From Housewives to the Big House and Back Again: Teresa & Joe Giudice's Emotional Journey to Separation
With their separation news out, here's a look back at the couple's personal and legal ups and downs
When viewers first met Teresa Giudice on The Real Housewives of New Jersey in March 2009, she was described as Dina and Caroline Manzo's friend who loved to shop, get spa treatments and spend time at the Jersey Shore with her three young daughters and husband, Joe, who owned a successful construction business. They lived in a brand new $1.7 million, 10,000-sq.-ft. mansion, and the pregnant mom soon gained a reputation as a big spender (dropping more than $120,000 on furniture for a single room). But that October, the couple filed for bankruptcy, claiming they were $10.98 million in debt.
Drama, Drama, Drama
It wasn't long before the Jersey native's ugly side came out as she argued with costar Danielle Staub over Staub's sketchy past. The feud led to Giudice's infamous wild-eyed, table-flipping freak-out on the season 1 finale, in which she upended a fully loaded dinner table while declaring Staub a "prostitution whore."
"She just snapped," Caroline Manzo admitted. "We all have our breaking points." Giudice, however, said her husband Joe was "really turned on" by her display. "When we went home we really got it on," she smiled. "I was like, 'I should flip tables more often.'"
Building Her Career
After giving birth to her fourth daughter Audriana, Teresa got herself a new body — upping from an A cup to a C — and a new career as a cookbook author. Her first book, Skinny Italian, published in May 2010, became a New York Times Best-Seller. She also released a cocktail and hair care line, but her sudden success caused friction among her castmates. As new Housewives — including her sister-in-law Melissa Gorga and cousin Kathy Wakile — joined the show, Giudice fought with them too, prompting former friend Jacqueline Laurita to tweet, "Teresa is scum!"
Trouble at Home
Her career was riding high, but Giudice's personal life hit a low as she and Joe continued to struggle with their bankruptcy filing. A sale of their personal effects was scheduled and then canceled amid claims that they had hidden assets and undervalued items.
Even more worrying for Giudice was her husband's January 2010 DUI arrest, which led to him being sent to jail later that year to serve 10 days for driving with a suspended license. He was arrested again in 2011 for fraudulently obtaining a new license using his brother's ID (and faced up to 10 years in prison).
Giudice also laughed off rumors that "Juicy Joe," as she nicknamed him, was a cheater who may have fathered a love child. But rumors of his infidelity surfaced again in 2013.
The couple's money issues reached a whole new level of trouble when they were both indicted on federal fraud charges on July 29, 2013. They were accused of exaggerating their income while applying for loans before the Real Housewives debuted, then hiding their improved fortunes in their bankruptcy filing.
They learned their fate on Oct. 2, 2014: In addition to probation and fines, Teresa was sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud, while Joe (who was told he was also facing "imminent deportation" back to Italy) was sentenced to 41 months. Her term began first, on Jan. 5, 2015.
"My daughters are my life. I'm more sorry than anyone will ever know. I will make this right no matter what," she said in a tearful statement read in court. "I'm really scared … It's time for me to wake up."
Life in Prison
Giudice, who served an 11-month sentence, opened up to PEOPLE about her harrowing experience in prison, including the moment she realized her prison room was a hub of sexual activity and the workout plan that got her down to a size 2.
"The ladies were getting it on so much that our room became known as the Boom Boom Room," she shared. Giudice stayed focused by working out three times a day, doing everything from running on the track to lifting weights and exercise classes. "It got me through this whole ordeal, and I can't live without it now." (She started entering bodybuilding contests not long after her release.)
For her 43rd birthday, her inmate friends surprised her with a special dinner of chicken, linguine and cookies.
An Emotional Homecoming
Teresa was released from Danbury Correctional Facility on Dec. 23, 2015. In a sneak peek at the 2016 premiere of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, her four daughters eagerly awaited her return.
Giudice's oldest daughter Gia — who helped her father take care of her younger sisters while Teresa was away — urged a groggy Milania to get up and dressed for her mom, eventually warning her younger sis: "I swear to God, if you make your mother's picture taken by a paparazzi, you're going to be in so much trouble."
Since her return, Giudice told PEOPLE, home life has been a love fest. "It's been a whirlwind," she said, adding that she was getting "lots of hugs and kisses. In one day I'd say like over a hundred kisses."
Reuniting with RHONJ Stars, Including Jacqueline Laurita and Melissa Gorga
"Teresa and I have a roller coaster friendship," Laurita told PEOPLE in 2016. "It's a love/hate relationship. Not all people will understand it." Laurita returned to season 7 after taking a break from the show, stating she was "trying to figure out who's sincere and who's genuine — I'm all about real relationships, I'm not about TV friends."
