Dr. Nicole LaBeach Of ‘Put A Ring On It’ On When Your Long-Term Relationship Is Headed To The Altar Vs. Signs It Should End
Courtesy of OWN

Getting hitched is something many couples aspire to do, but the road there isn’t always straightforward. OWN’s Put A Ring On It reminds us of how complex the journey to marriage can be and the challenges we can sometimes face along the way. 

The show, preparing for its third season, is a nine-week social experiment that focuses on three couples forced to decide whether it’s time to get married or end their relationship. Relationship coach Dr. Nicole LaBeach is there to help them figure out if their current relationship will give them the happily ever after they’re seeking. One of the plot twists of the show is to help them decide, the couples date other people to see if the grass is truly greener on the other side or if theirs just needs watering. 

Dr. LaBeach talked with us about how to go about sharing your timeline to marriage early on, when to walk away from a relationship, and what a happily ever after truly looks like.

ESSENCE: What made you want to be a part of Put a Ring on It?

Dr. Nicole LaBeach: Put a Ring on It is produced by Lighthearted Entertainment, Will Packer Productions, and it’s on the Oprah Winfrey Network. I don’t think you can get a more responsible trio to bring about a couples’ conversation that matters in our community. So when I was given insight into what was happening, the conversation that we were going to create, and the responsible players, it was a no-brainer for me. 

Put a Ring on It is the first show that I’ve ever seen on television that looks at real couples having a real experience that is not scripted in the African-American community. It speaks to the truth of what we experience and has a coach who has the opportunity to watch them work through their struggles in an open format. 

What are some signs that you should walk away from a long-term relationship?

Your values are not aligned. You feel it in your gut, but you want your gut to be wrong. Your communication is full of defensiveness. As the research would say, some great predictors of  your relationship not making it are defensiveness, stonewalling, contempt, or criticism, and you’re not aligned on what this is and where it’s going.

Why do you think people are so adamant on putting a time limit on how long you should date before getting married and what are your thoughts on that?

What a lot of people will do is just remain hopeful that the other person knows what they desire and what’s meaningful to them. And that’s when you get into trouble. So you want to make sure that if your desire is to be in a marriage within a certain amount of time, the other person understands where you are leading your life so that they can say, “Well, I just got divorced and I’m meeting you at a very interesting time, but I don’t see myself being ready to be in that kind of commitment because I’m still trying to heal and figure out what didn’t go the way that I thought it would in my last commitment.” So we have to be able to listen to each other so that it’s not just what’s in our mind and what our goal is that is dictating this experience.

And the other side that I say to people, if you have a timeline, you need to be authentic from the door because the timeline starts when the other person meets you and people are often like, wait a minute, “Dr. Nicole, what do you mean?” Well, if you’ve been dating, your persona has been dating this person for two years, and now you’re like, yeah, I want to get married. It’s been two years, but they haven’t met you yet. You really haven’t started the clock. They’ve been dating your persona. Everything’s perfect. Everything’s in place. They don’t know your vulnerability. They don’t know what really matters to you. Well, you haven’t had two years of a connected, authentic experience. You’ve had two years of a performance. The other person has to meet you and you have to meet them so that whatever you’re moving towards, you’re moving towards as two authentic people who have shared their truth and are willing to have the other person see you and be connected to you.

So when they choose, they’re truly choosing you and you’re truly, truly choosing them. 

People usually have this idea of happily ever after that may be based on sitcoms or fairytales. What would you say happily ever after looks like?

So most things in our lives that are successful, take work. Relationships are no different. Most things in our lives that are successful take resources and tools. So the happily ever after is not a wedding. That is an event. And that’s where I think we get a little mixed up. Everybody comes to the wedding and everybody’s super excited. And what we’ve invested in is the wedding versus investing in the marriage.

It’s really based on now we’ve got something that at times feels intangible. But when we see the work, we see that this intangible is based on the evidence of what we’ve put into it–to learn how to communicate, how to release ourselves from the ghost of our past and our family of origin, how to be mindful of how to support one another and elevate together, to listen, to understand, to be passionate and connected, all of that stuff, especially in our community.

What are three pillars that should be in place within a relationship that hopes to transition to a marriage?

Effective communication, trust, and vulnerability–those are key because you want to build on a firm foundation. 

What can viewers look forward to in season three?

Three is going to be yummy. It’s new gems, it’s new thought-provoking conversation for friendships and for couples and for married couples. And it’s just going to be fun. So what you can look forward to is you are going to be able to point at the screen and say “No way!” But you’re also going to be able to talk to each other and say, “Is that us?”

So, it’s more connection and it’s more trust [from] our audience to do what we do and be authentic about relationships and how to make them grow in the best direction. I think they’re really gonna appreciate the work that we’ve done.

Season 3 of Put a Ring on It premieres Friday, March 25 at 9 PM EST/8 PM CST, and is also available on the OWN app and discovery+.