"There were two completely different realities — I lived in one. Danielle lived in the other," Sorbello tells PEOPLE

By Aurelie Corinthios
December 28, 2018 12:50 PM
Bob D'Amico/Getty; Steve Mack/SplashNews.com; D Dipasupil/FilmMagic

This reality TV love triangle has come to a head.

After news broke this week that The Challenge: Vendettas champion Cara Maria Sorbello and Ex on the Beach/Big Brother alum Paul Calafiore had split, Sorbello, 32, is speaking out.

In an exclusive statement to PEOPLE, Sorbello addresses her relationship with Calafiore, 30, which began earlier this year while the two were filming The Challenge: Final Reckoning — and while he was still dating The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise alum Danielle Maltby.

RELATED: Bachelor Alum Danielle Maltby Says She’s Been ‘Slowly Draining’ Since Ex Paul Calafiore Cheated

Though Calafiore and Maltby, 33, split after the cheating scandal was made public in June, they continued to see each other — all while he pursued an “open relationship” with Sorbello. According to both Sorbello and Maltby, who provided screenshots of their text exchanges with Calafiore over several months to PEOPLE, Calafiore was two-timing both of them.

“There were two completely different realities,” says Sorbello. “I lived in one. Danielle lived in the other.”

“At the start of our flirting, Paulie made jokes about his girlfriend being the type to ‘hold the video camera,'” she continues. “He would regularly flirt and make sexual innuendos with me. After nine weeks of flirting with each other, he gave me the key to his room after a chess match while in the holding time between the Challenge house and the final. I went to his room and waited for him. He made sure no one was around and came to me. This is when we first hooked up. May 14. I am not proud of my actions. I was selfish and didn’t think of Danielle. I didn’t know her. … However, I chose to be with him. What I did was shameful.”

According to Sorbello, Calafiore promised he would call Maltby “as soon as he got his phone after the final and tell her everything because he fell for me.”

“After filming ended, he told me he did just what he promised,” she says. “He said he told her EVERYTHING that happened and that he wanted to be with me. I found it honorable that he owned up to his actions. I was lost in my own happiness and excitement of this new budding relationship. I didn’t question a thing.”

“He told me he needed to maintain a friendship with Danielle because she was a good human and in a bad place. I easily let him do that,” she continues. “I never knew about Mexico, Labor Day, or California where he met with her the day before we flew for this recent Challenge. I had suspicions about Mexico due to messages from a fan account but he denied being there and told me a different story. He was angry with me for even entertaining the thought that he could do that.”

“I never knew he was texting her that he loved her and was doing everything with me so he could further his Challenge career to make money for their future,” she insists. “I never knew all the things he was telling her especially after filming this season. I believed everything he told me because he never treated me badly. He was loving and physically and verbally affectionate. I’ve never been more happy and in love.”

RELATED: Danielle Maltby Addresses Paulie Calafiore and Cara Maria Sorbello’s Romance

After uncovering the truth with Maltby, Sorbello was shocked.

“I still didn’t want to believe it but the evidence is all there,” she says. “He kept telling me he loved me and that she was lying about everything. He wanted us to be together. However, I couldn’t move forward because there was still no true honesty. If we really were in an ‘open’ relationship why go to such great lengths to lie?”

“He pushed the open relationship agenda to the public because he said it would save us from trolls trying to tear apart what we had. WE knew what we had. Regardless, the point of open is honest communication,” she adds. “He had always told me I was the only girl he ever wanted to be with and that he couldn’t even look at another girl. He was the only man I wanted. I was all-in completely and we were supposed to move in together after New Year’s.”

Sorbello says she’s “so thankful” for Maltby.

“She saved me. We are not victims. We are not stupid,” she says. “We believed in the beautiful dream Paulie was selling because we loved him. We wanted it to be true and ignored anything telling us different. When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”

“All we wanted was honesty,” she continues. “Me and Danielle stand together. We are coming out with our story for no other reason than to hopefully stop this from happening to another girl.”

Nevertheless, Sorbello says she doesn’t regret her time with Calafiore, “because while I was in the dream, I was incredibly happy.”

“I do regret that I took equal part in the pain Danielle had to live through when I first was with him,” she says. “I realize we all make our choices and are all responsible for our own lives. I intend on working on myself for a long time before I even think of ever letting another person close again. Lesson learned.”

Cara Maria Sorbello/Instagram

In a statement to PEOPLE, Calafiore says: “I can’t go back and rewrite history.”

“I can see now how what I thought was helping was actually wrong to be doing to Danielle. I didn’t know how serious Cara and I were at the time when we were open, but I will do anything it takes to mend what is wrong and win her back,” he says. “I’ve never loved someone the way I love Cara and I’m not just going to let that die.”

Maltby, who vied for Nick Viall‘s heart on The Bachelor in 2017, is also sharing her side of the story in a statement to PEOPLE.

“Cara and I have been living two very different and eerily similar lives,” she says. “We have spent the last several days speaking and sending each other the messages and pictures, slowly piecing things together.”

“I know there will be people that ask, ‘How could I not have known?’ ” she continues. “Paulie demonized Cara to me, just like he had done with all of his exes. Convinced me not to look at articles because Cara put them out and he knew nothing about them. Would get irritated when I’d ask him about things or he’d smooth talk me. I cannot say enough how embarrassed I am at how fully he was able to convince me. I had deleted Twitter from my phone. I’d block, unblock and block Cara. I never saw what she posted, and Paulie was careful about what he would post. Claiming Cara was doing it for the show and he had to play along for MTV. That he needed this show to change the public perception of him. He never once told me he wanted to be with her. He told me he wanted us to be private to protect me because it would make me look terrible. Well, he was right about that.”

Maltby said she had been trying to “heal” while Calafiore was filming the upcoming season of The Challenge earlier this fall.

“I used this time away from him to try and heal and move forward and be prepared that he might not do what he told me he was going to, which was end things with her on the show,” she says. “I was trying to move my life forward. When he got his phone back, I believed him when he told me they went their separate ways and we were still on track. I was surprised, admittedly excited, that he had finally done what he said he was going to do. We FaceTimed multiple times a day.”

Then, when a fan account sent her screenshots of Calafiore and Sorbello’s exchanges on Instagram, Maltby hit her limit.

“I was so hurt and angry with myself,” she says. “It’s what numerous people tried to warn me of. He had the same patterns with all his exes and he villainized all of them. He was always the victim. I hate that I believed him. I realized I didn’t just have to get the truth out there for me, I had to get it out there for Cara because she deserves that respect. I freely admit I hadn’t thought highly of her but Paulie never spoke highly of her to me either.”

“I’m thankful I was finally able to speak with Cara and we came together as two strong women looking for answers and we were able to give them to each other,” she continues. “We were able to validate each other and stand with each other. Something I wish I would have been more receptive to and able to do when his ex Lexi [Marsella] tried reaching out. I hear you Lexi, and I am so sorry for the pain I caused you. I wish I would have been able to hear you over him.”

“Cara has helped me to find the peace I needed to fully move forward when Paulie would never let me,” she adds. “I am beyond grateful for her strength and courage.”

Danielle Maltby/Instagram

Maltby also addressed Calafiore’s claims that she was suicidal, which he made during a 30-minute Instagram Live on Thursday.

“I am a huge proponent of mental health and I take mine very seriously,” she says. “I find it extremely disgusting that someone would use that as a defense so flippantly, not just on me, but on others he has dated and also threatened himself. I have lost friends to suicide. Shame on him for throwing that out there as an excuse to act like this. We all feel and process things differently. I have never wanted to leave this world, and certainly not over him.”

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