"Honestly, I didn't ever think that it was going to happen either," she admitted in an exclusive interview with E! News. "So I matched the viewers feelings on that." But as she and husband Taylor McKinney were sparring with Ryan's parents Jen and Larry Edwards in the long-running franchise's 2021 reunion, their son Bentley was laying the groundwork for a détente.
Because while the Bulletproof author, 31, had long been content to let Ryan make his own bed in terms of how and when he showed up for their now 14-year-old soon-to-be high schooler, Bentley was telling his mom "that I actually do have an influence over the relationship that he and Ryan have," Maci explained. "For the longest time I was like, 'Their relationship has nothing to do with me. I can't make Ryan show up, so I'm staying out of it.'"
But sitting in on therapy session with her eldest son, he shared how her feelings did play a role she said, "And so having my eyes open to that was honestly what started it to begin with."
It being a road she and her high school ex have driven down more than a few times, she approached the situation with caution, husband Taylor even voicing his concern on the July 19 season premiere of Teen Mom: The Next Chapter.
"There's a fine line between trying to protect Bentley and not getting in the way of him having a relationship with Ryan," Taylor, 34, explained to E! News. "It's been a pattern in the past, but it doesn't mean I should stand in the way and not let it happen."
Which is why Taylor—dad to daughter Jayde, 8, and son Maverick, 7, with Maci—said he strived "to figure out the balance between not letting him get hurt, but have him test the waters himself."
And so far, they're surprisingly calm.
Though much has happened since the exes' initial conversation aired in February—days after Ryan's wife Mackenzie Edwards filed for divorce, the 35-year-old was arrested March 1 for stalking and violation of an order of protection in Hamilton County, Tenn. according to a Sheriff's Department press release—"We're in a good place," revealed Maci. "He's obviously in jail, but he calls regularly. So we still consistently communicate."
Ryan entered a guilty plea for harassment on March 14, according to court documents obtained by E! News, and was sentenced to more than 11 months probation and ordered to complete a rehab treatment program. Then, he was arrested in April for DUI and drug possession according to court documents obtained by E! News, and his 11-month, 29-day sentence was reinstated.
And yet, Maci would wager that Ryan is showing up "more consistently now than maybe he ever has before," she said. "For me it's confirmation that we were really doing the work and we're really doing it in a healthy way for it to still be consistent even after everything that's happened the last six months."
And, of course, credit goes to her ultra-mature teen who has literally grown up in front of camera's since Maci's 16 and Pregnant episode aired in 2009.
"It honestly started off with the fact that he was in my pocket for, like, the first five years of his life," she noted of having Bentley tag along to her classes at Tennessee's Chattanooga State Community College. "I'd be like, 'Alright, here's your Lifesavers, here's your gummies. Don't say a word, because I didn't ask if you could come with me.'"
She often invited Bentley into kid-appropriate but still adult conversations, allowing him to voice his own opinions, "and then, obviously, with work in therapy," she added, "I think it's just the perfect storm of creating an empathetic but smart and competent person."
As for the parentals...
"I feel like we have no clue what we're doing," Taylor joked to E! when asked why they feel particularly equipped to handle the natural ebbs and flows that come with raising kids and tending to a romantic relationship.
Agreed Maci, host of the crime series, The Expired Podcast, "Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Life is hard. It's very, very hard. And it is a lot of work."
So while their nearly seven-year marriage has had seasons that felt a bit sunnier than others, "Even when we've had a rough year together, I think at the end of the day, I still choose him," she explained. "I like him. And even if I want to punch him in the face sometimes, I'd rather argue with him or have a rough patch with him than never have a rough patch with anybody else."
Teen Mom: The Next Chapter premieres with back-to-back episodes on Wednesday, July 19 at 8 p.m. on MTV.