Last Halloween, Bryan and Jenny Masche, the stars of the WE reality series Raising Sextuplets, looked picture-perfect in their farmer costumes as they walked their six toddlers – all dressed as farm animals – up and down a Lake Havasu, Ariz., block while trick-or-treating.
Afterward, they seemed like the portrait of a happy marriage at Bryan’s parents’ home, where they attended a party dressed as Superman and Superwoman.
“They were hilarious – a darling couple,” family friend Kay Lanzi tells PEOPLE.
But a lot can change in a year.
On Sept. 17, Jenny, 35, filed for legal separation from her husband of six years, Bryan, 32, just days after he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and threatening domestic violence following an argument at Jenny’s parents’ Arizona home about where to take their kids for the day.
“I’m really surprised,” says Lanzi, who has known the couple for some time. “[Bryan] seemed different than what I saw on the show. He was less hands-on in the show than in person. And Jenny is mother of the year.”
A History of Fighting
After welcoming three sons and three daughters on June 11, 2007, Jenny and Bryan opened up their lives for television cameras. But they told PEOPLE in April 2009 – before the show even premiered – that they knew their marriage was far from perfect. They had, they said, even entered marriage counseling.
“We knew marriage was going to be hard no matter what,” Jenny said at the time, adding that the couple had “brutal fights.” “We have ground rules [including] never go to bed angry. So, there [are] some nights we’re up really, really, really late or even all night.”
Relatives point to the Masches’ move from Lake Havasu to Destin, Fla., a big story arc in the show’s second season, as a main source of stress.
“I have no idea why they did it,” says Jenny’s uncle, Sergio Bustamante, who lives in Arizona. “There’s more support here.”
“In Florida, it was rough,” says Jenny’s brother, Jeff Simbric, adding that the couple left because they thought there had been “too much interference from outside people.” “I don’t think they put a lot of thought into it. If they had stuck here with our family support, it would have been better.”
For now, the couple will remain at their parents’ homes in Arizona, where they will care for their children and try to work out their differences.
“If they both get the help they need,” says Jeff Simbric, “they’ll both understand each other better.”
As for the future of the show, a source tells PEOPLE that a third season has not been ordered yet – though that could change.
“We have the ability to make or break [our children] and who they become and the security they have,” Jenny Masche told PEOPLE in 2009.
“The best thing you can give your children is showing a healthy mommy and daddy that love each other,” she said at the time. “We try really, really hard and pray a lot.”
• With reporting by LORENZO BENET
For more on the Masche family drama, pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on stands Friday.