t really matter.”
Ben said that in his view, Mahogany “wasn’t being deceptive at all.”
“I could tell that the pictures were doctored a little bit and I didn’t really take it seriously,” he explained. “To me it was much more of a spiritual connection and she wouldn’t send me pictures, you know, no video chatting … It just wasn’t something she was interested in doing and something I was interested in pursuing. I wasn’t begging her for pics every day.”
Ben clarified that he no longer considers Mahogany lying about her age an issue. Ben was clearly bothered by the fib while filming the show, likely because he has a 22-year-old daughter.
“[Mahogany] didn’t keep reiterating the lie,” he revealed. “It was a one-time lie. Something that I would tell my kids, if you meet a strange, older man online, don’t tell him your social security number, don’t tell him your address, don’t tell him your age. If you do tell them your age, change it up because you don’t know if they’re going to be a stalker or a crazy person. So, not a problem with me at all. So the age thing to me is us not pursuing the truth together and me like, not following up well. I just did a lot of assuming.”
He addressed a common fan opinion — that he was bothered by a two year age difference, but not other obvious deceptions.
“That really had more to do with my kids, I don’t, you know, have a 24-year-old but I do have a 22-year-old,” he explains. “I just thought if she’s older than my kids, psychologically, it’s not that big of a deal. But even that’s not that big a deal to me as for the age of my kids because I don’t look at it that way. She’s a completely separate adult and it doesn’t matter to me if my kids are that age, it’s just something that caught me off guard. I had to think about it for a minute. But this has become so much more than age, so much more than, you know, our differences. The things we’ve been really focusing on are our commonalities. And so far those outweigh our differences. And she is so mature and wise and intelligent, that I haven’t really felt that difference.”
Ben reiterated that he was fine with pursuing a relationship with a much younger woman, as long as her parents and his children were comfortable with it. He added that he would be fine with his own daughter doing the same, as long as he was able to screen her love interest first. Ben also acknowledged that he’s been receiving fan blowback because of the age difference.
“There’s no one in this world that loves Mahogany more than her dad and so all of the viewers out there that are so concerned for her and think that I’m a predator coming after a young girl, trust me when I say the dad cares more about the situation than anyone from the outside,” he said. “So, if he sees that I am very, very healthy — which is, I find myself the exception and I’m sure that’s probably rationalizing what I’m doing so I’ll give you that — but I am incredibly healthy. I take care of my body and it’s a huge priority and I want to live for a very long time and I want to live in the best health that I can.”
Ben shared that his last serious relationship was with a 39-year-old woman.
“So I think every case is individual,” he says. “It’s not about the age to me. I met someone whose heart and whose soul is just so beautiful and someone that I can just connect with on such a different level that I just didn’t want to let that go.”
Mahogany played off a swanky condo as her own after meeting her American beau. Ben said in his interview that he later understood that her lie was designed to “impress” him, and was not blatant dishonesty.
“She was actually living there and she lived there for a couple of months,” Ben explained. “I’m sure most of her stuff was in her parents’ house. For Peru, that is their off season, I went during their winter. So, there’s not a lot of tourists. Those really nice condominiums there are very inexpensive. She’s got a great job, she’s got a great future. She is going to become an international lawyer, and she has money and her parents have money. So, like I said, I look at everything through the positive side, maybe too much so.”
“If there is something major I feel like we can’t get past, that’s one thing, but if someone’s just trying to have me show up and this is where they’re living for a couple of months, I wasn’t asking a whole lot of questions so that’s on me for not pursuing it harder and more thoroughly,” he added.
90 Day Fiancé: Before The 90 Days airs Sundays at 8 pm, ET, on TLC.
Nancy Zhāng is an Entertainment Blogger for All About The Tea. Nancy covers hot topics, recaps and celeb news. She loves to multi-task as a writer and a private chef. She received a B.S. in Mass Communications from LSU. Nancy’s married and the proud mom of 2 German Shepherds.