'The Real' 's Jeannie Mai Reflects on Her 10-Year Marriage to Freddy Harteis: 'I Was Too Young'

"I made choices where my instincts told me, 'I don't know about this,' but I didn't listen," Jeannie Mai tells PEOPLE

The Real star Jeannie Mai is opening up about her “draining” divorce from fellow TV host Freddy Harteis after 10 years of marriage.

In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, Mai admits that in hindsight, she wasn’t ready to wed.

“I was really young,” says Mai, 40. “I made choices where my instincts told me, ‘I don’t know about this,’ but I didn’t listen. He was a great guy and we tried our best, but we just weren’t compatible by the end.”

She adds that until their wedding day, “We hadn’t ever lived together. We weren’t even intimate with each other, in a sexual sense.”

Freddy harteis and jeannie mai
John Sciulli/WireImage
jeannie mai
Paul Archuleta/Getty

The couple announced their split in October 2017. The divorce proceedings took an ugly turn as the estranged pair battled over finances and Harteis revealed he was expecting a baby with his girlfriend just six months after the separation.

“I just learned the greatest lesson, which is you truly learn who a person is when they don’t get what they want,” she says.

About a year ago, the divorce became final, and Mai found new love with rapper and philanthropist Jeezy. What feels different about this relationship?

jeezy and jeannie mai
Jeannie and Jeezy.

“I would say being responsible about making each other feel safe,” explains Mai, who has said her experience being sexually abused by a family member as a child gave her trust issues. (She discusses that and more on her YouTube show, Hello Hunnay, and podcast, Listen Hunnay. She is also dedicated to fighting human trafficking around the world, and is executive-producing a sequel to her documentary, Stopping Traffic: The Movement to End Sex-Trafficking.)

  • For more on Jeannie Mai, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Wednesday
12/9/19 cover featuring Tom Hanks

And she’s never felt more fulfilled in herself, her career and her relationship with her family.

“I’m a freak for love. Love for others. Love for my passions and love for the constant discovery of myself,” she says. “As long as what I’m doing guides me in one of those areas, I will always feel like the richest person I know.”

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