Credit: Juan Rico/Fame Pictures Photo: Taylor Armstrong and Her Husband Russell Walk the Red Carpet at The Taste of Beverly Hills on September 2, 2010

With rumors swirling that Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong may be separating from husband Russell and that they are in couples’ therapy, we wanted an expert opinion on what could be behind their troubled relationship — and how Taylor’s abusive past could play into it. In an exclusive Wetpaint interview, Psychologist Alisa Robinson, PhD from askdoctoralisa.com, gives us her thoughts on the situation.

Wetpaint: Could the abuse Taylor suffered in her past have something to with her current marital problems?

Dr. Alisa Robinson: Many people who have experienced some kind of abuse or witnessed domestic violence, especially as a child, they tend to be fearful of really strong emotion. So when people have a real intense emotional experience it can trigger a fear response. Sometimes what happens is that when they get older they repeat that cycle by either dating or marrying someone who is similar to the abuser. Alternatively, they can also end up with someone who is very much the opposite. They would be more inclined to be with someone who is not going to show real strong emotions. That to them may seem like the safest thing.

From my perception from watching Taylor and her husband, he seems like the type who is actually quite shut off from his emotions. Her experience could have played into why she chose him as a partner. It doesn’t necessarily mean it was a conscious decision. It could be subconscious, but she could have been drawn to fact that he was not real intense emotionally. However, that low intensity of emotion makes him less relatable to the other people on the show. People commented that it was hard to make a connection with him, but I think she’s having a hard time connecting with him and communicating as well, because he’s so shut down and closed off. So what may have seemed like a good choice when she first met him ended up kind of backfiring.

Taylor says she doesn’t have an eating disorder, but she took an unhealthy amount of diet pills and went to “unhealthy extremes” to lose weight. Is there a difference?

She certainly looks pretty frail. According to the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are certain very specific criteria in order to have an eating disorder. There’s anorexia, bulimia, or eating disorder NOS [Not Otherwise Specified]. So there is actually very strict criteria for a technical diagnosis. However, we can say that if someone is taking an extreme number of diet pills, you would be able to label it disordered eating. Because it is disordered in the sense that it is unhealthy and probably a more extreme measure compared to other people.

Taylor refers to herself and Russell as “business partners.” What does that say about their marriage?

It really seems that there’s a lack of emotional connection between them. A business partner is different than a marriage. In a marriage you would anticipate that people would have an emotional connection, not just a financial or business partnership. He seems quite cut off. It’s hard to make lasting relationships with people like that.

Could just being on a reality show have triggered some of Taylor’s unhealthy behavior?

I’m sure being on a reality show has triggered unhealthy behavior for many people. Obviously if there’s any type of unhealthy behavior going on it can be exacerbated by being in the spotlight. Especially if there are feelings of self-consciousness or low self- esteem, I think that can be triggered by being on a reality show because you’re so scrutinized.

What did you make of Taylor’s behavior when she asked Adrienne Maloof to become godmother her daughter Kennedy?

It does seem a little odd that she asked Adrienne to be the godmother, rather than a family member or someone she is closer to. It's unclear what her motivation was for asking her.  Usually people chose a godparent based on who they admire or respect and who they believe would be able to provide for their child emotionally and financially. Perhaps those factors played into why Taylor asked her. Without knowing her family relationships or friendships, it is hard to say what her other alternatives might be. Either way, it was quite uncomfortable for Taylor to hear publicly that Adrienne was not so keen on the idea.