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Short version: Therapist Robyn D’Angelo focuses on one thing in her practice: Helping couples build better relationships. Robyn, also known as The Happy Couple Expert, offers research-based advice to teach clients to reframe their relationships and develop more acute empathy for their partners. At the same time, she helps couples move away from impossible romantic expectations and better address the real problems that may arise. Ultimately, Robyn arms clients with specific tools — rather than general guidance — that allow them to work through their issues.
In 2018, therapist Robyn D’Angelo’s mantra for her clients was “Slow the f*** down.” She was so committed to this message that she even made business cards that she distributed as reminders.
“If you take nothing else out our work, just remember to slow down,” Robyn, known professionally as The Happy Couple Expert, said. “That’s where connection happens.”
She’s also heeded her own advice. Always one to take on new projects, Robyn is stepping back to consider how she can be more present in her marriage.
“I’m trying to decide how can I evolve this business and help as many people as possible while still focusing on myself and my relationship,” she said. “Some therapists will suffer from compassion fatigue. When we reintegrate into our own families, we have nothing more to give. How can I show up for more people so that it’s not sucking everything out of me and I have nothing left for my own family?”
Perhaps Robyn knows that her clients are inspired to see her practice what she preaches. Specifically, she understands that slowing down is the only way to carve out time to improve a relationship with a spouse or partner.
“I’m human first, which means that even ‘The Happy Couple Expert’ sucks at being married sometimes,” she said. “Working through issues isn’t always easy, but it’s so worth it.”
Many of the couples she works with take her advice. Clients have told Robyn that her therapy sessions are more in-depth — and effective — than other sessions in which they’ve participated.
“We’ll dive deep into how they learned to react and behave as they do,” she said. “We look at any important figures in their lives and how they showed up for them or let them down.”
With this type of therapy, Robyn helps many partners reconnect in ways they didn’t anticipate.
“It’s the most powerful individual therapy — with their partner in the room,” Robyn said. “When their partner sees them crying, they can start to cultivate empathy and compassion in ways they never did before. That’s where the magic happens.”
Robyn has experienced firsthand how media representations of love can make couples unwilling to work through their issues.
“I always was that hopeful romantic. I was searching for a guy who would sweep me off my feet. My siblings always teased me, saying, ‘you’re looking for that movie boyfriend.’ I was always known for my love of love,” she said.
But this perspective didn’t help Robyn when it came to working through issues in her own marriage.
“Over the years, I changed my idea about what was possible and realistic in relationships,” she said. “I’ve been with my husband for 12 years. With age and emotional maturity, there’s a lot of learning and growing that goes against what we see in the movies.”
With the goal of sharing what she’d learned in her marriage, Robyn embarked her second career as a marriage and family therapist.
“I wanted to help other couples learn about the complexities of relationships,” she said. “When we get to a place where we can understand that the quality of our relationships affects the quality of our lives. I help people do that.”
Many of Robyn’s clients are suffering in relationships that don’t fit with the expectations they’ve internalized. The one area where they feel the most helpless? Their romantic partnerships.
“They feel disconnected and frustrated in their relationships. What I’ll hear most is that they feel lonely. It’s so heartbreaking,” she said. “They’re in a relationship with someone they want to feel connected to, but, instead, they feel alone.”
Despite their struggles, many couples feel the need to hide their issues from those closest to them.
“Everyone in their social circles sees them as the perfect couple, but by the time they come to me, they’re mad at themselves for letting it get this bad,” she said.
Robyn emphasizes tools for solving problems and rebuilding closeness with her couples. She starts by looking at their interactions with each other.
“We look at behaviors that are keeping them stuck, and I give them ways to change those behaviors,” she said. “I give them ways to choose what’s right for the relationship rather than what’s comfortable or convenient.”
One of the aspects that Robyn appreciates about her profession is its focus on research. She is a self-described “brain geek” and enjoys connecting contemporary psychological research to her work.
“A lot of the techniques I share with my clients are rooted in research, and I have an intimate understanding of how we’re wired to connect,” she said.
She also aims to create a personal relationship with each of her clients. After all, she can’t expect her clients to have better connections if she doesn’t connect with them herself.
“I show up in the room with my clients the way I do with my friends, family, and spouse,” she said. “I’ve been told by some of my closest friends that I’m the most empathic person they’ve ever met. So, I connect deeply with my clients through empathy and compassion. It starts there. I’m a human first; then I’m a therapist.”
Robyn also is somewhat of an anomaly in her profession when it comes to giving advice.
“I give advice. I know that’s taboo in our profession, but I remember sitting across from a therapist and wanting them to tell me what to do,” she said. “We explore behaviors and relationships and consider what has to change for you to get your needs met.”
Robyn is strict because she knows her strategies help clients make real change in their relationships.
“My motto is if you can’t take care of yourself, there’s no way you’re going to be able to take care of your relationship,” she said.
Robyn feels rewarded in her work by the responses she receives from clients. Many of them feel a deep connection with her that has surprised them.
“They tell me, ‘This is unlike any couples therapy we’ve ever done,’” she said. “‘They tell me that I’m their third, fourth, or fifth therapist, and no one has ever taken them this deep together. I give them the tools to understand each other.”
“It’s the most fulfilling part of what I do every day — to know I helped someone learn to love and be loved better.” — Robyn D’Angelo, The Happy Couple Expert
The real difference between her practice and traditional couples therapy is that she doesn’t emphasize the idea that the couple already knows how to solve their problems.
“Traditional couples therapy suggests the couple has the answers within,” she said. “But, if they did, they wouldn’t be suffering like they are.”
When couples can recommit to their partnerships, Robyn feels that her work is worth the effort.
“It’s the most fulfilling part of what I do every day — to know I helped someone learn to love and be loved better. That’s why we’re on this planet — to connect,” she said.