Last year on Feb. 27, Jenni "JWoww" Farley awoke to an Instagram notification.
Well, likely, the Jersey Shore standout awoke to many Instagram notifications, what with a slew of fans and her tight-knit band of castmates eager to wish her a happy birthday. But this one was special:
"They say opposites attract," Roger Mathews, her husband of two years, shared on a photo of the pair. "'They' wrote that about us. Happy Birthday my love."
His words were brief, but the sentiment altogether sweet, a nod toward the special sauce that had kept their romance chugging along through the previous eight years and some six seasons of the MTV reality show and its spinoffs, Snooki & Jwoww and Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.
This year, though, as she celebrates turning 34, we're guessing she'd appreciate some radio silence.
A day free of drama just might be the perfect present for someone who's had her fair share of it the past five months. The initial weeks following her September separation from truck driver Mathews, 43, suggested the couple, who met, appropriately, in a Seaside Heights bar as Farley was fist bumping her way to notoriety with the rest of her costars, might resolve their divorce in an amenable fashion. It even seemed possible that Mathews' campaign to, as he put it, "win my wife back" might be successful.
But those hopes were dashed with one brutal argument. Since Farley requested a temporary restraining order after a mid-December fight, the parents to 4-year-old Meilani and 2-year-old Greyson have been airing their own melodramatic reality show through social media, trading increasingly hostile open letters and videos in which each accused the other of the same transgressions: verbal and physical abuse and various acts of bad parenting.
As of early February, the duo seemed to have reached some type of détente with Mathews declaring "Let's both get help. For our children. We owe them that....We look like a--holes to the world. We are. We are both a--holes."
But considering the ugly words that had been exchanged in the lead up to his proposal, it felt more like a temporary cliffhanger to be addressed when episodes return.
Their nasty storyline began in late September. That's when it was revealed the author of The Rules According to JWoww: Shore-Tested Secrets on Landing a Mint Guy, Staying Fresh to Death, and Kicking the Competition to the Curb, a book chock full of advice such as, "Remember that a guy will say anything to get in your pants," had filed for divorce after six months worth of trying had failed to solve their marital problems.
To hear Mathews tell it, though, they still had another round in them. "My wife filed for divorce, it's true...I don't blame her," he told fans. "There's no cheating or any dumb s--t or any juicy details. She just grew tired of the repetitive pattern that we fell into. Again, I am not going to get into detail, but it was a repetitive pattern and not a good one."
But bad habits were made to be broken, he continued. He wasn't done fighting and remained confident in his impending victory: "I'm going to win her affection back, I am going to win her love back. I have no intentions on being a single dad. We're in counseling so there is hope. It ain't over 'till the fat lady sings."
And those close to the couple noted said female hadn't even begun warming up. Though the pair's laundry list of issues included disagreements over how to handle the developmental delays that had prevented toddler Greyson from beginning to talk, differing lifestyles, a failure to agree on parenting tactics and just general annoyance with each other ("They argue a lot and Jenni was just tired of it," one insider told E! News), a source speculated that their problems weren't insurmountable.
"Their relationship hasn't been healthy for a while," the source admitted to E! News, "but even thought Jenni already filed for divorce, it's still not totally over yet—there's a chance they could work it out and get back together."
Particularly with Mathews going full-court press on the situation. Though they were technically estranged on their three-year anniversary in October, he pulled out the stops, treating her to a dinner complete with red wine and champagne and a ride on a flower-adorned horse-drawn carriage. And this was just the start, he swore, captioning an Instagram snap of the meal, "Rome wasn't built in a day."
But everything came tumbling down that December when Farley served Mathews with a restraining order.
The differing he said-she said versions of the night in question made it tough to sort out exactly what went down. According to the account Mathews gave police, the Dec. 13 tiff started when Farley reneged on plans to watch their kids the following day, informing him she had to travel to New York City for work instead. When he confronted her, their argument began and soon, he said per the police report, she became "irate and began screaming and slamming her bedroom door."
Fearing she would "make false accusations" about his behavior, he continued, he started recording the incident.
Farley's take matches his in that she told police he did, in fact, tape their argument, but she said he was spurring her on by calling her "a piece of s--t mother," who is "damaging to their kids." She also said he threatened to post the video online to "show everyone what a terrible mother she is."
It was a frequent intimidation tactic of his, she claimed, leaving her feeling "harassed" by his "continued disparaging comments and continued threats that he will post unfavorable videos" of her. And though she initially declined to speak with someone from the Domestic Violence Response team, she later changed her mind and sought out a temporary restraining order.
The papers gave Farley temporary custody of the kids and sent Mathews into a tailspin that he documented for his 1.7 million Instagram followers.
In a series of 10 videos, he offered his side of the story, claiming Farley became "completely uncontrollably emotional, as she always does," and threatened to call the police. "While she's screaming in my daughter's face, 'Your father's a piece of s--t, he's out of here, he's out of here, I'm sorry I ever had children with him,' to my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, who's spanking me in the butt saying, 'You're bad, Daddy,'" he said. "I called the police to preemptively get ahead of what I thought she was going to do."
He left, he shared, to do a podcast with a friend and then returned home where he was woken from his sleep at two in the morning. Removed from their New Jersey home, he shared, he remained awake until the morning, at a loss on what to do: "I'm not allowed to speak to my children," he said. "I'm not allowed to go get clothes, I'm not allowed to step foot in the house that I've lived in for eight years. I miss my kids, man. It's just wrong. It's wrong."
That was Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi's take on it too. Always in her bestie's corner, she took to her Instagram to speak out on Farley's behalf and slam Mathews' detailing of the situation, writing, "She wants nothing but for the kids to have their dad. Unfortunately she was being taunted and baited & this was the result. YOU'RE AN AMAZING MOTHER AND PERSON and all of us who truly know you know this."
As added proof, she shared a clip of Nest surveillance footage in which Farley told police she didn't want to prevent Mathews from seeing their kids, adding, "He's not a bad dad."
And for about a month-and-a-half, that was the end of the story.
But by late January, a fed-up Farley finally decided to speak out, posting a lengthy missive to her Instagram feed and her website that detailed Mathews' alleged abusive behavior and the "manipulative" actions he'd taken. "I can no longer sit idly by while you mistreat and malign me in such an egregious manner," she wrote. "You have presented yourself to the public as a praiseworthy father and a husband who has been suffering by my alleged actions and behavior."
That was far from the case, she continued in the since-deleted posts. In addition to ticking off the ways in which he allegedly hurt her—including throwing her to the ground and reaching out to her bosses in an "attempt to smear my name,"—she claimed he tried to contact her former ex to get him to "intimidate" her, despite knowing that Farley had a restraining order against him. "Your attempt to bring this heinous person back into my life (the mother of your children) after he nearly murdered me speak volumes as to who you really are," she said. "You are an abuser to the core, Roger Mathews."
Her words set off another round of back-and-forth with Mathews releasing yet another video accusing his ex of lying—and producing legal documents his attorneys purportedly sent to the judge overseeing their divorce case requesting a mental evaluation of Farley—and the reality star responding, through her lawyers, that it was her ex doing the fabricating.
"The bottom line is that when a parent acts to protect the safety and well-being of their children, they are following through with their responsibility," concluded the statement, shared with ET. "It is this responsibility that Jenni Farley is focused on: working tirelessly to support these beautiful children and to set up a positive co-parenting plan with their father that works for the benefit of Meilani and Greyson."
Which is sort of the direction Mathews was headed when he released another rebuttal in early February.
First he asserted once again, that he was the wronged party. "You painted me as a woman beater. The facts are these," he wrote in a message on his website. "No one, man or woman, husband or wife has the right to put their hands on each other. I take responsibility for that night in question, and one other night that I can think of that, I pushed you. You edited out your actions and violent behavior prior to me pushing you which I knew you would do."
He also slammed her claims that he put the kids in harm's way by filming himself driving, noting he was only going 20 miles per hour and it was "hypocritical" of her to call him out "cause you are on the phone constantly while driving." And he took umbrage with her assertion that Greyson had been diagnosed with autism. "Many people, some of which I cannot name for they are in fear of retaliation from you, do not believe he is autistic," he wrote. "That includes some of HIS VERY OWN THERAPISTS."
Having stated his case, though, he called for a truce, which all signs point to being in place weeks later. (In the days since his Feb. 2 post, Farley's collection of Instagrams have included little more than photos of a trip to Disney for a pal's Bachelorette party and promotions for her tanning line, while Mathews has posted snippets from the playground and an entertaining round of hide-and-go-seek.)
"Peace," he wrote. "Let it begin here. For two amazing children. They deserve it."
Farley could certainly use some quiet as well.