When people change, relationships change. Established family and social dynamics can be upended when someone achieves sudden success. And since wealth and fame are staples in the lives of those who star on the Real Housewives franchise, cast members tend to experience relationship drama with their sometimes-sketchy partners as they navigate their new world in the public eye. Not to mention, reality television doesn’t allow for selective memory — everything is on tape! — and puts personal relationships on blast. Even the smallest rift between two people can be catastrophic when they’re forced to own their behavior … and navigate fans’ reaction to it.
However, it isn’t just romantic relationships that might suffer under these high-profile circumstances. Friendship breakups are also common among the Real Housewives stars, and the unnatural social approach of saving all important conversations for the camera while filming can throw a wrench into even the most well-oiled friendship machines. Becoming a Housewife can affect, or even sever, longstanding relationships. Celebrity status can change someone for the worse if they start believing their own hype, which is a frequent celebrity pitfall. Add to the mix thirsty people flocking around the Housewives in hopes of claiming a shot at glory of their own, and you have a recipe for some delicious, can’t-tear-your-eyes-away drama.
Here are some of the biggest breakups in Real Housewives history.
This Real Housewives friendship was hot and cold in Hot-lanta
If you’ve watched The Real Housewives of Atlanta since the beginning, you know that a building block of the show was the friendship between NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak-Biermann (then Zolciak). However, a rift between these BFFs began when Leakes took issue with Zolciak-Biermann’s relationship with businessman Lee Najjar (known to viewers as "Big Poppa"), a wealthy married man reportedly bankrolling Zolciak-Biermann’s lavish lifestyle. This moral judgment led to Leakes’ iconic "Close your legs to married men!" moment during the Season 1 reunion. Feuds galore ensued between the two, making reconciliation seem highly unlikely.
Zolciak-Biermann went on to star in the RHOA spinoff, Don’t Be Tardy, featuring husband Troy Biermann and their blended family. But despite living increasingly separate lives on the small screen, her relationship with Leakes seems to be on the mend. While reuniting on Cocktails After Dark in April 2020, Leakes explained, "My husband was sick with cancer, and I just felt like … life is just too short. Kim’s son had an accident, and I felt like we should just move on." A month later, Zolciak-Biermann emphasized on Watch What Happens Live, "We’re good. We’re cool."
Zolciak-Biermann’s daughter, Brielle, told Us Weekly that RHOA was toxic for their family, but acknowledged that her mother’s friendship with Leakes was special by tweeting that they’ll "ALWAYS be the most iconic duo & housewives! Period!" We feel like there needs to be a "t" at the end of that sentence.
I do, I don’t, I do…okay, maybe
NeNe Leakes’ RHOA relationship troubles have also included her marriage to Gregg Leakes. While they appeared happy in the beginning of the series, things began to unravel in 2010, after 13 years of marriage. When audio of Gregg trash-talking his wife leaked on the radio, she confronted him on the show: "I stood by you when you have done me wrong as your wife," NeNe told him, before adding in a talking head, "We’ve lost loyalty and trust." She also later admitted that Gregg had cheated on her. They were divorced by 2011.
Normally, that would be the end of any love story, but these two patched things up, remarried in 2013 on Bravo’s I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding, and were a united front after Gregg’s diagnosis with colon cancer in November 2018. By the following May, he announced he was cancer-free. However, rumors began swirling that the couple was once again headed toward Splitsville: Gregg was caught having "inappropriate conversations" with one of their soon-to-be former employees; NeNe was accused of having an affair; and by October 2019, talk of an open marriage surfaced.
While it’s unclear whether NeNe and Gregg actually share an open marriage, this real housewife wrote that their "bond is unbreakable" in a June 2020 Instagram post (although, she didn’t exactly quell rumors when she quipped, "We both got side pieces"). As NeNe explained on the RHOA Season 12 After Show, "We have a great understanding … We’re committed to staying married."
