"Almost eight years ago, when Michael and I said ‘I do,' we anticipated sharing every single day together from that moment forward," she said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that is not our current reality. We have decided to separate."
She said they are aware that fans will speculate about the reason behind their breakup. "People will be quick to assume that the causes were too much intrusion by reality TV into the most personal parts of our lives, age gap issues, cultural problems, or child-rearing differences," Ashley said. "Pieces of all these may have affected our pure love for each other, but no one reason is the root cause of our mutual decision to go our separate ways."
She instead said they are both at "very different stages in our lives and have different goals for our futures," adding, "We both want the other to achieve true happiness and fulfillment and feel that we cannot do this together."
The couple, who shares two children—Dean, 2, and Dylan, 13 months—would've celebrated their 8-year wedding anniversary this May.
"While our romantic bond is broken, we will always love and respect each other," Ashley's statement went on. "We also know that true happiness can only be achieved by continuing to work together and putting our hearts and souls into raising our two beautiful boys."
She said her kids will always feel "loved and supported, for they were truly created out of love." Ashley ended her message by asking for support and respect as they go through this "emotional situation."
The couple met when she was 22, in college and working at a bar in Georgetown. Too nervous to ask the then-51-year-old out, Ashley said she instead approached him about a marketing internship at his company. It wasn't until she secured the position and began working for him that she finally got up the courage to propose they go for drinks. Within a year, Ashley and Michael were engaged.
The marriage wasn't Michael's first, though. He was married to his ex-wife for more than 20 years before they split in 2010. They share two children together.
Ashley didn't talk much about her stepkids on RHOP, but her relationship with Michael was always front and center—namely, the difficulties they faced: their age gap being called into question, their constant clashing while trying to run a since-shuttered Australian restaurant, and of course, Michael being the frequent subject of cheating allegations.
At one point, Michael was also accused of sexual assault and suspended from filming for RHOP. The charges (felony assault and misdemeanor improper sexual conduct) were later dropped due to insufficient evidence, and afterward, Michael maintained that he "didn't do it."
"My name is cleared," he told FOX 5 D.C. in his first interview after the charges were dismissed in October 2018. "My name is cleared. I didn't do anything. I'm completely exonerated, completely cleared."
The accusation was subsequently covered on season four of RHOP, as was a comment Michael allegedly made about cast member Robyn Dixon's husband, Juan Dixon. In what was dubbed "SausageGate," Robyn, Candiace Dillard-Bassett and her husband Chris Bassett claimed to hear Michael saying he wanted to "suck" Juan's, erm, sausage.
But through it all, Ashley stuck by Michael's side. Just this past February, she told E! News, "We definitely have had our share of issues [and] some of them have been very public. Ultimately, I think that it's reminding myself that Michael is the person I chose to spend my life with."
"So, if I can look at him and still love him, still care about him, forgive him and want to keep going with him," Ashley continued, "Then that's when I can't let what other people say affect me, because the reality is they're not living my life. They're not married to my husband. When I remember that, it centers me and I'm like, 'Yes.' But it's certainly not an easy thing."
Catch up with past seasons of The Real Housewives of Potomac on Peacock.
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