"I just had to be honest with myself and I was just not happy. He was not happy and we just needed to face that," Kary Brittingham told PEOPLE about her marriage with husband Eduardo Brittingham
Kary Brittingham and Eduardo
Credit: Kary Brittingham / instagram

Kary Brittingham and her husband Eduardo Brittingham are getting a divorce.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE ahead of part one of the Real Housewives of Dallas reunion on Tuesday, the TV star, 50, opened up about the difficult decision to call it quits with her husband of 12 years, why she felt she had to hide the news from her friends and costars, and how she plans on moving forward.

During the reunion, host Andy Cohen addressed Kary's abrupt and, at times, rude behavior throughout the season, asking, "When you watched yourself this season, what was your reaction?"

"This was a really tough season for me and watching it back, I realized how much hurt and how much I was struggling in my life," she said, before revealing her divorce. "As I watched that I realized how much in pain I was. My marriage was falling apart and I didn't want to admit it. After the show finished, me and Eduardo had a real heart-to-heart talk and we decided we needed to go our separate ways. We just told our kids right before coming to the reunion."

Admittedly "really scared," Kary told Cohen she "was trying to mask what I was going through," while fighting back tears. "Obviously, I'm very ashamed of my behavior. My kids saw that. I really regret that."

Kary Brittingham
Credit: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Speaking with PEOPLE, Kary opened up about the series of events that led to her decision to part ways with Eduardo.

"This was a really tough season for me because I know me and Eduardo have not been in the best place for probably a couple years," she said. "And I think that this year, especially with the pandemic and everything that happened, he was really busy with his work. I was trying to keep busy with my stuff. But at the end of the day, it was like something that it was really, really killing me inside more than I was expecting."

"The past year, it was more of a roommate situation than a marriage," said Kary, who is currently still living under the same roof with Eduardo and their children. "And I'm very Latin, I'm very passionate. I need love. I need to feel loved and hugs. And I was not getting that anymore. And I just started feeling really empty and I just was not happy. Honestly, at the end of the day, life is short and with this pandemic and the older I get, the shorter it gets, and I just feel like I just wanted to move on and I need to be happy and he needs to be happy."

Kary Brittingham and Eduardo
Credit: Kary Brittingham / instagram

Throughout this past season, Kary has gotten a lot of heat from both her costars and fans about her behavior — but she said it all had to do with the "pain" she was going through at the time.

"I think that I was just trying to have fun and just kind of like, push it down," she told PEOPLE. "At the end of the day, I was clearly hurting so much. I guess I wasn't talking to anyone about it. I'm like, a huge person that needs to talk things through and just, I need that. I think I was just suppressing it so much that that was just really a big thing and with the pandemic and the kids — and we were just in such close quarters. I guess it emphasized so much more of what our issues were and just how not happy we were."

"So, obviously, I definitely was a little more wild this year and drinking a little bit extra," she added. "It was my big 50th birthday and everything that I was going through. And the last thing I wanted to do is to have a failed marriage. I wanted to really figure it out and make it work. But at the end of the day, I just had to be honest with myself and I was just not happy. He was not happy and we just needed to face that."

The couple, who got married in Careyes, Mexico, in 2009, share one daughter together: Isabella. Kary also has three children from her previous marriage: daughters Olivia and Sofia and son Alex.

Kary Brittingham
Credit: Kary Brittingham / instagram

News of their split comes months after Kary and Eduardo officially came to the decision in January, after a friendly neighbor offered to buy their home. It was at that point that the couple was forced to have some serious conversations about their future.

"That night they gave us an offer that we couldn't refuse," she said. "That was kind of like when I couldn't sleep all night and I was really thinking about everything. I had a talk with Eduardo the next day after we got the offer. I said, 'Listen, we need to talk about everything. Because if we sell the house this is a time to sell it and not move to the same place. It's like, is it time to talk about our issues so we can kind of make the big decisions?'"

"I knew that I hadn't been happy and I was just trying to pretend I was," she added.

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In the past, Kary — who recently launched her own jewelry line, Kamo — had opened up about her fear of being financially independent. Now, the reality star is looking forward to her next chapter, and stepping into the future with a positive attitude.

"I am not going to lie that I'm definitely very scared," she said. "It's a very scary time. In January, I literally would drive around in my car and just start bawling, crying. And I'm not a big crier. It was so obvious that I had so much inside of me. I was just really scared because I'm like, I don't want to fail at this marriage. I didn't want to fail at anything. And I'm scared. I mean, I am so lucky that I have my jewelry. And I had so much support from that. That has been amazing."

"I just have to really keep working hard and prove it to my kids and three daughters, especially, that no matter what age, no matter when you can still figure it out and make it, just keep thriving," she added. "I guess now more than ever, I'm having the drive to really make it happen. I'm determined to show everyone that I can do it."

She concluded: "I feel like when you're happier and when you're happy with yourself, you're just a better person."

Part two of the Real Housewives of Dallas reunion airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.