"I think finding that out made me realize 100% closure," Tarek tells PEOPLE exclusively

By Mackenzie Schmidt
January 25, 2019 05:24 PM
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Credit: HGTV

Tarek El Moussa found out about his ex Christina’s December wedding with the rest of the world — when a photo of the surprise ceremony appeared online. But his reaction was completely unexpected, even to him.

“It was actually the night they got married,” the Flip or Flop star tells PEOPLE of the moment he learned she’d tied the knot with her British beau of just over a year, Ant Anstead. “I was sitting on the couch and then I started getting texts from people showing me a photo online of her wedding. That’s how I found out.”

He admits he was shocked by the nuptials, saying “I would say it was kind of out of the blue.” But, the HGTV star says he wasn’t angry or resentful.

Credit: Tarek El Moussa/Instagram

“When I first got them, I just sat there for a few minutes and thought about things, and it was kind of like a release. It was kind of like, I was really okay with it. I was happy with it,” he says.

He also decided to reach out to his former wife of seven years, with whom he shares two children — Taylor, 8, and Brayden, 2. “I messaged both of them,” he says of Christina, who is changing her last name to Anstead, and Ant. “I said congratulations the same night.”

And they both replied, he says, with a simple, “Thank you.”

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After he and Christina split publicly under dramatic circumstances in December 2016, Tarek says learning of Christina’s wedding helped him wrap up a chapter of his life.

“I think finding that out made me realize 100% closure,” he explains. “It was a moment of clarity, actually. I was at peace, it was weird.”

He also notes that the occasion actually inspired him to make some significant changes in his own life as a single dad. “It just kind of [made me realize] it’s time for me to work on me and keep going with my new life, which I’ve already done.”

Credit: Rich Lander/CHARD Photo

Tarek purchased a new home for himself and his kids in Costa Mesa, California, in March 2018. On Wednesday, HGTV announced he’s also shooting a pilot for a new solo show and a web series for the network, both coming in 2019.

His ex’s love story even sparked the desire to seek out a serious relationship of his own.

“I’m still on my own, so maybe it’s time to make some changes. Maybe it’s time to look for love. I don’t know,” he says, noting, it’s “the opposite effect of what most would think.”

Christina and Ant married at her home in Newport Beach, California, in front of a surprised group of family and friends. They began dating in the fall of 2017 after being introduced by a mutual friend. Anstead also has two children, Archie, 12, and Amelie, 15, from a previous marriage. Christina has called them all a “blended family.”