Bethenny Frankel Explains Her Secret Engagement to Dennis Shields: It Was 'Very Complicated'
The Skinnygirl founder, 48, opened up about the loss of her ex-boyfriend Dennis Shields, while also revealing for the first time to her fellow New York City Housewives that Shields had proposed to her before his death.
Shields, who was found dead in his Trump Tower apartment last August of a suspected overdose, popped the question to Frankel on April 25 while the couple was at dinner together.
Though he gave her a mega-carat rock, which she proudly wore, Frankel says the circumstances surrounding their impending nuptials were a little tricky. In fact, she says she never really gave Shields a clear yes.
“It’s funny because he said to me, ‘Did you say yes?’ And I said, ‘Well, I love you and I can’t believe you did this but we have to talk about some conditions and some terms and how things are going to change’ — issues I’ve had with partnership and consistency,” Frankel recalled.
“It was all very complicated and it wasn’t what a natural engagement should be,” Frankel said. “So our engagement was on ice.”
Later in the episode, Frankel revealed that Shields also gave her 8-year-old daughter Bryn a ring of her own.
“I loved him so much and we were a family and my daughter was close with him,” said Frankel, who first met Shields nearly 30 years ago but didn’t start dating him until 2016 — three years after she filed for divorce from ex-husband Jason Hoppy, Bryn’s father. “I knew him for so many years.”
RHONY viewers are also familiar with Shields, as much of his and Frankel’s on-off relationship was documented on the Bravo series.
Frankel previously admitted that she’s stopped trying to make sense of Shields’ death: “You know, someone told me he fell the day before on a boat and then, did he take something ‘cause he was in pain? But it doesn’t matter. He’s dead. Like, it doesn’t matter.”
“Let’s figure out what happened. Let me put the pieces of the puzzle together,” she said in the season premiere. “He wrote me 15 texts. He wanted to marry me. I had a ring on my finger. He’s dead. It doesn’t matter. He’s gone. There’s nothing to say.”
On Wednesday’s episode, Frankel stressed that as close as they were, “it was not even close to a perfect relationship.”
“Part of me died inside, it was really bad. But I couldn’t get out either,” she told costar Dorinda Medley.
She also explained to Tinsley Mortimer that she kept wearing the ring for a simple reason: because she believes that’s what Shields would have wanted.
Back in August, Frankel spoke to PEOPLE about her loss. “It’s been very, very hard, I love him very much,” she said at the launch of her SkinnyGirl Jeans line. “He’s very much a part of me and he’s very much a part of this [launch]. He was very involved in my endeavors.”
“He would be so excited. I can hear him saying, ‘How many did you sell?’ and ‘I can’t believe you sold out.’ And he would be checking the numbers and checking the website,” she continued. “He’s here and I just know he would be so proud and a cheerleader.”
Of the grieving process, Frankel said: “It’s like [Hurricane] Florence, it’s a storm and you must go through it. It’s not one of these things you can avoid and you have to go through it and deal with it and hopefully, you come out stronger on the other side.”
As sad as the loss has been, Frankel has found love again.
She’s currently dating real estate developer and film producer Paul Bernon. The two made their relationship Instagram-official in December when Frankel shared two photos of the couple celebrating Christmas together in the Dominican Republic. Frankel and Bernon went on to ring in the New Year together in Mexico, joined by Bryn and his two kids.
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.