Tough Talk From Steve Ward – Tough Love Couples Episodes 6 & 7



Mother-and-son Master Matchmakers JoAnn and Steve Ward are back for a whole new type of Tough Love. As always, Steve will be checking in with weekly commentary on each episode via this blog. Below, he talks about the show’s back-t0-back sixth and seventh episode…

This episode had an explosive setup, between bringing the exes in and Dennis’ mom.

For Dennis, having his ex there turned out to be a non-issue. It became more about putting him in a stressful situation to see how he’d handle it. He handled it well.

Heather’s past with Mike seems really messy, since she was with him both before and after she’d gotten together with Larry. Is that why the idea of Larry and Mike talking so bad to you?

Clearly, Larry had issues with the fact that she was hooking up with Mike before she met Larry and while they were broken up. She went back and hooked up with him again, and Larry has every reason to believe that if things ever got difficult between him and her, she would run into Mike’s arms again. So it was a very real threat. In group when I said, “Larry do you feel threatened by Mike?” she said, “Yeah, he does.” That’s why I didn’t think it was going to be a good idea for them to talk. I think Larry had a pretty good reason to feel tension with Mike, because obviously Mike’s not saying positive things about Larry. He is kind of poisoning the well. I mean, when you think about it, what’s the difference between what happened with Ryan, Axelle and Sherry versus what happened with Larry, Heather and Mike? The only difference is Larry never asked Heather what happened, and so Heather never told. When Heather was there, Heather was honest. Now that the cat’s out of the bag clearly it gives him a reason to feel on guard. Just like Axelle felt towards Sherry.

What did you think of Heather getting really aggressive with Larry later? He wasn’t even pushing her buttons at that point.

I think Heather looks for a certain reaction from people. She kind of responds to what the other person is giving her. So if Larry isn’t really playing into her emotions or her trap or anything, it’s just going to drive her nuts. And that’s what it did, it drove her nuts. She wanted to fight, and he wouldn’t.

Eventually it got to a point where you put a one-year ban on Mike. How did you get to one year? What was the rationale there?

I needed it to be a long period of time — something that could be substantial and could be a goal. Something they could work towards. A year from now, according to those two, they wanted to be married then anyway, so that’s plenty of time to solidify their relationship. At this point, they’re vulnerable.

Did you buy what Dustin said about his behavior on his date – that it was calculated to make Courtney jealous?

He acted like a 14-year-old. Grow up. Start being a man. This is everyday life. He should be able to do deal with the fact that she’s spending time with someone other than him. She’s not your girlfriend, you’ve got to learn to deal with it. It was meant to be a good lesson. The fact that he tried to make her jealous is childish. It’s childish and petty. Let me tell you something: his date was hot. For him to say that he wasn’t attracted to her was bulls***. He didn’t want to admit he was attracted to her because he didn’t want to make Courtney feel bad.

Yeah, it definitely seemed like there was more going on that just Dustin trying to make Courtney jealous.

He wouldn’t have tried to kiss the girl in private if he wasn’t attracted to her. He was playing games. He was playing games with me and I didn’t like it.

He’s been in a power struggle with you almost the entire time.

I was giving Courtney more control. By giving her more control, she’s feeling at liberty to make up her own mind and decide for herself who she wants. And she tells it point blank, she doesn’t want to deal with this anymore.

You did lift the ban on their break up.

At that point it was just like, “Do whatever you want.” Good for you, now you’ve got to handle it. I think this whole exercise was very empowering for her. It was like taking the training wheels off a bike.

And that’s what she needs, right? She has security issues.

Right, exactly. The first week of boot camp, I kept the training wheels on the bike. Now I’ve taken them off and she’s peddling on her own.

At the end, it was Dennis and Simone who ended up in the hot seat.

I was like, “All right, Dennis. You still haven’t convinced Simone that your mom’s opinion isn’t going to affect your opinion about her. So now you need to convince her by going into the room over there, telling your mom this is what you are doing, no questions asked.” And he did it. He manned up. I’m very proud of him. He did a great job.

What do you think was up with his mom, anyway? Was she just protective and of the mind that nobody would be good enough, or was it an actual issue with Simone?

