April 14, 2015 03:00 PM

Forget dinner and a movie. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard say they have an even better way to connect with one another: couples therapy.

And they’re not ashamed to admit it.

“Therapy is not something to be embarrassed about,” the mother of daughters Lincoln, 2, and Delta, 4 months, tells Good Housekeeping for its May cover story.

On the contrary, the couple say taking an honest look at their imperfections have made their marriage stronger.

“I used to have a temper,” says the Frozen and House of Lies star, 34, who calls her relationship with Shepard, “the Paula Abdul video ‘Opposites Attract’ personified.”

“I loved slamming doors – I wanted a dramatic exit! But he, having worked through a variety of emotional issues to get sober, said, ‘This isn’t going to work. This isn’t how I’m going to communicate for the rest of my life.’ ”

Good Housekeeping/Hugh Stewart


Bell continues, “When someone doesn’t fight back and goes, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ that threat is real. It makes you reevaluate your behavior. The way Dax and I argue now – and we argue a lot; we disagree on almost everything! – is so healthy.”

“I read Blink, the Malcolm Gladwell book, and there’s a chapter about this University of Washington researcher who interviews couples. His conclusion is that if you have contempt for your partner, it’s done — you might as well get a divorce attorney,” Shepard, 40, explains.

“I said to Kristen, ‘We should try hard to police ourselves about becoming contemptuous of each other. If I ever see you roll your eyes at me, we need to hit pause and figure out what’s going on.’ “

Adds Bell, “I don’t mind advertising a healthy marriage. I’m trying, just like everyone else.”

Trying to embrace unpredictability is a lesson Bell has been repeatedly learning over the years, including during the moment she became a mother.

“I wasn’t positive I wanted kids. But I can now confirm having them is absolutely unmissable. When Lincoln came out, at first I was like, ‘Eh, what do I do with it? I can take it home?’ But when I started breastfeeding, the oxytocin or my hormones or hundreds of thousands of years of evolution kicked in. I didn’t want to let her go.”

Good Housekeeping/Hugh Stewart

She learned the lesson again with Delta’s birth, in which she hoped to avoid a second C-section “because I wanted to be able to come home and carry Lincoln. I did not want my toddler to feel rejected because Mommy couldn’t lift her for five or six weeks or whatever. That was my priority.”

Although she went into labor naturally and dilated to seven centimeters, her labor eventually stalled and her doctor recommended a C-section, dashing her dreams of a vaginal birth.

“I bawled for 10 minutes,” Bell admits. “I was so disappointed. I tried really hard! But she came out beautifully … The gift of the Magi is that when I got home, Lincoln didn’t care that I couldn’t pick her up!”

Perhaps taking a cue from her elder daughter, Bell also isn’t stressing about the 17 lbs. she would need to shed to return to her pre-Delta weight.

“I’m going to let it come off naturally,” she says. “I refuse to compare myself to anyone anymore. I’ve done it; it didn’t make me feel good.”

Good Housekeeping/Hugh Stewart

—  Kathy Ehrich Dowd and Michele Corriston

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