Heather and Terry Dubrow on Leading by Example: From Marriage to Parenting Queer Kids (Exclusive)

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Heather and Terry Dubrow aim to lead by example. It's why they open up their lives (both professional and personal) on The Real Housewives of Orange County and Botched. This week, they're ready to share more with the latest entry to their reality TV resumes: 7 Year Stitch, a passion project they've been working to get on the air for years.

"Terry and I've written three books together, and the second book we wrote, called The Dubrow Diet, we had this couple that ... lost weight on our book, on our diet," Heather explains of how the idea came about, Zooming in alongside Terry from their Newport Beach, California, home.

"What happened was, we went into their house and we started cleaning out their fridge, and we got to know them, and we got involved, and their child and their dynamic and the whole thing, we realized that there was so much more going on there," she continues, "and working with them was sort of the germ of how this all began."

In 7 Year Stitch, Heather and Terry take a new couple -- Kathleen and Chris -- at a pivot point in their marriage and put them through a seven-week crash course in personal improvement to see if they're meant to be, or if it's time to part ways. 

"I would call it a high-stakes opportunity to take a relationship and a family that has what seems like insurmountable struggles, and give them the best opportunity to fix their situation," Terry shares. "Because over 50 percent of couples that break up do so at around the seven-year point, and the reason we separate them for seven weeks is we want to change their bad habits. We want to help them to figure out what's going wrong, and to subject them to the best therapists and best professionals we possibly can, and make new habits. And it takes four weeks to create a new habit, and three more weeks to cement that habit in. That's why there's a seven-week separation between them."

The Dubrows celebrate 25 years together this year, which they say is the greatest asset in their approach to helping couples, specifically. 

Heather and Terry Dubrow on set of their new E! special, 7 Year Stitch
E! Entertainment

"I think in terms of our journey, we've seen and done it all," Terry remarks. "I've lost millions of dollars, OK? I've gotten to the point where I've felt so bad about myself, I gained so much weight and I was going through such a self-loathing period where I didn't feel attractive enough to be intimate with this beautiful woman. And so we have over the years learned how to identify our problems, how to fight well."

"When we fight now, we say-- all right, at least I do, I can't speak for Heather, I'll have her speak in a minute -- but I say, don't say it, don't push that button," he continues. "It may be a feel-good to do it. 'Don't go there, Terry, because that's going to escalate this and now we're going to have two weeks of misery...' So I've learned a lot through this show and this process."

Terry calls out the couple's "Bu-Jew" philosophy, taking the best of Buddhism and Judaism and applying those qualities to their lives. "We try to be very mindful of what's going on in the moment," he says. "And to a certain degree, the more you are together, the more aware of those little problems that can spring up, that are under the surface, that may become a big problem."

"Looking back on our quarter of a century together here, I feel like I wish we had some of the tools that we have now," Heather adds. "At this point, what we've realized is most things don't matter. Save the actual fighting and animosity and argument for when there is actually something to argue about. Petty little things, we're good with that."

That approach translates beyond just how the pair operates in their marriage. It carries over to their kids and parenting style, placing a focus on the matters that, well, matter. A big focus of Heather's return to The Real Housewives of Orange County in season 16 has been sharing their kids' authentic stories, notably middle daughter Kat, who publicly shared that she is a lesbian on a recent episode.

"I saw some B.S. remarks recently from people that I brought my kids on as a storyline on Orange County. Well, guess what? I don't like the negative connotation of that," Heather notes. "My kids tell their stories in their own time. When we came back on the show, I mean, I knew [our oldest daughter] Max was already out publicly [as bisexual]. I had no idea Katarina was actually going to talk about being a lesbian, even though we knew, but I'm so proud of her and it was so beautiful and so amazing."

"But this is a platform, and I have news for you: Anyone else out there that's got any kind of platform, you have queer kids, you have trans kids? Talk about it," Heather implores. "Show everyone how normal this is. Show everyone that this is normal. This is biology. These are our kids -- meaning all of our kids. Your kids are my kids too, because guess what? Our kids are all going to meet and hook up and become the next generation. And they're going to have kids, and let's fix this now."

The media blitz around Kat's coming out came as legislation passed in the Florida House that, if turned into law, would limit -- and in some cases prohibit -- instruction in public schools about sexuality or gender. Meanwhile, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive asking "licensed professionals" and "members of the general public" to report parents of transgender minors to authorities if it appears those children are receiving gender-affirming medical care. 

"For me as a parent, I get super emotional about this," Heather shares. "We're the parents. We bring these kids into the world, and we should be their first line of defense. If no one else in the world is going to support you, it should be your parents. And the legislation that's going on is just so incredibly heartbreaking. What I would say to everyone is, keep the conversations going."

"If any of that 'don't say gay' thing passes in public schools, where teachers are not allowed to talk to the kids about sexuality identification issues and orientation, then it's even more important that you provide a safe, comfortable environment at home to do so," Terry echoes his wife. "Even if it passes, 'don't say gay' at school, say gay at home. Because it's normal, it's the modern family, it's been around for eternity. It will be, it's blue eyes, baby."

"It's biology!" Heather exclaims. 

"It's biology," Terry repeats. "So if you want to have a happy, supportive family, open up your conversation to your kids at home."

For more learning lessons courtesy of the Dubrows, tune into 7 Year Stitch on Tuesday, March 1, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on E!, after the season finale of Terry's series, Botched, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. While just a one-hour special for now, the couple hopes to help more families in the future.

The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.

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