The first part of the Real Housewives of Orange County reunion came to an emotional conclusion on Monday when Shannon Beador, who has been separated from her husband David Beador since September, revealed for the first time that he was the one who made the decision to end their marriage of 17 years.
“We went on a trip to Hawaii which I kind of hoped would bring us back together, but he left the trip early. And when I came home, he said, ‘We’re done,’ ” Shannon told reunion host Andy Cohen, recounting the painful moment she knew their relationship was over.
Though the choice took Shannon by surprise, she admitted she was aware their marriage was in trouble and had told David they needed to make a change. “I did have a conversation with him at the beginning of the summer that I just couldn’t keep living this way,” Shannon said. “For months he lived in the separate end of the house. It was like I was living with a stranger.”
That didn’t make David’s desire to go their separate ways easy. “I said to David when he told me it was over, ‘What happened? We had a couple of amazing years.’ And he goes, ‘We had a couple good months,’ ” Shannon said, wiping away tears. “It was just a knife in the heart.”
As PEOPLE reported exclusively in late October, the 53-year-old reality star broke the news about the state of her marriage to her fellow Orange County Housewives at the reunion. And while she explained to them the separation was “heartbreaking” and “not what I wanted,” Shannon confessed it was ultimately a positive move not only for her, but also for daughters Sophie, 15, and twins Stella and Adeline, 12.
“It’s been really, really hard but I’m a mom and I’m a role model for my kids and it got to the point where I wasn’t teaching my daughters positive lessons,” Shannon said. “They deserve a happy and joyful home and that’s where we are now. … It is my job now to show the girls — I’m scared, I’m 53 years old, it’s the first time I’ve been out on my own, but I can do it.”
The Beador daughters have been living with Shannon full-time since the separation — something Shannon said she’s “grateful for” since she “couldn’t imagine living without [her] girls.” David has been working with Shannon to co-parent their daughters too, joining her and his kids for games at the University of Southern California and a weekly dinner to make the transition easier.
“We’ve agreed for the benefit of our daughters to be amicable,” Shannon said. “It was always a tradition to go to Sunday night dinner so we meet him for dinner on Sunday nights. And we still go to the USC games and take the kids. Which is hard but it’s for the benefit of them.”
It’s been a rollercoaster few years for Shannon and David, as documented through the course of her four seasons on RHOC. In season 10, Shannon revealed that David was unfaithful to her in an affair she learned about days before filming began. The couple then spent time repairing their marriage through therapy and open dialogue with their family.
They appeared to be on track for the better, with David even surprising Shannon with a vow renewal ceremony at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, where they originally said their “I dos” and where David had first proposed to Shannon on her birthday. But in the past year, David began getting distant — often choosing to hit the gym rather than spend time with Shannon and the kids.
Adding to the problem was that Shannon had been battling a 40-lb. weight gain, which occurred over a year of emotional stress-eating in the wake of false allegations made by Vicki Gunvalson last season that David “beat the s—” out of Shannon. As Beador said on the show, the weight “disgusted” David and created a wedge in her marriage.
Looking back on it all, Shannon acknowledged that she never truly got over David’s affair and would often pretend she was over it as David appeared reinvested in their marriage. “When you’re happy, I kept trying to convince myself, ‘You’re the happiest you’ve ever been so it’s all okay about the affair,’ ” Shannon said. “And [his affair was] not okay.”
Things got even more confusing when David pulled away after their vow renewal. “It’s just very difficult to go from the highest of the high that you can even imagine,” Shannon said. “Now I know what a good marriage is supposed to be, I know what it’s like when someone looks at you adoring and cares, and then all of a sudden when that’s taken away?”
Holding Shannon’s hand throughout much of the emotional discussion was close friend Tamra Judge — though she wasn’t the only one on Shannon’s side. Former friend (and longtime rival) Gunvalson was in shock by the news and took the moment to apologize to Shannon and offer support.
“I’m sad about it because I didn’t know and I thought they were doing really good,” Gunvalson told Cohen, then addressing Shannon. “If I was responsible for any of it, I’d feel awful. If I could take back that day if I was hurting because you weren’t talking to me… I’m so sorry. We’ve been through bumpiness but I want the very best for you.”
Her words were comforting, but Shannon made it clear this wasn’t about Gunvalson. “You are not the person that caused David and I separating,” Shannon told Gunvalson. “There were issues in our marriage from the beginning.”
That didn’t stop Gunvalson from offering a helping hand. “I did not expect this so I’m in shock and I’m sad for you,” Gunvalson told Shannon, “But you got a bunch of ladies here and we’re going to be here for you. Living in a terrible marriage and being sad and being scared — that’s not life. You deserve an incredible partner.”
The news finally out, it was clear a weight has been lifted from Shannon’s shoulders. Still, as the ladies took a break and went to lunch, Shannon made it clear to Judge that there were still hurdles ahead.
“It’s real now because I said it… I just feel sick to my stomach, ” she said. “The thing that’s going to kill me is the first time [David’s] on a date with another girl and I find out. That’s going to kill me. Because I already know what that feels like when he’s with someone else.”
The Real Housewives of Orange County season 12 reunion concludes Monday (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.