As for her relationship with Giudice, it truly does seem to be love/hate. "I've been friends with Teresa for 13 years, so there are definitely things that I love about her or I never would have been friends with her that long ... but there are also things that frustrate the crap out of me," Laurita admitted. She also told PEOPLE that prison didn't seem to change her pal. "People don't change who they are overnight. You might want to change and you might try to change but you are who you are, and Teresa's Teresa!"
Joe Goes to Prison
Teresa's husband, whom she married in 1999, began his 41-month prison sentence in March 2016, after turning himself into the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix for fraud. Giudice's primary concern was maintaining stability for her four daughters — Gia, Gabriella, Milania and Audriana.
"I think about it like there's people in the military that are not there for everything," she told PEOPLE in 2016. "Of course he would be there if he could … as long as we have our health, that's all that matters. When you have your health, you have everything."
But it hasn't been easy: While discussing her husband's prison sentence in a July 2016 ABC News interview, she teared up and turned away from the cameras. "I'm getting emotional," she said. "No, I think our future is not uncertain," Giudice added, after gaining composure. "He's gonna be home, we're gonna be together, and that's that I'm looking forward to."
Joe Gets Deported
As time passed on Joe's sentence — with Teresa speaking out about how tough life is without him, and the couple's bankruptcy case dismissed — shocking news came to the family in October 2018 when a judge ruled that Joe would be deported when he finished his prison sentence in 2019.
Even though Giudice has lived in America since he was a child, he never obtained American citizenship, and immigrants can be deported from the United States if they are convicted of “a crime of moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony,” according to U.S. law. He appealed the deportation ruling, but in April 2019, the Board of Immigration Appeals denied his request.
His deportation was temporarily delayed and in May 2019, a judge ruled that he could stay in the United States as the legal battle continued.
During January’s RHONJ reunion, Teresa seemed optimistic when asked about the possibility that her husband would be sent back to Italy — and implied she’d move there with him.
However, she ultimately said they will go their separate ways if and when he is deported.
“I’m not doing a long distance relationship. I’m not doing it,” Teresa told Andy Cohen. “I want somebody with me every day.”
“I know exactly what happens — I’m sure he’ll be with other women. It happens,” she added, also citing her daughters' busy lives in New Jersey. “You do the long-distance thing, it’s not going to work. I’d be like, ‘Bye bye.' "
Joe Goes to Italy
After his March 2019 release from prison, Joe was taken into ICE custody as his deportation case continued. Teresa and their daughters visited him there that May, on his 47th birthday.
“Teresa is great spirits. She’s very happy that Joe’s out of ICE and grateful that her girls can FaceTime him to see him and talk to him so easily now,” a source told PEOPLE. “The kids have missed their father so much and now that he’s free, it feels like a weight has been lifted off them. They’re ready to turn the page and start this new chapter.”
The source added, “Joe’s mood has changed too. He’s much happier than he’s been the past few months. But know this — no one wants this as their new normal. Teresa, the girls, and Joe all want Joe home in Jersey. They’re praying he wins his appeal to come back.”
Teresa said the couple will “be sitting down with @Andy to discuss everything that has been happening with us and our family the past few months" in a Bravo special, airing Sunday night, Oct. 27, as Joe — pictured here in Rome with family — told Bravo he's "learned a valuable lesson."
Teresa & Joe Separate
“They discussed their future when Teresa and the girls went to Italy in early November and they agreed that each had to move on. They are doing so amicably and very slowly,” the source explained. “Joe has been out on a few dates, Teresa has not. She has been too busy with the girls, with work obligations and taking care of her father. She is happy for Joe. They have been very friendly with one another and are very supportive of each other’s happiness. They still love one another, but as Teresa told Andy Cohen on the WWHL special, they are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Neither is interested in a long distance relationship.”
Still, the source said “there are no plans for divorce” at this time, adding that “both of them are focused” on their four daughters, who will be visiting Joe in Italy for Christmas.
Joe Promises His Daughters 'the Best of Me in 2020' as He Reflects on 2019
After the family's Christmas in Italy, the father of four posted a collage of family photos on Instagram, sharing his goals for the new year.
“I posted this message in morning but I choked up and I took it down then I thought part of regrowth is acceptance!! This year, I have done a lot of self reflection I now know to be Happy and content with who I am and what I have food, bed, air, girls, and family,” Giudice wrote.
