If there’s one word to describe Danielle Staub, it would be “survivor.”
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star has battled everything from table flips and tabloid headlines to ended engagements and even a debilitating health battle with arthritis over her 56 years of life — and has still managed to come out on top.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that she feels confident she’ll survive her divorce from estranged husband Marty Caffrey, who filed in August just four months after their lavish wedding ceremony held on the Bahamas’ North Bimini Island at the Luna Beach Club.
“Fiercely I will push through this and like a warrior,” Staub tells PEOPLE exclusively, over lunch at New York City eatery Tessa. “I will overcome everything like I always do. I will always land on my feet. And I’m not changing who I am. I might end up alone for the rest of my life, but I’ll be happy.”
“I try not to get hung up on everything too much and I try to remember that I have two daughters who are watching me, who I need to lead by example,” she adds. “Every day gets a little bit better and a little bit easier for me. And I’m proud of myself. I’ve come a long way.”
That doesn’t mean she’s not hurt to see her marriage end, especially because their split was so public. Caffrey, 66, started the ball rolling by posting a negative rant about Staub on social media in July. Both subsequently took out temporary restraining orders against the other that same month following a domestic dispute at their New Jersey home, but later dropped them.
“It’s hard enough to go through your problems, but keeping it private would have been nice for me knowing that I do have deep buried trust issues,” Staub says. “Once you do what he did publicly and then refused apologize for it? It’s hard to come back from that.”
Prior to their public problems, the two had been bickering over a variety of things in their relationship, Staub says. Tense dynamics with their blended family (Caffrey has three adult children from a previous relationship) even came into play.
“He doesn’t like me and he doesn’t like my children,” Staub claims. “My kids have never been anything but respectful and lovely towards him even though he hasn’t been the same towards their mom. They don’t have to like him, but they respected him. … I wish that I would have received the same from his children. They have a perception of me from being on TV and I never got a chance to break them of that. It was always, ‘I’ll handle it my way, I know how to handle it.’ But everything gets swept under the rug so much that the table can no longer sit on the floor.”
Eventually, it got to the point where Staub knew there was no turning back.
“I own my part in it,” she admits. “I know I’m not perfect — I’m not hiding from anything that I’ve done. It takes two people for any relationship. He and I both did our damage. But I own everything I do in the moment, when I do it. … If I hurt somebody, I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry’ immediately. … And he was never sincere.”
“I think he just likes the attention of people fighting over him — for him, with him,” she states. “People think that I love to fight and I don’t know how to live like that. I really don’t. I’m very good at my job. But when I go home, I don’t want people say, ‘What are we working now?’ I don’t want people giving me rules. I’m 56 years old. If I want to pick up my phone, I want to pick up my phone. I don’t want anybody thinking that I can be controlled. I wanted somebody who fell in love with me and doesn’t’ want to change me after that. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re supposed to fall in love with who I am.”
Still, despite their problems, Staub says she’s can’t pinpoint exactly went wrong in their marriage.
“I’m extremely disappointed and I really wish that things between he and I would have gotten better,” Staub says. “I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out and pinpoint what the exact reason is. And I can’t tell you. … I don’t know if he and I know what it is. I just think that we both wanted it to be great and it’s just not great.”
“It’s not me. I tried to fix it,” she continues. “I kept thinking this would fix it, that would fix it … but it never did. And all I was doing was just robbing myself of the truth. If it’s this broken, it’s going to stay that way. You can’t fix it. … I literally had to say to him, ‘We can’t talk past this. I’m out of energy. I’m not fighting with you, I’m not fighting for you. I just want to be done.’ I don’t really have anything else in me.”
Caffrey, in a statement to PEOPLE, said, “This is not my world nor do I have any further interest in it. These are manufactured celebrities in manufactured lives who manufacture their own truths. I look forward to getting back to my reality among real people. My loving family and vast amount of friends.”
RELATED VIDEO: The Real Housewives of New Jersey Go Makeup-Free for PEOPLE’s
Meanwhile, Staub is not looking back, except to ask Caffrey to move on too.
“Just let me go,” she says. “Stop trying to hurt me. What else was it for? If everyone in my life goes as gracelessly as they came in, I’d be so grateful. But people have a tendency with me to come in real fast and leave like they’re going to take me down with everything that I might have shared with them. You don’t do that.”
“I wanted to grow old with him. I wanted us to be happy,” she shares. “I wanted a man to stick up for me and say, ‘That’s my wife and I love her.’ He couldn’t do that, so I’m doing it. … I will never throw the first punch, but I will finish the fight.”
And as for that engagement ring? Well, she’s keeping that.
“He’s not getting the ring back,” she laughs. “Nobody can say they want something back they gave to me I didn’t ask for.”
The Real Housewives of New Jersey premieres Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo