"I want to be happy."
During the final installment of The Real Housewives of New Jersey's reunion on Wednesday night, Teresa Giudice flipped the script instead of a table: She's ready for life without her husband, Joe Giudice, who is set to be deported back to Italy after he is released from prison.
"I'm not doing a long-distance relationship," the 46-year-old reality star told Andy Cohen, surprising the host and her cast members, including sister-in-law Melissa Gorga.
It's easy to see why they were shocked by Teresa's statement, given her long history and loyalty to Joe, 46.
"I've known him my whole life. Our parents were friends and so we've known each other our whole lives," Teresa once detailed of the couple's past. "Our first date was when I was 17. I would say when I started driving, that's when our first date was. We didn't start [seriously] dating until I was 23."
But now, over 20 years later, the couple is on the verge of going their separate ways as Joe's deportation date nears.
"I hope that's not a decision I have to make, but just to pick up my children and just move to another country, I don't think that would be good for my children. No, I probably wouldn't," she said when asked if she would move to Italy with Joe, before going on to say she's had conversations with some of the couple's daughters—Gia, 18, Gabriella, 15, Milania, 13, and Audriana, 10—about the situation.
"Unless my kids say, ‘Mommy, I want to move to Italy,' but Gia is going to college this year, I haven't spoken to Milania or Audriana about it," she explained. "We haven't gotten there yet and Gabriella already voiced her opinion to me. She was like, ‘That would be so hard for me, mommy.' She doesn't speak the language. That would kill me even more. It's like starting a whole new life and they've been through so much already."
And she's also thinking of herself and what she needs from a relationship, saying, "I want somebody who's with me every single day. I'm sure he'll be with other women. You know, it happens. If we do the long-distance thing, it's not going to work. It'll be like, ‘Bye-bye.'"
In the past, Teresa has said she would stick by Joe, who she married in 1999 and has known basically her entire life, and denied any talk of divorce.
"I am not getting divorced. The truth is I miss my husband and cannot wait for him to come home," she once told Bravo's The Daily Dish. "We talk every day on the phone and I go and see him a few times per month. My daughters miss their daddy just as much as I do. We all love him very much."
But since completing her own prison sentence in 2015, the reality star has been leaving a trail of tiny bread crumbs, both on and off the show, hinting that she was slowly readying herself and family for life without Joe, who began his 41-month prison sentence in March 2016.
While Teresa was in prison, Joe was accused of having an affair, though he denied the allegations.
But once she came home, there was clearly tension the couple before he went to prison, mostly stemming from his drinking.
In one RHONJ episode leading up to his departure, Joe told Teresa she "better stop being so f--king tired at night" or "You're going to be out of the door when I come out." And after Teresa compared him to his father for his aggressive behavior while drinking, he shouted, "Don't bring my dad up or I'll smack your head up against the wall! Shut the f--k up, please!" The argument ended with Joe telling Teresa, "I can't wait to leave! The only thing I'm going to miss are my kids!"
But even his kids were concerned with his behavior, with the couple's oldest daughter Gia telling her mom, "He needs to go. It would be good for him. I think he just needs to realize what he has, so he can get his s--t together."
In an interview with E! News to promote her memoir, Standing Strong, Teresa said, "Joe never mistreated me because if he mistreated me I definitely wouldn't be with him."
Once he began his prison sentence, it seems Teresa has been slowly and steadily adjusting to life as a single mother, enjoying newfound independence despite taking care of her four children on her own.
But the major turning point for Teresa? Her mother Antonia Gorga's death in March 2017, with Teresa later revealing she was angry at Joe for making her lose out on time with her toward the end of her beloved mother's life.
During the season eight finale, Teresa admitted she didn't visit Joe for over eight months after her mother's passing, with her brother Joe Gorga saying, "That's a long time not to see your husband. And Teresa may say it's because she's been so busy but I know she's angry and I feel that she's afraid to show Joe how angry she is."
In the episode, Teresa was preparing to finally go see Joe for the first time and said she needed to hear an apology. While Bravo is unable to film any of the family's visits to Joe in prison, Teresa claimed later that he did in say he was sorry and said things would be different when he comes home.
But during Wednesday's reunion episode, Teresa once again expressed her anger towards Joe, saying, "Of course I'm angry with him. I went to jail…of course I'm angry. I have a small family…I'm angry that I came home, eight months later, I lost my mom."
After filing for bankruptcy in 2009, both Joe and Teresa were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud, were later indicted on charges of bank fraud and loan application fraud, and then pleaded guilty to financial fraud in March 2014. While in court, the couple admitted hiding assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitting false loan applications to obtain about $5 million in mortgages and construction loans. (Joe also pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes.) The Giudices were then sentenced to their respective prison sentences in October 2014.
Teresa said they haven't technically fought over Joe's actions, she admitted, "I do throw it in his face when I get mad. I'm like, 'You shouldn't have screwed up.' He has tremendous guilt."
As of now, Teresa visits Joe once a month, while their daughters usually see him twice a month. And Teresa and Joe's big discussion about what will happen to their relationship if he is deported happened over the phone, with no tears and no yelling.
"Believe it or not, we've only talked about it once, but he said it too," she told Andy during the reunion. "He said, 'Obviously, if that happens, I'm going to move on with my life. You're going to move on with your life.' And that's what's going to happen."
In January 2018, Teresa made headlines when she was spotted grabbing dinner with divorce attorney Loren La Forge-Kyriakoulis and talked about getting "great advice" in the caption of an Instagram photo of the two of them before going on to change it.
"I changed the caption because everybody's like, 'Oh, you're getting a divorce?'" Teresa later explained on Watch What Happens Live, clearly annoyed by the speculation. "It's like, c'mon. It's, like, everybody always thinks the worst!"
