Vicki Gunvalson on How Steve Lodge Split Affected 'RHUGT' Experience and Her New Man! (Exclusive)

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A girls' getaway typically helps get one's mind off of heartbreak, but for Vicki Gunvalson, filming The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: Ex-Wives Club amid her breakup with fianc Steve Lodge only seemed to amplify her hurt.

"Steve broke up with me while I was there," Vicki tells ET, sitting down with her former The Real Housewives of Orange County co-star, Tamra Judge, to discuss the mash-up series they filmed at The Real Housewives of New York City star Dorinda Medley's Massachusetts estate last year. "That sucks."

"It was hard," she adds. "It was really hard. I thought we were gonna be together for forever. But he was cheating on me, that’s not cool. He always said he was never going to cheat on me. Liar."

Vicki says the last time she spoke with Steve was the morning she left to film RHUGT. "He hugged me, helped me with my suitcase," she recalls. "I was leaving in the limo and said, 'Are you gonna be here when I get back?' He said, 'Where am I gonna go?'"

She claims when she came back, though, Steve had moved out of her house and in with a new girlfriend, the woman to whom he's now married, Janis Carlson.

"He met her at a bar!" Vicki exclaims. "I mean, seriously, she's a barfly and she was looking to marry a rich, old man. Well, guess what? He’s old, but he’s not rich! Good luck, b***h! Like, he’s a retired policeman -- good for him, he's got a pension -- but he doesn’t have anything."

ET reached out to Steve for comment on Vicki's cheating claims, which he denied. He also contradicts her timeline of events, telling ET, "Vicki is a pathological liar. Her past behavior shows that clearly. How people forget. I never once cheated on her and I ended our engagement and relationship in December of 2020. She insisted on not telling the press and insisted on remaining friends. But that ended when she needed a storyline and began lying about me."

Vicki Gunvalson and Steve Lodge
Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

"My wife and I are very happy and want Vicki to leave us alone," he adds. "Vicki needs to stop the public and private harassment/insults. Janis clearly doesn't deserve the slanderous comments she makes about her on a regular basis."

Vicki and Steve never seemed to be a perfect match, their years-long relationship questioned repeatedly by her RHOC castmates, including Tamra, who wondered why Vicki seemed to lose parts of herself (like her "whoop it up" attitude) to appease Steve.

"I think he got you fired from Housewives," Tamra blurts out. Bravo demoted Vicki -- an original star of the series -- to a "friend of" in season 14, which featured her engagement to Steve, before ultimately firing both her and Tamra at that season's end. 

"He was a Debbie Downer," Vicki admits. "He was miserable. I have all this stuff going on. ... He didn't like me [dancing in bars or showing cleavage]. He said, 'You're a grandmother, a mother...' But I loved him, deeply. I was like, 'Let's do this life together, and you have to compromise when you're with somebody that you love."

Vicki agrees she changed things about herself to appease Steve, largely because she was so scared of failing at the relationship. Her boyfriend prior to Steve, Brooks Ayers, created a scandal on RHOC when the cast started to dig into whether he lied about having cancer. Vicki ultimately said Brooks "conned" her. She's since let go of her love for both men (Vicki previously maintained she still loved Brooks in the wake of their split).

"I will never love somebody that hurt me," she says. "You don’t even know what I went through after the breakup. It was horrible. When I went home to an empty house after being in the Berkshires, I just laid on the floor. It was horrible. It was much worse than the Berkshires."

Vicki Gunvalson has a heart-to-heart with Tamra Judge and Eva Marcille on The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip Ex-Wives Club
Zack DeZon / Peacock

"With Brooks, you laid in the street," Tamra reminds Vicki. 

"Yeah, I laid in the street in with Brooks," she confirms. "I'm not laying anymore -- anymore! -- for a man."

Vicki initially denied her and Steve's split when news first broke, and now reveals she kept cracks in their relationship hidden long before that. She supported him as he ran for governor in the California recall election (Gavin Newsom ultimately retained his position), despite the fact that Steve was largely living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, at the time; the two had seemingly separated to some extent during that period.

"He moved back in July [2021]," Vicki says. "He said, 'Put your ring back on, and if I win, will you live in Sacramento with me?' The whole time he was with [Janis]. I didn’t know that. Talk about being hurt."

As Vicki unpacks her feelings about the demise of her relationship on RHUGT, her castmates question why she's so desperate to find love. It's a question that's followed Vicki over the course of nearly two decades on TV.

"I love being in a relationship," she declares. "There isn't very many people that don't wanna be in a relationship that I know of. All my family's married or in a relationship, all my friends are married or in a relationship. It’s a couples world out there -- the world that I live in -- it's a couples world, so I like it."

Vicki's found what feels like love (she says she's only slipped up and said the L-word once) with a man named Michael. She's keeping major details about him and their romance close to the vest, only divulging that a mutual friend introduced them. She recently brought Michael back home to Chicago to meet her family. 

"Michael is really nice," she gushes. "I mean, he's just normal. He's good to me. We have a lot of fun together, but we're both taking it very slow. ... I don't want to get hurt again."

Vicki claims to have manifested Michael into her life, keeping a running list of what she wants in a partner in her notes app. She updates it often, pulling out her phone mid-interview to let Tamra read through the current list, which features 20 or so qualities ranging from "Christian" to "owns a boat" (Michael doesn't check this one off the list), "self-sufficient," "smart," "drinks wine," "attracted to me," "has a passport" and "good teeth."

"And if not, she'll buy 'em!" Tamra cracks, referencing how Vicki funded a smile makeover for Brooks. Tamra suggests adding "doggy style" and "anal" to the list, immediately inspiring Vicki to mark the sign of the cross over her body, repeatedly. 

"I do want one person for the rest of my life," she proclaims. "I don't want to do this flipping things, like a spigot, you just keep flipping people." 

Before Vicki found the list in her notes, she passed by a separate list she keeps, one in which she repeatedly writes messages like, "F**k you, Steve!" and "F**k you for ruining my future."

"I write things to him," she explains. "My counselor said, 'Just write him a note.' ... 'F**k you for lying to me, f**k you for buying a house...' I just keep writing [to myself] every time [I] think there's a problem. And everyone out there listening, write 'F you' to who hurt you and it will be gone." 

She says the biggest lesson she learned from her time with Steve was to trust her gut. 

"I ignored it [with Steve]," she confesses. "Steve wanted to live in Mexico, 'cause he didn't want to be in California anymore and, how is that ever gonna work for my relationship when I have a business here? I mean, I would go every other week, and I'd go Thursday to Monday to my house there that he's living in for free! And I'm like, 'How is this gonna work for us?' He's like, 'Well, when you retire, then we'll just live here full-time...' It was very calculated what he did."

Steve also denies Vicki's claims he lived in her condo, telling ET, "I leased a completely separate condo in a different tower in Puerto Vallarta from March of 2021 to March of 2022. She is creating a storyline that I ended the relationship while she was filming the Ultimate Girls Trip last December. Total lie. That's what she does when she has no storyline. She just makes one up."

"He's next door!" Vicki reveals of Steve's new digs. "I can literally see the balcony." 

The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip starts streaming June 23 on Peacock

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