Avid viewers of the Food Network hit Down Home with the Neelys remember Gina and Pat Neely as a smiling, happy couple. Fans even approached Gina saying they thought she and Pat had a “perfect” marriage. Behind the scenes, however, the situation was far from rosy.
“Pat and I went to high school together. We were high school sweethearts,” Gina tells Oprah: Where Are They Now? “Pat is not a bad guy. He’s just not for me. I didn’t want to divorce my husband, but it became necessary to do it in order for me to be my best self. I felt the marriage started being in trouble when we started working together. He felt like we didn’t spend enough time together. I felt like we did, and we needed a little space.”
Gina says she wanted to file for divorce before they started shooting the TV series. “We went to therapy 12 times,” Gina says. “I tried to leave five times, and I just didn’t have the strength, but the fifth time, I held on to that.”
The divorce, Gina says, helped put her on a more fulfilling path. “I knew I wasn’t happy, and I said, ‘I’m definitely not going to take 50 [years old] and not be happy.’ So, at 46, I started changing my life. I started changing my body,” she says. “I realized I like that better.”
Don’t miss Oprah: Where Are They Now? Saturday at 10/9c on OWN.