The mother of all Real Housewives divorces
The morning after Bethenny Frankel‘s 2010 wedding to Jason Hoppy, she tweeted, "Best night of my life." Sadly, their made-for-TV fairy tale soon morphed into tragedy, and The Real Housewives of New York City star later described living with Hoppy as "a torture chamber." They appeared to present a united front for the sake of their daughter, Bryn, upon their December 2012 separation, with Frankel stating in part to People: "We have love and respect for one another and will continue to amicably co-parent our daughter who is and will always remain our first priority."
However, Bryn is the only bright spot remaining from their union, as amicable respect was notably absent during subsequent battles over Frankel’s Skinnygirl fortune. In 2016, Frankel thought the fight was over when a court ruled she was no longer required to pay spousal support. She told People, "I feel like I survived something," but things again escalated. E! reports that Hoppy was arrested in 2017 for "aggravated harassment and stalking" after sending Frankel "unwanted emails and texts and [showing] up at their … daughter’s school to confront her." As part of a plea deal, he agreed to abide by a six-month protective order. Frankel filed for sole custody, but no details were made public following their March 2019 hearing.
Upon her departure from RHONY that August, Frankel tweeted a farewell to the cast, which mentioned of her seemingly endless divorce: "I had to go since I’m the only one that is actually married…that’s how crazy this ride is."
Mario got off the Ramona coaster
Where there’s salacious smoke, there’s usually fire. In her memoir, Life on the Ramona Coaster, Ramona Singer describes her marriage’s final downhill run. In 2013, her husband of 21 years, Mario, seemed more interested in singles parties than in his family. While friends hinted Mario was unfaithful, Ramona refused to believe it. Former Housewives star Jill Zarin told People Ramona "looked the other way."
After increasingly erratic behavior, Mario asked to move out, later writing a letter saying he’d been unhappy for a while. Mario denied an affair, but the Ramona coaster took a sharp turn when a friend told her Mario had been overheard arguing on the phone with another woman. After Ramona confronted him, Mario eventually confessed. The next morning, Ramona says he told her he would end the affair—but Mario reportedly went out to dinner with his mistress that very night.
The next few months were topsy-turvy for the Singers, and Daily News reported that Ramona filed for divorce after finding Mario and his mistress at the Singers’ Southampton home in January 2014. Ramona told People, "I tried to make my marriage work … but you reach a point where you realize the other person isn’t putting in as much effort as you are. And I reached my breaking point." The marriage may have ended, but the ex-couple’s friendship seems full-speed ahead. Their daughter, Avery, posted a TikTok video (via Us Weekly) of the three quarantining together in March 2020.
Secret liaisons and dubious sob stories ruined this marriage
Vicki Gunvalson has had her share of romantic ups and downs since RHOC premiered in 2006. Long before "Brooks" became an RHOC curse word, the show documented the twilight of Vicki’s marriage to Donn Gunvalson. Though Vicki had confessed her "love tank" was empty, the couple renewed their vows in a sunset ceremony in Turks & Caicos to celebrate their 15-year anniversary. The ceremony aired in January 2010, and just under a year later, Vicki filed for divorce, shocking even Donn! During the Season 6 Reunion, Donn said, "I found out that Vicki filed for divorce when the process server showed up at my office." Ouch.
Unbeknownst to nearly everyone, but revealed during the Season 7 Reunion, before her split with Donn, Vicki had been surreptitiously communicating with Brooks Ayers, who was reeling her in with tales of a purported battle with cancer. Vicki’s daughter, Briana Culberson, said during a confessional, "I just don’t feel like [Vicki and Donn] were ever truly in love. And then I think with Brooks, my mom had all passion and nothing else." E! reports Ayers allegedly falsified documents to "prove" he had received cancer treatments. Vicki and Ayers split in 2015.
