Published Tuesday, November 24, 2009 11:11 AM ET O.C. Real Housewife Vicki: 'I survived an abusive marriage'
To the millions of fans who tune in to The Real Housewives of Orange County, Vicki Gunvalson is a savvy businesswoman, a devoted mother and an energetic, funny gal. But before meeting Donn Gunvalson, her husband for the past 15 years and the love of her life, Vicki says her first marriage was fraught with abuse -- emotional, verbal and nearly physical at one point. Vicki has bravely chosen to open up about her harrowing experience, sharing her story in an exclusive interview with Life & Style.
Vicki was just 21 when she married her first husband, Michael J. Wolfsmith. By the time she was 23, she had already given birth to a son, Michael, now 23, and was pregnant with her second child, daughter Briana, now 22. Her husband, Vicki tells Life & Style, "was an alcoholic. He abused me verbally. He had many affairs during our marriage." During one especially horrifying incident, while Vicki was holding baby Michael on her lap, "he went to hit me," Vicki says. While he didn't end up striking her, she was consumed with fear. "I was 23 years old and pregnant for the second time," Vicki recalls. "I was really scared."
She divorced when she was 29, six years after her ex-husband nearly struck her. Those six years, Vicki explains, "were filled with screaming. I had to be his mother. I'd throw cold water on him to wake him up for work. It was a very hard life." As her 30th birthday approached, Vicki had a revelation. "It was a pivotal point in my life," she explains. "I didn't want to live my 30s the way I'd lived my 20s. I wasn't happy. I wasn't loved."
When contacted by Life & Style, Vicki's ex denied the allegations. "I had bouts with alcohol, but it was not a problem," he says. He also says he never cheated on Vicki or abused her emotionally or physically.