Carlton Gebbia Talks Separating from 'Soulmate of 20 Years': 'He Was My Everything'
The couple publicly confirmed their yearlong separation on Aug. 25
Carlton Gebbia is opening up about why she and her husband David Gebbia chose to separate after nearly two decades of marriage.
Two weeks following news of the couple’s split, Gebbia exclusively tells PEOPLE that although she has “experienced every conceivable emotion similar to the grieving process” throughout the past 12 months, she and her husband are “finally on the same page.”
“It was never a verbal decision between him and I. It just sort of happened naturally. It was a gradual breakup of our relationship over a period of time,” Gebbia says of her 47-year-old husband. “This man was my soulmate for 20 years and never would I have imagined this. He was my everything, but we’ve been together a long time. …[It] is wonderful now to know that we can still continue to be partners because we had always worked so well together in the past.”
Though Gebbia, 42, only appeared on RHOBH for one season, she credits her experience on the Bravo reality series to strengthening her marriage.
“I have to add, because I have heard about the Housewives curse, my experience with Bravo and the show actually made my relationship with David stronger,” Gebbia tells PEOPLE. “He has always had my back, but this was like a different animal. We had a partnership and worked really well together.”
Citing him as her “best friend,” Gebbia met her businessman husband when she ran the retirement plan department of a stock brokerage company that his family purchased. Twenty years and three children later, – Destiny, 14, Mysteri, 12 and Cross, 5 – the couple has intentionally decided to live under the same roof for the emotional health of their family.
“We’ve always been very close and loving as a loving family. David and I both knew that if we decided to live in separate homes, which would end up in divorce, it would literally destroy and devastate our children. We’ve been together way too long, been the best of friends and business partners. We really have been amazing parents proudly raising the most beautiful and well-adjusted children,” Gebbia says of her three offspring.
She adds: “But we were not prepared to screw it up now just because we fell out of love. We didn’t want to split up the family dynamic. What we do know is, for our family, that it works right now. And it may not be for everyone, but for us it’s positive and it’s actually healing for us.”
While Gebbia doesn’t have a timeline for how long the couple will continue to live separated in the same home, she says, “It’s truly a work in progress,” and adds, “I know that the love and stability we give to our children is paramount to anything else. Our priority is to be the best parents we’ve always been together.”
Of telling their children – who “were very aware that all was not good between” the duo – about their decision to separate, Gebbia says the couple was honest.
“We just put our conflicts aside and knew that we owed them answers, otherwise they would start imagining the worst and, God forbid, start blaming themselves. What we did decide together was we told them that we weren’t going to get divorced; we would continue to live as a family under the same roof; and although that we weren’t in love anymore, it didn’t mean that we didn’t love one another,” Gebbia says. “I think it was one of the most heartbreaking things that when we did tell them this that I just remember seeing the relief in their faces – like a weight was lifted – and the happiness in their eyes. It was really very painful to watch because it’s the realization that this was the right thing for us.”
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Looking to the future, Gebbia is uncertain about the couple’s relationship and what is to come, but she credits her experience on RHOBH to learning another life lesson.
“The one thing that I learned ironically from Housewives – which I said I would never ever do reality – is never to say ‘never.’ Ultimately, there’s no end game here. We’re just working together as a team, I guess, in the most positive way we know how. I mean, he will always be one of the most amazing men I’ve ever known and I will always consider him my soulmate. When I met him, I called him ‘my destiny’ and I said if we ever had a little girl, that’s what her name would be,” she says. “I think I’m just dealing in the moment.”
Currently living in the family’s Beverly Hills home, the mother of three, who is still designing houses and is “also considering going back into acting” (which she calls “one of [her] passions), says she feels a “sense of relief” that news of the yearlong separation is public: “It felt like I was sort of hiding a lie and a secret and it just didn’t feel good.”
“It is still very, very raw. I still go through the emotions and waves. After being together 20 years, it’s just not something that is buried immediately,” Gebbia tells PEOPLE. She adds, “But as long as our children are happy and we keep running together positively, that is all that I can ask for. I don’t want our children affected by this in a negative way.”