Giudice says she's looking for a future partner who "talks really sweet... Joe used to never tell me I was beautiful"

A separation from now-estranged husband Joe Giudice was in the works for “a long time,” Teresa Giudice confesses — long before he was relocated to Italy.

Talking to People Now, the Real Housewives of New Jersey star confessed that things were definitely far from perfect when the couple — and daughters Gia, 19, Gabriella, 16, Milania, 15, and Audriana, 11 — 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.”

The revelation comes months after Teresa, 47, told PEOPLE in November that she and Joe, 47, were taking their relationship “day by day” to “see what happens.”

“I mean, I can’t predict the future, but as of now, it was two and a half days. It was too short to decide,” she said at the time. “But our daughters are the most important thing. We’ll see what happens. I mean, he lives in Italy, I live in America. I don’t know if that’s going to work.”

And it clearly did not.

Fabellini Wine Launch
Teresa and Joe Giudice
| Credit: Dave Kotinsky/Getty

“I will always have a special place for him in my heart. And I think where he was, he was really angry, just because of the situation and everything. And I think he just took out a lot on me,” she said. “He texts me all the time that I love you. I adore you. You’re the best wife, best mother.”

“We’re separated [by] the Atlantic Ocean and from the federal government. How can I be with someone like that?” she continued. “He lives in Italy and I live here. We want the best for each other. I want him to be happy. He wants me to be happy. And that’s it. We’re going to be the best parents we could to our four daughters.”

Teresa told People Now there were many moments when she knew that separation was inevitable, but confesses that it was “hurtful to hear” that Joe “felt nothing” for her and asked her to find somebody else.

“It’s just been a build up,” she says. “But I do wish him well and I just want him to be happy. I even told the girls and him this … when you’re with someone, I’ll even come and hang out with you with her and with our daughters because I want to make it good.”

“I want to make it good for my daughters because if I’m good with it, then they’ll be good with it,” she says.

Joe Giudice
Teresa and Joe Giudice with their daughters
| Credit: Joe Giudice/Instagram

Now that they’ve been separated for three months — and after Joe was spotted with biking-clad women in Mexico — she’s enlisted her best friend Dolores Catania, who also appeared on People Now, to help her find a sweet, new man.

And Teresa already knows what she wants.

“That he tells me I’m beautiful,” she said about what she’s looking for in a relationship. “Joe would never tell me I was beautiful. I would ask, ‘How do I look?’ And he’d say, ‘You look good, you look good.’ We were together for a long time. He was a great husband. I obviously loved his way then, but then afterward you see what you really left.”

Catania then added, “I know what I want for her, and I want to see her just have that gentle, kind man, but he’s got to be tough to because she likes that like buff guy.”

In December 2019, PEOPLE exclusively confirmed that Joe and Teresa were separating after 20 years of marriage.

Teresa Giudice and Joe Giudice
Teresa Giudice and Joe Giudice
| Credit: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversa//Getty (2)

“They agreed that each had to move on,” an insider told PEOPLE at the time. “They are doing so amicably and very slowly. 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 … neither is interested in a long distance relationship.”

Joe and Teresa have been living apart since March 2016, when Joe began his 41-month prison sentence for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud. Teresa had served a little over 11 months in prison for the same crimes, and was released in December 2015.

Though Joe was released in March 2019, he chose to move into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Clinton County Correctional Center in Pennsylvania as he fought to appeal a judge’s deportation order. (He has lived in the United States since he was a child, but never obtained American citizenship.) Two appeals have been denied, and one is still pending.

Joe eventually requested to go to Italy, where he is awaiting that final appeal.