And in an interview with E! News, she also clarified the dinner, saying, "The divorce lawyer is my friend and I knew exactly what I was putting out there and if I was getting a divorce, you think I would put it out on social media that way? It's so funny to me how people take something and run with it. It's crazy! I basically did that to promote my friend. She is an amazing divorce attorney so if you are getting divorced, she's the person to call."
But that wasn't the only time Teresa seemed to be trying to seek legal advice on the sly.
When she attended The Real Housewives of New York City star Luann de Lessep's cabaret show, she asked a pretty telling question during an informal Q&A, inquiring about going through a divorce in the public eye.
Luann, who has gone through two divorces during her stint on Bravo, told her fellow reality star, "I just [felt] like it was time to go, and I was very solid in my decision. And I think that made it easier...When I'm dome, I'm done."
Tre's response? "Me too. When I'm done, I'm done."
Alas, after the exchange, Teresa played down her question when talking to E! News. "You know me, I like to make good TV," she said with a shrug.
While Teresa is busy filming the show, promoting her books and various projects, raising her daughters and helping take care of her 75-year-old father, Giacinto, who now lives with her, she's been able to make time for some fun...which has lead to speculation that she may be seeing someone.
Allegations of an affair first began in June 2017, when US Weekly reported Teresa was seeing a businessman in New Jersey. Their source? Former friend Kim DePaola, of course. "They've been pretty cozy I'm going to say in the last five months," she alleged to the tabloid.
Teresa flat-out denied the accusation, with her lawyer James Leonard, Jr. telling E! News, "They are 1,000 percent false and have been manufactured by attention-seeking lowlifes who have no moral compass. The only man in Teresa's life is Joe. Period. End of story."
Recently, rumors of Teresa having a boyfriend popped up again when she was photographed holding hands with a man in Miami in February.
Again, her lawyer shot down the gossip.
"Teresa was in Miami for a charity event with a large group of friends, both men and women," Leonard Jr. said in a statement. "The photos show one of those friends helping Teresa out of the venue and to her car. She had some wine and she was wearing heels."
"That's the real story," the statement continued. "There is no cheating, no divorce. End of story."
During the reunion, Andy also questioned about photos of her with a man taken on New Year's Eve.
"What else is new? I took tons of pictures with tons of fans. I was hugging a lot of people…a lot of people were touching me," she responded. "It was New Year's Eve, hello?! One girl wanted to make out with me. I just said, 'Not right now, later!'"
Andy also pressed her about not wearing her wedding ring in the photos, with Teresa breezily responding, "Who cares? Who cares if I wore my rings and don't? Joe never wore rings."
And finally, the host flat-out asked Teresa if she's been faithful to Joe during his entire prison sentence. After a long pause, she said, "Yes," before saying her vibrator, named Lilo, was "a beautiful thing."
Aside from some quality time with, um, Lilo, Teresa has also discovered a passion for fitness since her stay in prison. After becoming a yoga teacher, Teresa decided to compete in a bodybuilding competition, something Joe would've never liked.
"Joe always said to me, 'You're not doing that,'" she told one of her trainers this season as she prepared to stage the stage in June (she came in third place). "It's another year 'til he comes home so I was just like, I'm just doing it, I don't care what he says."
She avoided telling her husband about it for a while, before finally telling him about it just before the competition.
"I never know how he's going to react to things, but then a week ago, I did tell him about it. And he just said, 'I hope you win!'" Teresa said in the episode. "I was kind of shocked."
Aside from the obvious physical changes, Teresa's family and friends have noticed a change in The New York Times best-selling author, one they think the "old-school" Joe might not like.
"I think Joe took Teresa for granted a lot of times," longtime friend and co-star Dolores Catanes said on Watch What Happens Live. "He expects everything to be done. She takes care of the kids...He will still want the old Teresa, but once a woman gets to the point where she's at, she's not going back. Oh, hell no."
Though Teresa has changed, Dolores isn't convinced Joe, who dodged allegations of affairs on the show even before his legal troubles, is ultimately capable of doing the same.
"I mean, I'm sure he's changed in a lot of ways, but to me, whatever is in your DNA, you are what you are. He's like an old-school Italian guy," she said. "People don't change. I am who I am, he is who he is, that's what I mean, in a good way. He will be who he is."
He'll just have to do it in Italy, as Pennsylvania immigration court judge ruled back in October 2018 that Joe would be deported to his native Italy after his release from prison. Currently set to be released on March 2019 Joe's expected to be transferred into ICE custody.
After the ruling, a source told us Tre was "devastated" by the news that her husband would be deported.
"Even though she always knew this was a possible outcome, Teresa convinced herself that Joe wouldn't be deported," the insider continued.
As for what the deportation bombshell would mean for their future, our source shared at the time, "Teresa and Joe have no current plan in place for what to do next in their marriage, even though she is committed to finding a way to make this situation work for her family."
But they hinted at a possible split, explaining, "She hates the idea of uprooting her children from their lives and leaving her elderly father who lives with her to move across the world." For Teresa, caring for her daughters and Giacinto were her first priority.
In November, Joe's legal team filed a last-minute appeal to fight the deportation order, which Teresa is funding.
"Everyone makes mistakes, but to get deported, that's so sad. He's been here since he was a year old. So I'm doing everything I can," she said during the reunion. "I'm spending all this money, I'm appealing it, like everything, whatever has to be done, I'm doing it. I'll fight to the end, that's what I'm doing." (Aside from talking to President Donald Trump about a potential pardon after competing on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2012, telling Andy she hasn't reached out. "Maybe I should.")
But it seems that after 10 years of legal drama, Teresa is ready for some peace in her life.
"I want to be happy. I haven't been happy in a long time," she admitted during the reunion. "I'm tired of legal stuff."
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