Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard: Couples Therapy Is the Key to Our ‘Healthy’ Marriage

04/14/2015 at 03:00 PM ET

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.’ ”

Kristen Bell Dax Shepard Good Housekeeping
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.”

Kristen Bell Dax Shepard Good Housekeeping
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.”

Kristen Bell Dax Shepard Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping/Hugh Stewart

—  Kathy Ehrich Dowd and Michele Corriston

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Showing 15 comments

mer on

That sounds very mature and healthy. They seem like very down-to-eart couple. And their daughters’ names are awesome.

Gaby on

They are so down to Earth. Kristen is too much.

April-Jo on

I absolutely adore her. She seems so down to earth.

nahla on

They are so opposite, yet click perfectly. I think they are adorable together.

Ann on

I’ve always liked her. I absolutely love that she doesn’t try to be perfect, doesn’t try to pretend to have a perfect marriage, and can admit she’s flawed. That’s what being human means. They are a beautiful couple, and they really make it work, even when things are tough. It’s gorgeous.

Sara K on

I really like her. She’s real, beautiful and fun, and they’re the cutest couple! Many blessings to them and their two girls. Xx

Rastah on

She is a like able person that although in the public eye, doesn’t appear to be put I the microscope a lot. Maybe because she is so forth coming. I always tell my friends (if they ask) and my nieces and nephew, the secret to my relationship is that we know how to fight. We don’t pretend a relationship is all sunshine and rainbows, we work at it, we listen to each other, we grow and learn. Best relationship I’ve ever had 🙂

Guest on

I think it’s great that she takes her marriage seriously and works hard at it, however it seems concerning when she says things such as they are complete opposites, argue a lot, and disagree about almost everything, especially considering they haven’t been together that long. Those seem like major red flags.

thimble on

Eye rolling isn’t objectionable, I do it to MYSELF!!!! I mean come ON (she wrote, rolling her eyes).

He was an addict? Yikes.

They argue all the time? I would hate that but I guess some couples roll with it. I hate arguing!

as for the name Delta, some people think of Delta Burke; I think of Delta Dawn.

KG on

Lovely couple! She is adorable.

Susan on

How did we make it thousands of years without therapy and feelings and talking about feelings? It’s like we’re a different type of homo sapien in the 21st century.

charlotte on

I absolutely adore this couple! They seem so real, down to earth, and know who they are and what if important and what they want out of life. Definitely have their heads on straight. Kudos to them and may they have a long and happy life together with their precious little girls 🙂

barb on

This is nice to do when a couple has the time and financial resources to do so. They are so lucky. Hope it continues to work since they seem really cute together and down to earth (love their holiday commercial, too, when she was heavily pregnant and he is up on the roof, etc.).

Magnolia on

I like them and I like how they take their marriage seriously and work on it. None of this starry-eyed stuff. It’s hard having a relationship with someone. Best of luck to them.

Mandy on

Good for them that they have a natural and healthy marriage!