Vanderpump Rules‘ Ariana Madix is revealing how she worked through her self-esteem and body image issues that resulted from a past emotionally abusive relationship.
The reality star opened up this season about how the lasting effects from that relationship caused a sexual “dry spell” with her current boyfriend Tom Sandoval, but Madix says that things are better now that she has talked about it.
“There’s still things that I definitely struggle with,” Madix, 32, tells PEOPLE. “But I definitely thinks it’s better. I think it’s better, but it’s not perfect.”
During the Jan. 8 show, Madix said that in her past relationship she was asked questions that broke down her confidence, like, “Why do you wear that?” and “How come you don’t look like those girls?”
“I think that talking about it has actually really helped me,” Madix says. “Tom and I would talk about stuff like that, but it’s different than the way you’re able to talk to your girlfriends. I think for a while I was kind of placing this huge burden on Tom because he was the only person that knew the extent of things. Being able to talk about it really alleviated some of the pressure I was putting on Tom to handle all of this and it allowed us to get back to a [better] place.”
Though Madix describes talking about her issues on the show as “terrifying,” she’s happy she did it because of the support she’s received from fans, some of whom said they’ve been in similar situations.
“It’s just so crazy how we hold these secrets in or how we hold these feeling in and we don’t talk about them,” she says. “Then once you start talking about it, you realize that there are so many of us that have gone through similar things. And it helps that we’re in it together.”
Sandoval, 34, says he couldn’t be prouder of his girlfriend for sharing her story.
Meanwhile, Madix and Sandoval also shared their take on the drama that went down when their costars James Kennedy and Lala Kent revealed they had an audio recording of Jax Taylor allegedly telling Faith Stowers that he’s “never going to marry” girlfriend Brittany Cartwright.
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“I think that Jax is obviously going through a really hard time right now with the loss of his dad, and I think that he and Brittany, they really do love each other, and I know that she is so in love with him, and obviously, it’s a tough situation,” Madix says. “It’s hard because everyone thinks that they should tell Brittany what she should do, and I just think she’s happy, and I hope that they are growing, and I just want the best for her.”
Sandoval adds: “We could be wrong, but they seem to be doing a lot better.”
While Sandoval wasn’t surprised that Taylor and Cartwright stayed together, Madix says she “thought for sure [Cartwright] was done.”
“I totally thought [that] when she was trying to get him to stay in a hotel,” Madix says. “It was when she revealed that he had not been staying in a hotel and, in fact, they had been sleeping together, that’s when I started to get very confused as to what exactly was going on and what was it that she wanted. I think that’s why a lot of the girls were advocating for them to break up, because she was telling us that’s what she wanted. I think when she was around other people, or when she was around Jax, she was saying something else.”
The two agree that they never saw Scheana Marie and Rob Valletta’s split coming last October.
“I didn’t expect them to break up,” Madix says. “I don’t know. I guess in hindsight, when I look back, I kind of see where I maybe missed things that were right in front of my face that kind of pointed in that direction already, but in that time, I honestly didn’t. I thought for sure they were going to stay together for however long. Definitely longer than they did.”
Sandoval agrees: “They seemed very into each other.”
While the Vanderpump Rules stars have seen some relationships come to an end, fans are about to see a great one begin with SUR’s new hostess Billie Lee, who is transgender.
“Billie is such a light and such a wonderful person to be around, and I think everyone feels that,” Madix says. “It has always been difficult for me to interact with people knowing that they’re not my friends or don’t necessarily have my best interests in mind. Scheana and I obviously went through a hard time on the show, and it took us a while to get back to a good place, so it’s just so great to have one of my good girlfriends on the show with me.”
“I think we’re going to probably wait until May [to open], which happens to be usually when we start filming Vanderpump Rules,” Sandoval says. “The place is coming along really well. It’s a little bit different this time because Ken and Lisa are working with a designer based out of Vegas, so everything is being made offsite. Once it’s all ready to go, it’s going to come together within like two weeks. Really fast.”
Madix, who’s also a SUR bartender, says she won’t be involved in the opening … unless one job is open: “I’m not applying unless it’s to be the taste tester. That is the one position I will fight for.”
Vanderpump Rules airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.