I think she was projecting her fears of a bad marriage onto Dennis. I think she believes that the best way to prevent a bad marriage is by not getting married. I can understand where she was coming from. And keep in mind that Dennis initially had issues about getting married, and a lot of the time he couldn’t even understand why he was afraid to get married. He couldn’t even articulate it. Finally he just calmed his fear center down enough. In boot camp it was almost like taking a vacation. You know how they say that it sometimes takes people being on vacation a few days to actually get into vacation mode? It’s because that unconscious fear center in your brain needs to calm down. Dennis calmed down, he was able to think clearly and he realized that his fears were irrational. That’s how he came to the decision concretely to go forward and marry Simone. And then that’s why I re-introduced his mom, because I knew she would be involved in his life going forward. I think it was all just a matter of facing his fear. It’s great, it was remarkable. I’m proud to be a part of it.

The second episode of the week was all about confronting everyone with the enormity of marriage.

Yeah. They have no idea. The think, “Oh cool, we’re going to get married.” They don’t get it. They don’t realize how much it entails.

Mario’s financial fears made me wonder if you ever considered revising the ultimatum of this show: get engaged or break up.

Getting engaged doesn’t always mean that you have to spend money on the other person. In fact, getting engaged often means you save a lot of money. You move in with the person, you share expenses, you share bills, you cook for each other and you help each other out any way you can. That’s what being married and being in a relationship is all about. People fail to realize that.

Do you think that by focusing on the money Mario and maybe a few others were kind of fixating on stuff that wasn’t as relevant as the internal issues that were going on?

Well that’s the point, it shouldn’t really matter. The things that people do in order to make their relationships stronger have nothing to do with money. Money is just an illusion to provide security in relationships. A lot of people use it as an excuse to mask other, deeper unconscious fears. My mom and my dad, they had nothing when they got married. Nothing. They made themselves successful people by working hard and staying committed to each other and loving each other and doing the very best they can for me and my brother and my sister. My parents did it, and the odds were seriously against them. I don’t want these people to try to get away with saying, “We shouldn’t get married just because I can’t afford to pay for a wedding,” or, “I can’t afford to pay for an engagement ring.” It’s not about that. You can go down to city hall and get married by the justice of the peace. If you have to blow a ton of money on your wedding in order to feel that’s what signifies being married, then your priorities are out of order.

You also brought in divorce experts, one lawyer, one author, to talk to people. Was that more enormity-confrontation?

These people were intended to provoke them and see if there’s any lingering fears that would maybe challenge the decision to move forward in the relationship. Putting some of these naysayers or critics in front of them and having them say, “No, we’re confident in our decision,” should have made each of them even more confident in making their decisions.

At this point were there any couples that you thought should break up instead of getting engaged?

That’s sort of a loaded question. I think it really just depends on coming to terms on what you want out of life, and I don’t think I should put my expectations on any of these individuals. I was really just there to try and be an arbiter and try to help them decide for themselves where they want this relationship to go. Once I got rid of Ryan and Axelle, because it’s obvious that she deserves better, then fine. Does it seem that Dustin has atoned for his wrong doings? Seems like it. It’s up to Courtney to decide whether or not she accepts it. It’s not up to me to accept that for her.

Even as an arbiter, you were confused by her behavior.

Oh, absolutely. She was totally contradicting herself. She just really didn’t want to disappoint this guy. It’s sad. It seems that she was really holding back from making a personal decision to move forward with her life because she didn’t want to hurt this guy. That shows to me genuine care. Genuine feelings, genuine love. I think she genuinely loved him.

Do you think there’s anything a little bit selfish there, too? Breaking up would make her out on her own for the first time in eight years.

Yeah, but what could she be afraid of? So what, she has to take care of herself. I think she’s capable of taking care of herself. My advice would be: consider yourself free. Consider yourself liberated.

At the end of the episode, you’ve split everyone up…

Yes. I separated them so that they would ultimately make the decisions on their own and do what’s best for them as a person – without being influenced by their partner. Just as we saw with Dustin and Courtney, I wanted to avoid them just making the decision that their partner wants, because bootcamp is first and foremost about growing as an individual to be a better mate.

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Related content
Tough Love Couples cast reveal
Tough Love Couples show page
Tough Love Couples videos and extras
Master Matchmakers
Check out Steve and JoAnn Ward’s Book, Crash Course in Love

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  1. Melissa says:

    My fiance and I watch the show. We discuss a lot when we watch the different issues. The last episode with Mario really effected him because he felt like men who love a women want to make them happy. It hurts to go shopping for something you cant give her like a WAY TOO expensive ring, because you feel inadequate. Mario may have a lot of concerns about money and marriage. Being engaged is not being married so you have as long as you as a couple need in order to save for the wedding. You determine the cost together, decide what is important. I have always made it clear expensive rings scare me, and I am the girl!! So my mom gave her original engagement ring to us when we were ready. I love it, it means something, 30 years of marriage and counting! We now can focus on saving for the things that we care about.

