In the new WE tv series Commit or Quit, Judge Lynn Toler is helping couples before they need Marriage Boot Camp, and whether they make it down the aisle, break up, or get a divorce is all up to her.
Judge Toler, who we came to love as the Divorce Court judge from 2006 to 2020 and as a current co-host of Marriage Boot Camp counseling reality TV couples into shape alongside Dr. Ish Major, once again has the power to determine a couple's fate on Commit or Quit with Judge Lynn Toler. In the one-hour, eight-episode series, Judge Toler puts couples under her microscope via surveillance cameras installed in their homes, which allows her to uncover their relationship issues and learn their secrets. She'll meet with the couples and those closest to them to get the real deal testimony on what's plaguing the not-so-happy couple. After reviewing the case, aka relationship, Judge Toler, who brings a lifetime of experiences, judicial wisdom, and street smarts, will render her verdict, deciding if they stay together or break up. At the end of the episode, she will marry those who she thinks are ready for the ultimate commitment and will renew the vows of the married couples who she thinks should stay together. But for those who Judge Toler deems a bad match, she will rule for them to break up immediately or to divorce on the spot.
The series will premiere on WE tv on Thursday, May 12th, at 10 p.m. and will be available for streaming on ALLBLK the following Monday.
But before tuning in, UPTOWN spoke with Judge Toler about what to expect from Commit or Quit, what she's learned from Dr. Ish and from co-hosting Marriage Boot Camp, why people seem to think a child is less of a commitment than marriage, and if a relationship expert's race makes a difference for the couple they're counseling.
How does it feel to once again host a relationship-based series on your own?
Judge Lynn Toler: I enjoy it. And, you know, Doctor Ish has educated me so much on things that I knew, but I didn't know why they worked. Watching him and listening to him on Marriage Boot Camp, I've gotten gotten enriched. [...] I enjoy this show because A, they're everyday people, regular folks, so that that takes a level of difficulty. Because reality stars are harder to work with, because they have different more difficult issues with that, too. (But) ever since we've been doing Marriage Boot Camp, everybody says, "But we want advice for regular people." So this is an opportunity to do that. I'm excited to be able to deliver that.
That brings me to one of my other questions, who is easier to deal with or assess, Hip Hop/reality TV stars or average people? And who do you think is more receptive to your advice?
Judge Toler: The Hip Hop people are easier to assess, because a lot of their difficulties are a function of what they do. And so once you become accustomed to the nature of difficulties that arise because of what they do, you have at least a layer of knowledge. With respect to regular folks, they live such different lives that there's not a common denominator. I mean, there are some common denominators, but you get older people, younger people, people who are working, we had people in prison, you know. So it's a wide variety of people. And I think that regular folks are far more open to the advice than reality stars, I think. It just seems that regular folks have thirstier for the advice. I'll put it that way.
With Commit or Quit, were there any couples who you initially thought should commit or quit and then your mind was changed by the end of the session with them?
Judge Toler: There were three couples (that) my mind changed every day. Every day, I mean, "Oh, no way, these people ain't gonna make it." The next day, "They have a shot." And then the next day, "Now, I was right the first time." Then the next day, "Could be, could be." Because you it's like an onion, you just keep peeling back layers. You know, first you hear submission tapes, and then you hear a surveillance tape, and then you talk to their witnesses, and then you look through their phone. You just learn stuff day after day after day.
Why do you think people, in general, have issues making decisions about their relationships, like committing or quitting is a huge one? And it's almost as if they're willing to just keep status quo, even though it's not working or maybe working for them.
Judge Toler: Yeah, that's the fascinating part. People will stay in a circumstance that is not serving them well in that manner, because they just don't want to change. The devil that you know is better than the one that you don't, and it's easier to do what you did yesterday than it is to decide to do something completely different that you don't know how it's going to turn out. So that's a lot of what's happening with this show is these people are unhappy, unhappy for different reasons. She wants to get married, but can't, or he wants the relationship to get better before they get married, but he can't make it any better. And so they just don't know what to do. So it's like they're stuck, "Judge help us out."
