Why would anyone agree to marry a total stranger on national television? For Monet Bell, the risk was worth the possible rewards. She was one of three women who met their husbands for the first time at the altar on FYI's Married at First Sight.
A month after their "blind wedding," Bell and her husband, Vaughn, decided to divorce. The newly single New Yorker reached out to ESSENCE.com contributors Tana Gilmore and Kelli Fisher, aka The Matchmaking DUO, and signed up for their DUOver, which includes counseling and homework assignments. In their new book, Relationship DUOvers: A Guide to Real Life, Real Issues, Real Love, and Real Happiness (Fisher Gilmore Publishing), the ladies break down how to reset for your own romance. Here, their tips for Bell and other women ready for a great relationship.
The Matchmaking DUO: We began Monet's consultation with our personality assessment to discover her strengths, areas for improvement and characteristics of her ideal match. We learned she is smart and driven. In a relationship, she's all-in once you gain her trust. Although Monet's wish is for marriage and children, we discovered she has not effectively shared this in the past.
TIP #1: SHOW YOUR VULNERABILITY
The Matchmaking DUO: Monet appeared almost too independent, as if she didn't need a man. Since men are task-oriented, Monet needs to identify areas where her new guy can be helpful and feel valued. Although she can do it herself, he needs to know he helps her.
Monet Bell: I come across more independent than I would like. I now realize I should express my appreciation when a man is supportive so that he knows that what he is doing for me is noticed.
TIP #2: GET OUT OF THE FRIEND ZONE
The Matchmaking DUO: Monet is down-to-earth and "cool," according to close friends and an old beau. But on the dating scene that can be a detriment because men see this beautiful woman but don't know whether she is a "friend" or more. We advised her to soften her vocabulary by switching "hang out" to "spend time together," and the word "dude" to "guy" or "man." We also want her to add terms of endearment like "babe" and "love."
Monet Bell: Yes, I'm guilty of friend zone verbiage. I didn't realize this until they pointed it out. I then caught myself saying "dude" on a date. Words can impact how a man views me. I am making an effort to properly convey my intentions, like asking to "spend time together" versus "hang out."
TIP #3: OWN YOUR MOMMY DESIRES
The Matchmaking DUO: Monet told us right away she wants to be a mom. We suggested she subtly communicate that fact. While on a date she can comment on a child she sees or occasionally share stories about her friends' children, and that she looks forward to having her own. This reminds him she will be a great mom.
Monet Bell: My motherhood dream isn't subtle. I would feel incomplete if I never gave birth, but most people don't know this. The ladies spoke with an ex. He was unaware I wanted kids because I'm always traveling and working. A lightbulb went off that I didn't communicate that I work so hard now to afford kids one day. I will slow down for my family. I will make sure my next man knows that.
TIP #4: TAKE CARE OF HOME
The Matchmaking DUO: Monet could not cook and that became an issue in her marriage. Not all men expect their lady to cook, but it's important every woman have three to four signature dishes when needed. These are for when your man is sick, a family meal or his office potluck.
Monet Bell: Cooking just wasn't a part of my lifestyle, but I've been making a massive effort to do it for myself. I understand the importance of a home-cooked meal sometimes. I now scramble a mean egg, and add some bacon and grits.
TIP #5: FIND MARRIAGE MENTORS
The Matchmaking DUO: To support her goal to be a great wife, Monet was tasked to speak with couples who have long, solid unions to better understand the skills needed for a successful relationship.
Monet Bell: This was helpful. My good friends Rashad and Sasha have been married for six years with two kids. My cousins James and Bridgette have been married for about 17 years with two kids. Both couples give me guidance.
THE VERDICT: "My biggest takeaway is that it's okay to be independent, but the man I marry still has to feel needed and appreciated," Bell says. "I want and deserve to be in a happy relationship. I just needed to do a little more work on myself so that I can be my best as a partner." Witness Bell's new chapter on the spinoff series Married at First Sight: The First Year, now on FYI.
This feature was originally published in the March 2015 issue of ESSENCE Magazine.