  2. laura says:

    I love this show. I have been married 7 years and counting,,,would love to have Steve and his mom help mine. I am giving 110% and I am ready to give up .I am so tired of it. I feel pure weight around my ankles from my husband. But I know how much I love him,I would die for him. But I dont think he feels the same nor does he carry any weight to help me..????? can we be helped love watching the show trying to learn!

  3. nexxxxt says:

    these people are as boring as those hos on basketball “wives.”

  4. Yvonne says:

    Steve, where in the hell did that young man find Heather? She is one dumb @!^~)&)_!`+^)** %`_*+`(`_&(#!(^($ if her ex boyfriend is that important to her she should be with him, she is so *&@@~(~$!*~^!~+_ ing dumb,the nerve of her to want her current boyfriend to except her having a relationship of any kind with the person she sleeps with whenever they break up, he needs to grow some boy’s. WHO IN THE HELL DOES THAT FOOL THINK HE IS THAT THEY HAVE TO PROVE THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO HIM???? If he wanted her she would not be with her current boyfriend. 1 yr should have been forever not having anything to do with her ex. There a reason they are ex’s, then she had the nerve to hound her boyfriend all night because he said he excepted their friendship when he didn’t. ON *&@@~(~$!*~^!~+_ ING DUMB @!^~)&)_!`+^)** BROAD

  5. Yvonne says:

    Steve, where in the hell did that young man find Heather? She is one dumb ~(#&&##__#&@_`# `__!`$!%^#)%)$(!( if her ex boyfriend is that important to her she should be with him, she is so $$@`^&(&`$~$)$@@ ing dumb,the nerve of her to want her current boyfriend to except her having a relationship of any kind with the person she sleeps with whenever they break up, he needs to grow some boy’s. WHO IN THE HELL DOES THAT FOOL THINK HE IS THAT THEY HAVE TO PROVE THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO HIM???? If he wanted her she would not be with her current boyfriend. 1 yr should have been forever not having anything to do with her ex. There’S a reason they are ex’s, then she had the nerve to hound her boyfriend all night because he said he excepted their friendship when he didn’t. ON $$@`^&(&`$~$)$@@ ING DUMB ~(#&&##__#&@_`# BROAD

  6. YVONNE says:

    Steve, that couple having issues with the mother is on the right track. His girl friend made a comment on the show this week saying that he made it seem like she was the reason he didn’t not talk to his ex-girlfriends, she should not make excuse’s for that (SHE SHOULD BE THE REASON HE DON’T TALK TO HIS EX-GIRLFRIENDS)if he is going to be with her then he don’t need his ex-girlfriends in his life, he should have moved on and so should the ex’s. His ex-girlfriend need to move on as well and remember the reason she is his ex. His ex’s should be the thing of the past, if they can’t move on that means no growth, this is also leaving the past in the past.

  7. Yvonne says:

    Mario, shouldn’t marry his 22 yr old girlfriend right now, they will just end up in divorce court. Why does she want to get married so bad @ 22? She is inmature and has a whole lot of issue’s. She doesn’t even know who she is as a person. They should both go to college, get their degree’s, prepare for a future together. If he marry her now and can’t take care of her why should he marry her? Next she will have a baby,then there’s another problem. Can she support their household since he don’t have a lot of mother, as much as she +@(*#$%_**+(_%(!* that will only be something else for her to +@(*#$%_**+(_%(!* about. She drove me nuts the night they all came back from hanging out at the club, she gave me a head ache, why should he come home to that everyday, she’s enough train reck to drive any man crazy.

  8. Yvonne says:

    I think Dennis did a great job with his mom. Dennis don’t let your mom control you nor your relationship, keep her out of your relationship, if Simone and yourself are having problem never let her know, she’s parcel and will always be. When you to get married she should alway’s come before your mother or anyone else. You did a great job this week, you are going to have to tell your mom point blank that you love her and value her thoughts, but I’ve made up my mind mom, I love Simone and plan to move foward. Let her know that this is the way it is and you no longer want to speak on it.
    You should always make her respect your wife. If it ever get to the point where your mom make Simone feel un-welcom when she come to her house then you stop going to her house, if she want to see you she will respect your family. Trust me she will go with the program if you put it down like that. She didn’t alway’s do what her parents thought she should do,she has lived her life has she so fit. DON’T LET HER DESTROY YOUR LIFE. Simone, will always come first, your are not her BABY ANY MORE, she need’s to let go so you can grow. If you make a mistake, get up dust yourself off and try it again, you will get it right

  9. roseroyce says:

    Dennis and Simone: Should you two decide to marry, here is the rule of thumb: Keep your IN-laws OUT of your marriage. Simone, you are incorrect in saying that you will be marrying into the family. You are marrying HIM, not the family. Don’t start thinking that you need to conform to his family. You _&&&)`$)%(^`(~) ociate and mix, mingle, and blend, but you do not conform to the point where you don’t have an identity because even though you two will become one, you are still an individual.

