“12 Dates of Christmas” star Markelle Smith explained the reason for his departure from the HBO Max dating competition series halfway. He also exclusively revealed an update about his relationship status.

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Markelle explained, “My decision to leave the show was purely based off of analyzing my connections with everyone in the lodge and just seeing the potential daters there,” The New York-based dentist said, “I think when it came down to it, my feelings for my ex ended up trumping any of the connections that I had made in the lodge.”

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Then he added, “One of the biggest things I learned during this experience is that for a relationship to be successful, chemistry is not enough, love is not enough. It takes so much more than an attraction and a connection for a serious relationship to be successful. That’s when I decided to leave and give someone else the shot at potentially falling in love or taking someone home for the holidays.”

Markelle’s co-star Danny Escalante said, “We had such a close relationship because you’re going through the same types of things and you’re kind of cut off in a way. We don’t spend a ton of time with our daters, our love interests. We spend more time with each other and going through something that requires you to expose yourself so much, there’s just camaraderie and a comfort level.”

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Markelle’s other co-star Amanda said, “For me, after connecting with Markelle, it was really tough to see him go. But I also understood why, and it was really beautiful to see him just let go of that and give that opportunity to someone else. I was really excited and happy for the new lead stepping up and hoping there would be some connections found there.”