A source close to the couple confirmed to PEOPLE exclusively on Tuesday that the Real Housewives of New Jersey stars had “separated” after 20 years of marriage. According to the source, they “agreed that each had to move on” and “are doing so amicably and very slowly.” (Teresa’s lawyer politely declined to comment.)
Still, the source said Teresa, 47, and Joe, 49, have “no plans for divorce” at this time, adding that “both of them are focused” on their four daughters: Gia, 18, Gabriella, 15, Milania, 14, and Audriana, 10.
Fans have long speculated that a split was on the horizon for the childhood sweethearts, who got married in October 1999. They have been living apart for nearly four years as they each completed individual prison sentences for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud. And when Joe moved to Italy in October to continue fighting his deportation order after being released from ICE custody, the stars themselves admitted a long-distance relationship would be challenging.
Here’s a look back on everything they’ve said about their relationship and a potential divorce.
2016: Feeling ‘Lost’ Apart
In September 2016, six months after Joe reported to prison to serve out his 41-month sentence, Teresa — who completed a nearly yearlong stint in prison herself in December 2015 — said she was struggling without her husband.
“What keeps me busy is my girls,” she told PEOPLE at the time. “I swear, that’s what makes the days go by. If I didn’t have them, I’d probably go crazy. Then I would really think about [Joe] 24/7 and it wouldn’t be easy. That’s what he said, too: ‘That’s what got me through the day was the girls. They kept me busy.’ And that’s how I am, I’m going through the motions of each day. I just can’t wait for each day to pass by for him to come home.”
“I don’t really have a good time because he’s not here,” she admitted. “It’s not like when I go out I have a blast, because I really don’t, ’cause he’s not with me. The only time I do have fun is when I’m with my kids. … It’s weird, I’m kind of old-fashioned like that because he’s not here. I’m incomplete. He’s the missing piece of the puzzle. Without him, I feel lost.”
2017: Getting Real
A year later, Teresa got candid for the first time about how their legal troubles took a toll on their marriage.
“I’m still not happy with Joe,” she wrote in her memoir, Standing Strong. “Actually that’s the understatement of the friggin’ century. And I’m not going to hide it anymore.”
While she stood by him, she admitted the frustrations she felt toward her husband after his “stupid decision making” led to jail time.
“I used to lead a charmed life. Joe made plenty of money to support our family and then some,” she wrote. “I was happy and relaxed. Until Joe f—ed up. And he f—ed up bad. Now I’m a single mother. I handle everything. All of it. And I support my entire family financially, which is a big weight on my shoulders on top of everything else.”
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she continued. “I mean, do I see Joe and me together in ten years? Do I see us growing old together? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. He’ll always be a part of my life, because he’s the father of my children; that I can say for sure. You just never know what’s going to happen. Life is a roller coaster, and you have to ride the highs ad the lows all the same.”
In an interview with PEOPLE Now after the book’s release in October 2017, Teresa said, “I want [our marriage] to work. But you know, when Joe comes home, he has to do the right thing. And then we’ll just move on from there.”
She said at the time she was “hopeful” the two would be able to repair their marriage. “Obviously he’s there, he has a lot of time to think,” she said. “There’s a lot of guilt that he feels, and I see the change in the way he’s writing his emails and what he’s saying.”
“We had a great marriage,” she continued. “I’m just upset with him because he wasn’t on top of the finances the way he should have been. He trusted the wrong people. That was really important, because he just made a mess of things.”
2018: Cheating Rumors and the Deportation Nightmare
After allegations surfaced on season 8 of RHONJ that Teresa had cheated on Joe, the Bravo star’s attorney James J. Leonard Jr. refuted reports that the couple’s marriage was on the rocks.
“People need to let this family live their lives. Enough is enough,” he told PEOPLE in January 2018. “No one is cheating, no one is getting divorced. The truth is they can’t wait to be together again.”
Leonard said at the time that Teresa and Joe were stronger than ever despite their tribulations.
“These last few years have been very challenging and very difficult,” he said. “Both Joe and Teresa have each lost a parent, have both experienced incarceration and have both been without one another for long periods of time. I can tell you from having deeply personal conversations with both of them, what they want more than anything is to be together with one another and their children and move forward to brighter days as a family.”
On the season 8 finale, viewers heard from Teresa as she recounted receiving something she has been seeking from her incarcerated husband: an apology.