Vicki admitted to HuffPost in 2013 that she regrets divorcing Donn, saying, "Hindsight I wish I would’ve worked harder in the marriage." Vicki’s love tank is now full with fiancé Steve Lodge, but People reports their wedding plans are on hold due to COVID-19.
Friends as close as family turned on each other
We’re not saying Brandi Glanville is a drama magnet, but we’re not not saying it, either. Glanville’s storylines are ripe with the makings of a Lifetime movie: conflict, betrayal, drinks flying, and sexual escapades. But no drama in Glanville’s time on RHOBH has been as impactful to the show’s narrative as her friendship breakup with Lisa Vanderpump.
Vanderpump served as a mentor to Glanville as she struggled to find her way after the public humiliation of her ex-husband’s infidelity. Glanville was a welcome third wheel for Vanderpump and her husband, Ken. But Glanville became disillusioned. Glanville admitted to Kyle Richards during a cast trip to Puerto Rico that Vanderpump had suggested bringing along tabloids with stories about Richards’ husband. Glanville later said during her Unfiltered podcast, "You know what, Lisa Vanderpump is a manipulative person, and when I was on the show, I did a lot of her dirty work for her. And I finally realized it, and I started calling her on her s—!"
Vanderpump has been more tight-lipped about the friendship split. In response to a fan who tweeted frustration that Glanville had thrown shade at Vanderpump, the restaurateur responded, "Okay…well I think that’s enough for me….Finally. Good morning." When E! asked Vanderpump about her feud with Glanville, Vanderpump responded, "Who?"
We will likely never know the whole story, but both parties still seem to believe absence, in this case, does not make the heart grow fonder.
A Real Housewives friendship made (and broken up) in Manhattan
RHONY fans were shocked to see an end to Bethenny Frankel’s close friendship with Carole Radziwell. Radziwell joined the show in Season 5, and when RHONY OG Frankel returned for Season 7, the two became fast friends during filming. E! reports that the duo further cemented their bond during two trips that were not filmed. Fans didn’t seem to love the vibe when the two women were together. One fan tweeted a Mean Girls reference, "Uhhh. @CaroleRadziwill, you’re 100% a different person without Bethenny. I mean Gretchen was pretty nice without Regina too." Radziwell clapped back with, "Oh this is the most moronic thing people can say…I’m 100 on the show….not like some others who fake friendships."
The beginning of the end of this friendship was when, during Season 10, Frankel made comments about Radziwell’s boyfriend, Adam Kenworthy, to Dorinda Medley, calling him an "operator" for declining to go on a charity trip without being compensated for his time. Radziwell was not happy with the comments, or that Frankel had even extended the invitation, which she expressed in a blog post after the episode aired.
Bravo superfan, and all-around superwoman, Jane Krakowski, weighed in on the Frankel-Radziwell fallout during an episode of Watch What Happens Live, saying, "I sort of feel like Carole gets a new best friend every season." Krakowski didn’t want to go beyond that because she lives in Carole’s building. Awk-ward!
The ‘in sickness’ part of this marriage didn’t go very well
Yolanda Hadid and David Foster appeared to be a match made in heaven. Hadid happily catered to Foster’s every whim, and the couple had that "still madly in love" glow when Hadid joined RHOBH in Season 3. But her subsequent battle with Lyme Disease threw the dynamic of their marriage into a tailspin. Hadid told People, "All of a sudden all of the things we shared, all of the things we used to love to do together…that all shut down. I couldn’t participate in that life anymore." In her memoir, Believe Me: My Battle With the Invisibility of Lyme Disease, Hadid said Foster was "unhappy with the fact that I can’t be by his side the way that I used to be."
Foster’s take on the split is, at least publicly, a bit different. In the Netflix documentary, David Foster: Off the Record, Foster said he would "never disclose" why he left Hadid but says it had nothing to do with her illness. He went on to express frustration of being recognized for his appearances on RHOBH, admitting he wants to respond, "Hey, I got 16 f**king Grammys, OK? I’ve sold half a billion records. F**k that show" (via Us Weekly).
