The transformation of Deonna McNeill on Season 9 of Lifetime’s Married at First Sight has been breathtaking. We’ve seen her blossom from a reserved and uncomfortable bride, to a relaxed and glowing wife.
Deonna started out with baby steps, but at the one month point of her marriage to Greg Okotie, she’s taken some huge leaps forward.
In this exclusive interview with RealiTVwithBee, I dig deep on her journey thus far. Let’s get her lens from the beginning…
“Going through the experiment, there were a lot of new, exciting and sometimes overwhelming, experiences. I understand that this was my choice and something that I signed up for, but there were times that I felt really overwhelmed,” Deonna began.
As if marrying a stranger wasn’t enough, imagine how it felt to have the whole process filmed. She shared a glimpse of what it was like for her. “I had just married a complete stranger that I was trying to get to know, all while being documented with large cameras and bright lights following my every move.”
Greg was the perfect match to help her through this process. His kindness emanated off the screen and into our hearts. Deonna expressed how this felt up close and personal. “Greg was really sweet and super caring in making me feel comfortable around him,” she said.
One way Greg portrayed he cared was by giving compliments. Most women would eat them up and want dessert, but that was not the case with Deonna. I wanted to better understand why it made her so uncomfortable.
“All of Greg’s compliments were truly sincere and genuine. But honestly, I was overwhelmed with ALL of the attention that I was getting. Being tossed into a whole new world overnight was a change that I had to get acclimated to,” she explained.
It’s a change that none of us can begin to comprehend. Deonna opened up to give us more insight. “Honestly, the compliments were the only thing in those moments that I could control, to a certain extent. So I asked that those be dialed down until I was comfortable being with Greg and the cameras.”
Deonna knows herself well. We can clearly see her tension ease from week to week. “Once I got used to it all, I was able to receive all of Greg’s compliments,” she said.
When you’ve been hurt in past relationships, trust doesn’t come easy. So what specifically helped remove the shield around her heart? “Greg’s qualities that helped me let my walls down were his patience, caring demeanor and huge heart. He was extremely patient with me as I was getting used to our new normal,” she relayed.
Perhaps the key factor was the pace they took. “Ultimately, we both took our time and moved at our own pace. He showed me that he wanted to get to know me and be friends first, before taking our next step,” she stated.
One of the things I love about Deonna and Greg is the flirtatious banter between them. Deonna explained the role humor had on this awkward social experiment. “[Laughter] was a way that Greg and I connected. We have a similar sense of humor. That worked to his advantage when he was breaking down my walls.”
On a day-to-day basis, they used humor to help relieve the stress of being filmed. She revealed, “There were long days that we pushed through. Being able to laugh and find humor in the little things made it easier and more fun. It always seemed like laughing made the time fly by.”
Deonna admitted that laughter made the process a little less stressful for both of them. “There were a few times when I wanted to shut down or go in a corner for quiet time. But Greg would say something to make me laugh, and I’d get a second wind.”
Another thing that seemed to make a big impact on Deonna’s progress was the visit from show expert, Pastor Calvin Roberson. On one particular visit, her face lit up with an ‘aha’ moment.
She elaborated on that moment, “The most important advice that Pastor Cal gave me was that it’s okay to initiate physical touch. Waiting to consummate our marriage is fine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t touch my husband at all. I should hold hands, hug, kiss, etc. to get me more comfortable, relaxed and open to this aspect of marriage.” Deonna took that advice to heart and we saw an immediate change.
There was another important golden nugget that didn’t make the edit. She explained, “The advice that Pastor Cal gave us that you all didn’t see was about physical intimacy. We were both focusing on [intimacy] but in two very different ways. I wanted to go slow and allow it to happen spontaneously. Greg agreed on taking our time, but [he also] wanted to know what a healthy amount was.”
Deonna went on to say, “Pastor Cal told us not to focus on any of that, just allow it to happen on its own. Getting caught up on the frequency was a moot point. He said that as we continue to grow and get more comfortable with each other, the frequency would increase naturally.”
And happen naturally, it did. Deonna was so impressed with the way Greg handled himself at his birthday party, she tore down the last brick that was holding her back.
Consummating the marriage was a big step for her. She shared the impact it had on their marriage. “It helped Greg and I get closer and connect on a deeper level. We both understood that sex can sometimes cloud your judgment, so we waited until we were both ready and felt comfortable with one another.”
Deonna reiterated the importance of taking it slow. “We spent time being friends first, so when sex was introduced, it strengthened our relationship.”
As the couple celebrated their one month anniversary Deonna exclaimed, “I honestly feel like God led me to Greg. This is the beginning of our forever. This is the beginning of our beautiful love story.”
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