Why 'Married to Medicine' 's Dr. Simone & Cecil Whitmore Are Putting Their Divorce on Hold

Dr. Simone Whitmore and her husband Cecil Whitmore are working on reconciling after initially discussing divorcing after 21 years of marriage

Dr. Simone Whitmore shocked her Married to Medicine fans and castmates in January with news that she and her husband Cecil Whitmore would be divorcing after 21 years of marriage.

But it turns out, their relationship isn’t over just yet.

In the final part of the three-part season 5 reunion that aired on Friday, Simone and Cecil — with the encouragement of their Married to Medicine costars — agreed to put their divorce on hold to work on repairing their marriage.

“We agreed we would get in counseling and stay in counseling to see if we could work it out,” Dr. Simone, 50, tells PEOPLE exclusively.

“For me, I’m not going back to the way it was,” the OBGYN adds. “Neither one of us were happy. So we can’t go back to the old dysfunctional relationship that we had. I won’t do it. We’re trying to establish something new — something better — that’s fulfilling for both of us where we are both feeling love and enjoying one another’s company.”

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The couple, who share sons Miles, 19 and Michael, 15, is the longest married couple on Married to Medicine. While they were inseparable in their early days, they drifted apart, even staying at two separate houses.

Both have been open about their marital strife this season. “We’re in a place where we’re arguing over basic s—,” she said in an episode that aired in December, getting emotional. “He’s just so hostile and angry about every little thing. When somebody is being mean, it’s hard to replace that with something nice or smile. It’s difficult.”

Though the decision to go to therapy made it appear like things between the two were on the up and up, Dr. Simone told PEOPLE in January their fighting got worse when the Married to Medicine season wrapped.

“It looked like we were improving. The problem is we should have continued counseling, and we did not,” she said. “We let life take over. We were busy over the summer with basketball tournaments, traveling and getting Miles ready for college. We should have kept marital counseling as a priority, but we let the ball drop.”

Married to Medicine - Season 3
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Looking back, Dr. Simone now says the problem was they spent too many years sweeping their disagreements and hurt under the rug.

“I think it’s great that people can look to us and think we were happy, but we really weren’t,” Dr. Simone says. “I’ve known for years the rug was bumpy. The problem is, it’s sunny outside and the day is beautiful. Who wants to lift up the rug and clean the dirt? So you keep procrastinating. But now the rug is a mountain and you can’t even walk on the rug anymore because there’s so much dirt underneath. You’re struggling to stay standing!”

Married to Medicine - Season 5
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While it’s still too soon to say whether they’ll make it, Dr. Simone is hoping for the best.

“In an ideal scenario, we stay with some intense marital counseling and we make a decision that we really are going to commit to changing the marriage and what it was,” she says. “I’m hoping we come out better friends, better confidants and more sexually active partners.”

“It’s hard to say where we’ll really end up though. Only because in 21 years, you establish some really bad habits. We truly are going to have to commit to breaking bad cycles of behavior,” she continues. “You have to have the desire to change the behavior. I’m a person who holds lifelong grudges. I’m working with my counselor and hopefully I’ll make strides and improvements in that area. You never get too old to be a better you. ”

RELATED VIDEO: Married to Medicine‘s Simone Whitmore Divorcing Husband Cecil After 21 Years: ‘I Am Done’

If it doesn’t work, Dr. Simone — who filed for divorce in Oct. 2017 — has all her paperwork finalized, just in case.

“At the beginning of this season, this is not where I thought I would be,” she reflects. “The only part that has been a blessing is that people have connected with us as a couple and are rooting for us and praying for us. We need it right now.”

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