“He was like, ‘Teresa, do you read my letters and do you read my emails? I’ve said that to you so many times,'” she recalled. “He was like, ‘I’m so sorry. I’ll never let anything like this ever happen again.’ And then I started crying and he started crying and then he hugged me and the girls were crying.”
“It seemed sincere,” she said. “It’s sad, you know? … But listen, not everyone’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. He better make it up to me when he gets home.”
And on the reunion, Teresa insisted that calling it quits wasn’t an option, telling host Andy Cohen that there was never even a conversation in which she thought, “Am I going to stay in this?” And she asserted that she wasn’t a pushover when it came to Joe.
“I don’t take s—. So if my husband didn’t treat me the right way, trust me, I would not take it,” she said. “I always put my husband in his place. For real.”
Asked at the time about the looming threat that authorities might deport Joe back to his native Italy after his sentence ended in March 2019, Teresa stayed optimistic. “I mean, Italy’s a beautiful place to live,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind, you know, I’m just saying. Whatever God has planned for me, that’s what’s going to happen. I will embrace it the best I can.”
In October 2018, an immigration court did rule to deport Joe after his release. Even though he has lived in America since he was a child, he never obtained citizenship, and immigrants can be deported from the United States if they are convicted of “a crime of moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony,” according to U.S. law.
“Of course I’m very angry [at Joe],” Teresa told PEOPLE a month after the court’s ruling. “I wish my husband would have crossed every T, dotted every I. … He’s lost three years with his children.”
2019: The Beginning of the End
As the months went on, Teresa became more and more realistic about the fate of their marriage should Joe be deported, admitting on RHONJ‘s season 9 reunion in March 2019 that she was “not doing a long-distance relationship.”
“I’m not doing it. I want somebody with me every day,” she said. “I know exactly what happens — I’m sure he’ll be with other women. It happens. You do the long-distance thing, it’s not going to work. I’d be like, ‘Bye bye.'”
She also said moving to Italy with their four daughters just wasn’t in the cards.
“Unless my kids say, ‘Mommy, we want to move to Italy,’ [we] are not going],” she said. “It’s like starting a whole new life, and they’ve been through so much already.”
The unraveling of the relationship continued on the season 10 premiere in October, as Teresa questioned whether she was still in love, confessing she hadn’t “been happy in so long.”
We finally heard from Joe himself during a bombshell joint interview with the couple on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen on Oct. 27. Appearing via satellite from Salerno, Italy, Joe admitted he was also uncertain about their future.
“If we stay together, we stay together, if we don’t, we don’t,” he said. “It’s a conversation, we’ll see. … As long as she’s happy, that’s all that really matters. I’m not going to tell her what to do. If she doesn’t feel like she wants to be with me anymore, then that’s the thing to do.”
And while both doubted that the other had been faithful, they maintained that they still loved each other.
“Of course, she’s my wife,” Joe said. “I’ve been with her a long time. No matter what happens, I’ll always love her.
“I do love him as a person,” Teresa said. “I do care about him, I love him.”
Still, she reiterated she would have no choice but to divorce Joe if he has to stay in Italy full-time.
“I want to wake up with someone every single day,” she said. “I think [our daughters] get it. I don’t think they want to see it happen, obviously, but I think they understand. Because the way I explained it to them, how are we going to live apart? I don’t think he would be faithful. I think he would have someone there and have me here. I just don’t want to live that life.”
In November, Teresa and the girls arrived in Italy to visit Joe, reuniting as a family for the first time since his release. Bravo cameras are filming the trip for an upcoming special.
“It was really great to reunite with Joe and see how happy the girls were to see their dad,” she told PEOPLE after the trip. “It was all about the girls, and we just had the best time with them. We’re just going to take day by day and see what happens.”
The future of their marriage was still up in the air, Teresa said: “I mean, he lives in Italy, I live in America. I don’t know if that’s going to work.”
She admitted she still harbors resentment towards her husband after watching their daughters suffer.
“Me and Joe can make it through anything. We’re adults,” she said. “But it affects the kids. And that’s what breaks my heart. That’s why I was kind of really resentful towards Joe and I’m like, ‘Why’d you make this happen to our kids, too?'”
Up next for the family, the girls will be visiting their dad for Christmas in Italy, while Teresa will staying home in New Jersey with her father, according to a source. Neither Teresa nor Joe has publicly addressed the news of their split.