“I had no idea. I thought nobody would ever find out. … I never told anybody,” Jennifer, 44, told Us Weekly exclusively ahead of the Tuesday, February 1, premiere of RHONJ. “Nobody knew — [not] my mother, my sister, my best friend, my cousin. Like, when I say I was taking it to the grave, I kept that secret inside. And it was very hard for me to do, and I was able to do it for the greater good of my family.”
Jennifer stayed quiet about her marriage woes because she wasn’t the only one who would be affected should the secret get out. However, she has no idea how Margaret, 54, learned about the plastic surgeon’s infidelity.
“When she kept saying ‘skeletons’ over and over again, I did get an inkling that that could be it. And I did tell Bill when we joined the show that if anything ever did come out about it, that I was not going to shy away from it,” the Bravo star, who joined the reality series during season 9 in 2018, explained. “I’m not gonna be the one to share the story, because I would never do that at the expense of my own children. … At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter that [Margaret] found out. … But I feel like she could have went about it differently.”
The couple met in 2001 and tied the knot one year later. They went on to welcome five children: son Justin, daughter Gabby, son Jacob, son Christian and daughter Olivia. Jennifer told Us that Bill strayed outside their marriage “right before” Christian was born, 11 years before the drama played out on RHONJ.
“I found out pretty much 10 days before I had Christian,” she recalled. “So, you know, I was going through the process of letting it sink in while having to have a baby and wanting my baby to have all of the blessings that a normal child would, like having his mommy and his daddy in the delivery room. So I wanted to go through the motions of playing this game of life, so to speak, to try to put on a brave face for my children.”
Jennifer remembered not wanting “questions to arise” from her parents, her in-laws and even her other children about Bill if he wasn’t around to see their youngest son’s birth. The TV personality clarified that her kids have since been told about their dad’s affair.
“Sometimes in life, it’s weird when you pretend things are a certain way,” she told Us. “There’s an interesting thing where it manifests into being that [way]. So, because I wasn’t nasty towards him and we were playing the role of this happy family life — and of course, he was so remorseful and, you know, always petting me, trying to kiss [and] care [for] me — after a while I was just like, ‘You know what? Let’s just pretend this never happened.’ And that’s what I did.”
The pair chose not to broach the topic again, “even in arguments,” Jennifer said. “That’s one of the reasons why it was really so hard for me to process all this while people are watching,” she added. “And I don’t mean just the cameras. I mean my friends, my family, Margaret, and all the girls, people in my circle.”
When it comes to the Macbeth Collection designer, Jennifer noted that they’ve always had a “back-and-forth” relationship throughout the Bravo series. While she doesn’t know how Margaret found out about Bill’s affair, Jennifer said her costar “knows how to play this game very well.”
She continued: “[Margaret] knew so many details, and because of what we went through with Jackie [and Evan Goldschneider] last year, I felt that nobody would bring something to the table unless they had concrete proof. … It’s like, why would you bring anything to the table if you don’t have any receipts?”
Though unpacking the old drama wasn’t something Jennifer wanted to do, she also didn’t want to “deny it” once it resurfaced.
“I signed up to do the show to show my life: the good, the bad, the ugly,” she told Us. “And … for people to learn from the journey. You know, not everything is black-and-white and just because somebody does a bad thing doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.”
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs on Bravo Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi