Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Lindsay Kimble and Abby Stern
May 29, 2015 01:15 PM

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino is known for his partying ways, but for his next reality show, the focus is on something much different – his relationship.

Sorrentino and Lauren Pesce, his girlfriend and college sweetheart, are one of several famous couples on WE tv’s Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars, premiering Friday.

While the Jersey Shore alum, 32, was eager to sign up for the show’s third season, Pesce took a little convincing, he told PEOPLE during the show’s premiere party in West Hollywood on Thursday.

“She was a little nervous going in,” he said. “But I thought it was going to be a benefit for us as a couple to go in because we’re not a perfect couple. We have ups and downs just like everyone else, but at the same time it’s almost like free therapy.”

The star, who completed rehab for a prescription drug problem in 2012, said being sober for the reality show helped him focus on the couple’s issues.

“It wasn’t the first time that I did a show sober,” he said. “I did Jersey Shore 6 sober, and you really just concentrate on yourself and just being the best person that you can be or be better than you were the day before.”

Pesce, who appeared on Sorrentino’s 2014 TVGN family reality show The Sorrentinos, said her reticence to open up on camera was an added challenge for the pair.

“I’m not somebody in the public eye, so for me it was really opening up with my deepest concerns and thoughts and really being vulnerable in front of strangers and in front of national television,” she said. “But having him by my side made me comfortable enough to do it.”

Sorrentino and Pesce, who told PEOPLE they’re “better than ever,” said they got along with the show’s other famous couples, who include Kendra Wilkinson and Hank Baskett.

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“When we first walked in, because we were the first in the house, we were like ‘Oh my God, I wonder who we’re gonna be with? Are we not gonna like somebody?’ Because you never know,” Sorrentino said. “But we ended up with a really good group and we’re friends with all of them to this day.”

Off-air, Sorrentino is still facing trial for a September 2014 fraud indictment. The star and his brother Marc pleaded not guilty in New Jersey Federal Court to the fraud indictment claiming they didn’t pay taxes on $8.9 million of income.

Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars premieres Friday at 9 p.m. ET on WEtv.

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