“I come from a small family and we were really close. And then for something like this to happen, it was really hard for me to deal with,” Teresa Giudice tells PEOPLE of her years-long family feud
Teresa Giudice is sharing her side of the long-standing feud with her brother Joe Gorga and sister-in-law Melissa Gorga.
As Real Housewives of New Jersey fans know, the trio have hit some rocky patches in their relationship over the 11 years they’ve been on the show together — but things reached a breaking point this summer after Joe and Melissa notably skipped Teresa’s wedding to Luis “Louie” Ruelas.
The drama has weighed heavily on Teresa, 50, but she tells PEOPLE that it’s nothing new as she was allegedly “ambushed” by the couple when they officially joined RHONJ in season 3.
“Since my family came on the show, it was very hard for me to enjoy being on TV,” she says. “Here I am, just getting my feet wet, enjoying it and then bam. I get knocked, really stabbed in the heart with my family coming on the show behind my back.”
Teresa, who has been on RHONJ since its debut in 2009, explains: “The reason why I still talk about it now, and it’s been 10 years, is because it was very traumatic.”
She continues, “I never signed up to be on a TV show with my family. This was my thing. I was excited about it. It was something new for me, and it was like my job, and I was excited, and then all of a sudden I get bombarded and ambushed by my family. And it was very sad, because I felt like my dream kind of got shattered.”
“I would’ve never sucker-punched them like that,” she says, “because I don’t roll like that. If they were on a show, I would’ve never went on there and hurt them the way they hurt me. That’s not my style. That’s not the person I am. If anything, I would’ve got my own thing, because I’m always that. I always like to be different.”
While some of the tension between the trio stemmed from the legal troubles that Teresa and her ex-husband Joe Giudice faced years ago, more recent drama was centered around Teresa and husband Luis “Louie” Ruelas’s treatment of Joe and Melissa, both 43.
In May, Joe and Teresa got into an explosive fight during the RHONJ season 12 reunion after Teresa called her younger brother a “bitch boy” and dismissively compared him to a Housewife. The argument got so intense between the two siblings that Joe walked off stage, threatening to “quit” the Bravo franchise.
Teresa later claimed she had apologized and mended things with her brother, but that was only the start of what was to come between them. In early August, PEOPLE confirmed that the Gorgas wouldn’t be at Teresa and Louie’s wedding. (By that point, Teresa had already confirmed that Melissa would not be a bridesmaid in her wedding.)
Two sources said Melissa and Joe backed out of attending two days before the ceremony when false rumors about their marriage surfaced amid filming. Both Teresa and Louie’s actions at the time ultimately influenced the Gorgas’ decision.
“Teresa betrayed them in a way that’s unforgivable,” one source said. “They’re not going to celebrate Teresa’s new marriage when all she does is try to tear apart theirs.”
Joe and Melissa have since spoken out about skipping the wedding on their podcast, with Melissa calling it “unfortunate” and Joe admitting it was “one of the hardest days of my life.”
“It was bad,” he added. “But listen: let’s go back to the reunion. She did this, you know? This was all on her. This is what she really wanted. She didn’t want [Melissa] in the wedding, she didn’t want any of my children in the wedding, she barely wanted me.”
Despite how difficult it’s been, Teresa stands by her decision to cut ties with her brother and sister-in-law.
“I come from a small family and we were really close. And then for something like this to happen, it was really hard for me to deal with,” she explains. “I always tried to keep the peace and that’s why I kept my mouth shut for a lot of years … because my parents, they lived for me and my brother … for anything bad to happen afterwards, it’s heartbreaking. No parents want to see their children fighting.”
“But now, unfortunately, my parents are not here anymore,” she says. “So I’m going to do what’s good for my family, good for me, good for my children. And I just want peace. And that’s why any toxicity, [I have to] keep it out…. I’m not going to accept this toxicity anymore. I am going to be the mama bear, protect my family.”
She also knows that she’ll never walk from RHONJ, even it currently means having to work closely with Joe and Melissa.
“I would never step away. I started the show. I’m never going to give that to anyone because I’m the one that started the show,” she says. “Other people are trying to put that out there, like, ‘Oh, Teresa wants to leave.’ It’s so crazy to me how people are trying to plant the seed that Teresa wants to leave the show … the games that people play. No. I started this. I’m not walking away until Bravo wants me to walk away.”
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Season 13 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey premieres Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.