RHOC‘s Heather Dubrow lamented the couple’s demise to The Daily Dish, saying, "When I hear people are splitting up, [it] makes you feel like, is anyone gonna make it?" According to E!, the RHOBH divorce rate is 31.25 %.
This Real Housewives marriage led to literal prison
Housewife drama turned real for Joe and Teresa Giudice when they were indicted on charges of mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud. Both served prison time as part of a guilty plea, and they were allowed to serve back-to-back sentences so one parent could always be with their four children. "The only thing I can think of is their kids. God bless those kids," said former Housewife Caroline Manzo on Watch What Happens Live.
Brought to America from Italy as a child, Joe never became an American citizen. Page Six reports he was deported to Italy, which was the de facto end of the Giudice’s 20-year marriage. At the Season 9 Reunion (via iHeartRadio), Teresa said, "I’m not doing a long-distance relationship … I want somebody with me every day." A source told People, "They discussed their future when Teresa and the girls went to Italy [to visit Joe] … and they agreed that each had to move on." The trip was bittersweet for the Giudices, and they documented the time together with photos galore (via E!).
During the couple’s tell-all interview with Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live, Joe offered Teresa dating advice, suggesting she "date [men] who have money. She has four kids, her way of living isn’t cheap. She’s high maintenance. She makes a good paycheck, but at the end of the day, she still needs more." Their divorce was finalized in September 2020.
Desperate attempts to reconcile this Real Housewives relationship were futile
Shannon Beador was shocked to discover her husband, David, had begun an affair as she began filming her first RHOC episode during Season 9. Despite the betrayal, she wanted to save the marriage, and the Beadors embarked upon an on-camera emotional roller coaster through counseling, a couple’s retreat during which they had to pretend the other had died, and even a vow renewal. After all avenues were exhausted, their 17-year marriage came to a full stop in 2017. Shannon said at the Season 12 Reunion (via People), "I felt alone in my marriage…You need two people to make a marriage work, and that just wasn’t happening in our relationship."
The Blast reported their 2019 divorce settlement included $10k per month spousal support for Shannon and $1.4 million to Shannon "to equalize the division of their community property." With joint custody of their three children, Shannon and David are being praised for amicable co-parenting. Shannon posted an Instagram photo showing the post-separation pair at a sports event with their kids, and one fan commented, "You’re stronger than you think! I commend you for your will-power and strength to carry on…. despite of your setbacks!"
Shannon told People in January 2020 she has "never been happier," in large part due to her new boyfriend, John Janssen, whom she says fits her description of "the perfect person for me." David is engaged to a new love, Lesley Cook, who is about 20 years his junior.
Can’t say we didn’t warn you
If your sister contemplates hiding your marriage license to protect you from making a huge mistake, you might want to heed her warning. Alas, Cynthia Bailey didn’t even know that had been a consideration until she saw footage from her wedding day airing on Bravo. While Bailey’s sister, Malorie, appeared on the episode to have hidden the marriage license for Bailey’s nuptials with Peter Thomas, she says she had actually merely forgotten it. Malorie told Radar Online, "I did say that I thought maybe the lost certificate was perhaps a sign that maybe they should wait to get married." But the wedding went ahead as planned, and the couple went from a sea of red flags of purported infidelity and financial woes to waving the white flag of surrender.
Thomas told WPEG Power 98 that Cynthia’s lack of belief in him caused the divorce. Bailey addressed those comments with The Daily Dish, saying, "I think I wholeheartedly supported his business ventures. I had just reached my personal breaking point. I felt like I didn’t have any more to give." The formerly-married duo has managed to remain friends. Bailey said, "I always want to be cool with each other … I’ve been with this man for almost 10 years. He’s the reason I even moved to Atlanta. Although we’re getting a divorce, a lot of great things came out of this marriage."