Danielle Degroot went into the Married at First Sight process with an open mind and heart. After a strong start to marriage with 26-year-old entrepreneur Cody Knapek, an offhanded remark in St. Thomas changed the path of the relationship. Now, Degroot opens up to The Knot about the high-risk experiment and her desire for an assertive husband.
On their honeymoon, Knapek suggested the newlyweds slow things down and focus on building a friendship, and the vibe shifted. “I think it was confusing for both of us,” the Chicago-based dietitian, 30, says. “The mix of emotions coupled with lack of sleep was just overwhelming and frustrating. When he said that, I was also getting in my own head and it reminded me that he was a stranger.”
Like her husband, Degroot realized they were potentially moving too fast. “[We] needed to keep working on getting to know one another better,” she says. “I wasn’t sure I had that chemistry and I’ve never been the person to sleep with someone if I don’t have those romantic feelings. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those who do, but it’s just not who I am.”
(Knapek previously told The Knot: “Wanting to take a step back was a combination of my own fears and letting other people that weren’t very supportive of the experiment get into my head. At the end of the day, I should have never let that happen.”)
Degroot made it no secret that she preferred Knapek to take on a masculine role. “Cody’s quite different than guys I’ve dated before,” she admits. “But different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’s younger and not quite as assertive compared to some men I’ve dated previously. When I say ‘assertive,’ I’m referring more to personality in a relationship than to our lack of intimacy.”
While Knapek was vocal about his desire to have sex with his wife initially, they have yet to consummate their marriage. Degroot, however, is more concerned about building an emotional bond. Knapek, a gym owner, has focused largely on his business, which may have had an impact on his emotional growth, according to Degroot. “Cody seemed a little more sheltered because he put so much time into opening the gym—which was very admirable,” she tells The Knot. “He may have missed out on some other life experiences. I think sometimes those experiences are how we grow and learn about who we are.”
Despite his shortcomings, Degroot is quick to point out her husband’s redeeming qualities. “He’s always up for trying something new which is awesome,” she notes.
Under different circumstances, the newlywed isn’t sure she would have been drawn to Knapek. “So much of what attracts me has little to do with physical appearance,” she explains. “He’s a good-looking guy, but it takes getting to know someone’s personality for me to be drawn in.”
Although many former Married at First Sight couples have ended their marriages, Degroot’s hopes remain high. “This is a huge risk,” she acknowledges. “I don’t think it’s surprising that many haven’t worked out, but I do think the ones who have worked out are inspiring. Marrying a stranger is not a foolproof guarantee. With that being said, even a traditional marriage isn’t a guarantee and you have to put in work.”
The participant points out that the experts’ roles aren’t exactly easy. “A lot goes into it, but two people can be compatible in theory and that doesn’t translate to real life because chemistry is unpredictable,” she notes. “Cody and I have always had a lot of respect for each other and value commitment, which plays a big role in this equation.”
Degroot doesn’t have any real “deal breakers” aside from her man having to be a dog lover. She does, however, insist on chemistry and romance in a relationship. “That ultimately is what separates a relationship from a friendship,” she explains to The Knot. “[It’s] not necessarily a deal breaker, but something I’ve stated I desire in a relationship is someone who can share life experiences with me and can take charge in situations.”
In the past, Degroot ended a relationship after always having to pull her partner out of his comfort zone. “My hope for a relationship is that two people inspire each other and push each other to grow and discover new things,” she shares. “I don’t think those desires have necessarily changed since getting married at first sight, but I’ve learned that while I don’t think you should try to change someone into something they’re not, there is the possibility for two people to grow together.”
Degroot’s fellow season 5 participant, Ashley Petta, struggled with the decision to change her last name, but Degroot and Knapek have yet to broach the subject. “I didn’t consider a name change during the experiment,” she concludes to The Knot. “My focus was more on growing together. Plus if it works and you’re going to stay married, there’s really no rush on a name change to me.”