“I learned in there All you have to do is love yourself and be the BEST! I’m letting go of 2019 with my beautiful girls but promising them the BEST of ME IN 2020!! They make me proud in so many ways and are my treasures. ❤️❤️❤️❤️,” the star concluded.
Teresa Says Joe Told Her That Her 'Baggage' Means No Man Would Want Her
During a candid conversation with RHONJ costars Melissa Gorga, Dolores Catania, Margaret Josephs, Jackie Goldschneider and Jennifer Aydin, Teresa recalled things Joe had told her in the past.
“He says the craziest things to me,” Teresa said. “Like, ‘Imagine we get divorced. Who would want you? You’ve got a lot of baggage.’ Like, I have four kids.”
His words resonated with Teresa, who admitted she felt that Joe was “kind of right.”
“I kind of do believe it,” she said.
Teresa’s fellow New Jersey Housewives were not having that, quickly rallying around her and offering her support.
“No, he’s not [right]. Don’t ever believe it. He’s saying it because he’s insecure,” said Melissa, who is married to Teresa’s brother, Joe Gorga. “He’s nuts. You’re a hot piece of ass!”
“He’ll eat those words,” added Catania. “Joe talks out of his ass, too. I know he doesn’t mean what he’s saying. I know he doesn’t mean that.”
Their kind words cheered Teresa up. “I was about to cry, but you guys are making me laugh,” she said. “I don’t want to cry anymore.”
Joe Is Spotted Partying with Women in Mexico
Newly single Joe was seen enjoying his freedom in Mexico in January 2020. He was spotted partying with a group of women, two months after his split from Teresa.
Joe stayed at a resort in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, sharing several photos and videos to Instagram of his vacation.
Teresa Admits She's 'Known for a Long Time' About Decision to Separate from Joe
In February 2020, Teresa confessed their separation was in the works for “a long time” — long before he was relocated to Italy.
Speaking to People Now, the star revealed that things were definitely far from perfect when the former couple reunited in Italy last November.
“I’ve known for like a long time. Just because we’ve been apart for so long,” she said. “We’ve been apart for a really long time. After my mom passed away, like a lot of resentment, a lot of things that just happened after I lost my mom.”
Teresa Says She Doesn't Want to Sleep in the Same Bed as Joe
While Teresa settles into her hotel, the question of sleeping arrangements come up — to which she shows reluctance in letting Joe sleep in her bed.
“Are you sleeping here tonight?” she asks him. “Do you want to stay with the girls?”
When Joe complains that their daughters’ beds are too small to share, Teresa questions if he “was expecting” that she would let him into her bed.
“I mean, we got 20 years in our marriage,” he responds.
However, Teresa puts her foot down at the idea.
“We haven’t been together in almost four years so it’s kinda weird,” she says. “I don’t know. It’s been a long time, you know? You need to slow it down.”
As Joe begins to leave, he tells Teresa, “Listen: By the end of this trip, things could change. Who the hell knows?”
Joe Responds to Teresa Refusing to Share a Bed with Him
Once the episode aired, the father of four shared a clip on Instagram and revealed that this was the moment he knew his 20-year marriage was over.
“My ‘AHA moment!'” he wrote. “That was my moment of insight. I felt rejected. This is the first time while filming a scene, I had severe anxiety and grief. I was [locked] up for four years, any human would have a psychological impact of prison life.”
“This was the moment, I knew deep in my heart she was being difficult with me for a reason,” he continued. “My wife has never said no to sleeping with me. I had to walk away. I don’t have resentment against her (her emotions are justified). It was off guard should have been private.”
He added, “I realized I must be responsible for only my kids that’s what matters. I want to provide, encourage, embrace them with my love in limited time together.”
Joe Makes Comments About 'Toxic People,' Talks Moving on
In a post on Instagram on Feb. 29, 2020, the father of four shared a video montage to The Jonas Brothers’ hit “What A Man Gotta Do” starring his four daughters Gia, 19, Gabriella, 15, Milania, 14, and Audriana, 11.
“No matter how much 💯 energy and time I devoted to trying it failed. I did my best and put all efforts into making this a great experience for my family,” Giudice wrote in a lengthy caption. “I did try to address issues in the relationship that bothered me throughout the years in return 🎥 portrayed it as Criticism! My key role was to always to be a great father and husband not the 🦹♂️ [villain].”
The Bravo star added, “Today I 👀, I can’t allow others to keep lingering toxins and undesirable demands around me. I choose to have a solid foundation with strong and inspiring people around me in 🇮🇹. #inspire #strong #energy #toxicpeople#devote #livingmybestlife #relationshipgoals #italy🇮🇹 🥂 #bestlifenow.”