Courtesy of OWN

'Put A Ring On It': Dr. Nicole Has Advice For How Couples Can Improve Their Relationships

The grass is greener where you water it.

Love & Relationships

OWN’s dating reality series Put A Ring On It is back! The third season of the hit show features a new batch of couples who are at a crossroads in their relationships, deciding whether or not they should get married or end their relationship. In a particularly spicy move, the show has the couples date outside of their relationship to see what areas need strengthening to make their relationship better. xoNecole caught up with the show’s relationship coach Dr. Nicole LaBeach who says that fans can expect more of the same messy drama and “more couples trying to figure it out.”

Here’s Dr. Nicole’s best advice on how couples can improve their relationships.

xoNecole: What is it about dating outside of the relationship that brings clarity to couples about their own relationship?

Dr. Nicole LaBeach: [It’s] not just dating outside of the relationship, it really is [about] having a coach to help the couple figure out the answers to the questions that they've really been seeking to help them make a different move in their relationship. A lot of times our couples have thoughts in their mind, “Is the grass greener on the other side?” “If I would've done this differently, maybe this would've been a different result.”

What the dating of other couples gives them the opportunity to do is push those limits. To see are you really interested in watering your grass over here and making this grow and flourish, or is your intentionality to do something different? And if that's the case, then maybe this is not the opportunity for you to build forward in the future.

xoNecole: What are the biggest problems you have noticed couples face when trying to commit to marriage with one another?

DN: Communication. That's the big one. How they communicate, how they resolve conflict, what’s their recovery time is in resolving those conflicts. And can they really build together and give each other enough room? Because it's really about both people being able to be a part of what is the winning relationship. So, can they make enough room for each other and can they communicate effectively with some of life's greatest challenges and the simple ones and still be together in the process?

xoNecole: What is your advice for couples who want to communicate better?

DN: A lot of times our communication patterns have been learned from different relationships, often [from] our family of origin and different places that sometimes serve us very well and sometimes don't. It's our job to recognize that listening is very important and listening to hear and understand, not just listening to respond. So often when our mate is trying to communicate something to us, we've got an instant choice to make: do we really wanna hear what they have to say, or do we wanna hear to defend our position?

In our show what we get to do is help couples recognize that self-criticism will cause harm [and] criticism to their partner and criticism to themselves in communication will cause harm. Defensiveness will cause harm in the communication of the relationship [as well as] stonewalling [which is] where you just shut down. There are couples that shut down and for a couple of days, they are not on the same team. They're not talking to each other. They're not relating to each other. That will cause harm or even contempt. Research has shown that [these] things in communication can really be the make or break a couple being able to move forward in [the] long term.

"It's our job to recognize that listening is very important and listening to hear and understand, not just listening to respond. So often when our mate is trying to communicate something to us, we've got an instant choice to make: do we really wanna hear what they have to say, or do we wanna hear to defend our position?"

Courtesy of OWN

xoNecole: You’ve been a relationship coach for some time now, what made you want to branch your expertise out with this show?

DN: One of the things I love about the show is that the couples realize when they go through the process that this is really about the choice that they need to make to decide if they wanna build where they are and see it flourish. Are they really deciding that this is not the opportunity for them and they need to do something different? And I love that part. I love giving couples the opportunity to be nurtured, to have the hard conversations, and to champion them in the process so that they can make a winning decision for their relationship.

xoNecole: What is your advice to couples who are watching this show who are still undecided about whether they should take the next step in their relationship?

DN: Watch the show and talk during the commercial breaks. One of the things that we've heard a lot from our audience is that yes, in one space you are looking at it, you're peeking into the relationship of other couples, but the things that we talk about on the show are conversations that every couple has the opportunity to talk about in reference to their circumstance. So make the commercial breaks count with some popcorn and snacks and then return from the commercial break. So you have something else to talk about in the next break.

The new season of Put A Ring On It premieres tonight on OWN at 9 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. CST.

Featured image courtesy of OWN

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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