Liz McNeil
March 21, 2011 12:00 PM

Given her jam-packed schedule, it’s not surprising that Bethenny Frankel long ago learned to plan every detail of her life-including romance. For her upcoming Saturday date night with husband Jason Hoppy, “we’re going to have a couple of cocktails, and I’ll come home and put on lingerie,” says Frankel matter-of-factly, curled up on the sofa in her Manhattan apartment in baggy snowflake pajamas and wool socks while nursing a margarita. Though her military-style precision may take some of the luster off the occasion, “that’s the thing about being a newlywed and a new mom. I don’t mean to make it sound like a Saturday chore, but date night and lingerie takes an effort.”

Surviving, and thriving, during the past hectic 12 months has also been quite an effort for the famously frank reality star, 40. Frankel left The Real Housewives of New York City and launched her own reality spinoff-now called Bethenny Ever After, which just began season 2 on Bravo-while juggling a new marriage (she and Hoppy wed last March) and a new baby girl (Bryn, 10 months). Through it all, “the biggest struggle for me is to have a successful relationship,” she says. “I’m annoying to be around, and he isn’t Mr. Perfect. But we love each other.”

She and Hoppy, 39, a sales exec, met in 2008 just as her career was taking off with Housewives. “You get married, and you’re from two different worlds,” she says. “You have to figure out how to come together.” That means finding a balance between her booming career and a peaceful family life. “I was always looking for someone to take care of me,” she admits of her previous plans for a Leave It to Beaver sort of marriage. “But now that I can take care of myself, it messes with everyone’s head a bit. It feels awkward.”

But Hoppy gives her something that money can’t buy: unconditional support. “Jason says being taken care of isn’t financial; it’s emotional,” Frankel says. Adds her longtime friend, Sarah Lacharlotte: “She trusts him. She is able to let her defenses down with him.”

In fact, his unhappiness with the escalating craziness of the Housewives last year helped Frankel realize it was time to leave the show. “He didn’t want anything to do with [Housewives], and I felt embarrassed,” says Frankel, who still hasn’t spoken to her Housewives BFF-gone-bad Jill Zarin since their fallout last season. “It’s like a high school I’m happy to have left.”

But instead of taking some much needed time off last fall, Frankel signed on for ABC’s reality ice-skating competition Skating with the Stars, which required hitting the rink for four hours a day and flying to L.A. each week-all while shooting Bethenny Ever After. “I was waking at 6 and coming back a zombie,” she says. “I was painfully thin [she dropped to 111 lbs. from her usual weight of 117], and I was dragging my family with me. It was a selfish act … but [once I signed up] I had to follow through.”

But for how much longer? Frankel can envision a day when reality cameras are out of her life for good: “It is certainly not my goal that this is going to last forever,” she says. “I’m tired.” She also wants to savor every moment with Bryn. “I have an addiction to being with her,” says Frankel, adding that she and Hoppy hope to give her a sibling. “We got pregnant pretty easily the first time, but I don’t know if we will be as lucky this time. We’ll have to see what’s in store for us.”

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