  10. adrian says:

    I think this show does great things for couples with severe issues. Steve is awesome!!!!!

  11. coco says:

    I want to know if there is a way to get my brother and his girlfriend in that show. I think that she not the one for him. For so many reason. Reason#1 she has this two guys she so call best friends and there are more so call friends other then thous two. The thing is that she has had a sexsaul pass with all of them. Reason#2 they have been together for about 4year and my lil bro has already got her a ring but her praents havent meet my preants. I also feel the she realy dosent love my brother that she with he cause he makes a good liveing and can take care of her and her kid. I feel that her family is the reason she stay with he. They know my brother is a good man and is will to take care of her and her kid. Reason#3 she has been the only women that my brother has ever bein with. Reason#4 all the money comes for my brother. She was working but my brother pays all the bill and she spend hers how ever she want and what ever is left if his. She is always buying thing for her and her kid. But yet when my brother want some thing she seem to have a problem with him spend his money on himself. Another thing is that she hasnt been working for about 5 to 6 months and has made my brother buy a house. So now by brother is paying for this house all by his self and all she dose is set on her _!@^_+#`@&(&!$* not doing nothing. She dont work, she dosent cook or clean, I think she dosent even take care of brother sexsaul, and she dont even take care of her own kid. She thow her kid on him after he has worked 12hours a day and ever day off he get he has to care for the kid. I wish there was a way that I can tell him how I feel about all this thing with out make he feel like Im trying to hate on her.

  12. Jenny says:

    Why doesn’t Steve seem to side with Christina the whole time, and not validate Mario’s feelings, which are totally valid? THEY ARE 22 and 25/26!!!

    Statistically, the younger you are when you get married in the US, the more likely you are to get divorced, validating Mario’s fears.

    Mario’s fears about money are also totally valid. It is one of the top reasons for divorce. His desire to be stable financially before getting married is SMART, but Steve doesn’t validate that.

    Being in my 30s and seeing so many friends who are getting divorced, I say… WAIT. Christina is young and naive, thinking 22 is mature and ready. Most people are still figuring out who they are well into their 20s.

    Steve seems to be saying that Mario is the one with the problem, but I think it’s Christina. I think she doesn’t trust that he will be faithful, because he IS a cheater/has cheated. She thinks that being married will cement his commitment, but making him commit when he’s not ready will just fuel the fire to cheat, not commit more

    If she can’t trust him or wait, she needs to leave him because forcing him will just cause more problems.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Steve cuts to the white meat!! I love it!! Relationships are work and whoever things otherwise is crazy. Great work Steve keep it up!!

  14. Nicoll says:

    I love watching this show but some of these couples should definietly call it quits now!

    Dustin and Courtney REALLY need to break up. He is such a cheating, lying dog! He disrespects her all the time and puts blame on her for his issues. She can do SO much better!!!

    Larry and Heather needs to also break up. At the beginning I was thinking their problems were more him but now I am seeing they are more her. I just dont think she is into the relationship as she claims to be. If they got married, it would end in divorce.

    Dennis and Simone could make a marriage work, IF she would lighten up a little. Dennis is really trying to make things work but she is constantly nit-picking. On “Exes is a Four Letter Word”, after his mother left, they were talking. She kept telling Dennis to stop yelling when he wasn’t. I think she is hearing things differently in her head sometimes than what is actually happening.

    Mario and Christina could make the relationship last for awhile longer but in the end, they should go their separate ways. Its not that I dont think they love each other but after they get out of camp, he will probably go back to how it was. She is younger and needs to experience life more. They have been together for what…a year and a half or so. And she is only 22? Hes not ready and she is.

    Pawel and Danielle are the only ones at this point and time that I think could have a future together. He needs to show her and tell her daily how beautiful she is and how much he loves her and she needs to believe in herself more. But out of all the couples, I think these 2 could get married right now and make it work.