Was there a recurring issue or theme that you found through the eight couples?
Judge Toler: Social media was one. But I will tell you, what I really like about this show is the couples who we chose had such different issues. There's always a theme of failure to communicate, there's always a theme of failure to make a plan. But they had such different issues for so many different reasons. It was really intriguing trying to figure out each particular situation.
I saw from the trailer that one of the men had at least one child outside of his relationship and his partner didn't know. It seems to me that there are some people who think a child is less of a commitment than marriage. Is that a dynamic that you see on the show and in regular life?
Judge Toler: It wasn't a dynamic on the show, because that was a deep situation. It's not like what you would think it was really, really deep, so it was fascinating to find out. But, in general, people do, and it just freaks me out. Baby daddy, baby mama are commonplace. "No problem, I'll have a baby with you, but I'm not going to marry you." If I don't love you enough to live with you, then I'm not gonna share my gene pool with you.
So on Marriage Boot Camp, you and Dr. Ish only have access to the individuals in the couple. How did having testimony from the people who know the couples best affect your decision making?
Judge Toler: Oh, it's extraordinary because he'll tell me one thing, she'll tell me something else, and then their witness tells me a third and fourth story. And in the end, the truth is somewhere in between the third and fourth stories, what actually happened. And so it gives me another perspective, because they've known them over time. The tricky part – the part that I really liked – is, "What have you seen different?" You get an idea of how the trajectory of their love life goes and how that differs, and that gives you real insight on what they're thinking and how they're feeling.
So basically having someone else who can say what they witnessed, as opposed to what the couples think happened?
Judge Toler: Yeah. You know, like a best friend said, "But you know what he told me on the low was ... " You know, they know.
As you've probably figured out, I'm a big fan of Marriage Boot Camp. And it's interesting to me that these big Hip Hop stars – especially I'm thinking about N.O.R.E ...
Judge Toler: ... Soulja Boy, Waka Flocka. We've had some great people on that show.
You have, and as soon as you come in the room, they're like, "Oh, let me mind my Ps and Qs." They're showing you so much respect. And so considering that nowadays Marriage Boot Camp has a predominantly Black cast a lot of the time and Commit or Quit seems to be focusing on mostly Black couples. Do you think the couples would listen to the relationship advice from experts who weren't Black?
Judge Toler: I think that there's a level of disconnect there because there are two Americas. I mean, there's one America, but I straddle cultures. What happens in my culture, I know is different from what happens with my white girlfriends and white friends. So there are cultural realities that you would not be privy to if you're not a part of the culture.
How do you think the pandemic has affected relationships? Commit or Quit is premiering after we were locked down for a year and are now resuming "normal" life.
Judge Toler: I think it disturbed some marriages, you know, when you couldn't get enough distance from one another. Interestingly enough, one of the couples on Commit or Quit kind of became a couple because of COVID. They were starting to date when the lockdown happened. They said, "Let's try to roll this all the way out." And so it has, it was an immediate circumstance that put everybody in a place they didn't intend to be. So it rocked a lot of relationships, it created a lot of relationships, and it exposed weaknesses in others.
A few of couples got married rather quickly? Do you think that was a big issue within their relationships? Or how long do you think people should date before deciding to get married?
Judge Toler: This is what I would tell any of my kids, OK. You've got to see somebody in all four seasons. [...] I got that from somebody. But I think it makes a lot of sense. You got to know people when they're sick, when they're happy, when they failed, when they succeeded, all their different moods and attitudes, so you don't get surprised when something happens like that. And after you've seen all four season, you're thinking they may be the one, I would like another year where you're watching with that intent in mind. Like, "Is he getting better? Is he getting worse? Is she?" All of that. So I recommend at least two years, but don't stay too long without a ring!
Catch Judge Lynn Toler on Commit or Quit and Marriage Boot Camp on WE tv on Thursday nights and ALLBLK.