Carlton Gebbia publicly announced her separation from her husband David on August 25, and now The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum has opened up to PEOPLE about the couple's decision to call it quits after 18 years of marriage. "It was never a verbal decision between him and I. It just sort of happened naturally. It was a gradual breakup of our relationship over a period of time," Carlton said during an interview two weeks after the announcement. "This man was my soulmate for 20 years and never would I have imagined this. He was my everything, but we've been together a long time. …[It] is wonderful now to know that we can still continue to be partners because we had always worked so well together in the past."
When The Daily Dish confirmed the news of Carlton and David's separation last month, her rep revealed that the couple is "separated but living under the same roof for the wellness of their children." "David and I both knew that if we decided to live in separate homes, which would end up in divorce, it would literally destroy and devastate our children. We've been together way too long, been the best of friends and business partners. We really have been amazing parents proudly raising the most beautiful and well-adjusted children," Carlton said of the couple's decision to remain living together. "We were not prepared to screw it up now just because we fell out of love. We didn't want to split up the family dynamic. What we do know is, for our family, that it works right now. And it may not be for everyone, but for us it's positive and it's actually healing for us."
Carlton told PEOPLE that the couple's children — Destiny, 14, Mysteri, 12, and Cross, 5 — "were very aware that all was not good" between them before she and David told them about their separation. "We told them that we weren't going to get divorced; we would continue to live as a family under the same roof; and although that we weren't in love anymore, it didn't mean that we didn't love one another," she explained. "I think it was one of the most heartbreaking things that when we did tell them this that I just remember seeing the relief in their faces – like a weight was lifted – and the happiness in their eyes. It was really very painful to watch because it's the realization that this was the right thing for us."
The house designer also said appearing on Season 4 of RHOBH made her "relationship with David stronger." She said she now feels a "sense of relief" that the news of her separation is public. "It felt like I was sort of hiding a lie and a secret and it just didn't feel good," she said.
Though Carlton and David have been separated for a year, it is something that she is still very much dealing with on a day-to-day basis. "It is still very, very raw. I still go through the emotions and waves. After being together 20 years, it's just not something that is buried immediately," Carlton said. "But as long as our children are happy and we keep running together positively, that is all that I can ask for. I don't want our children affected by this in a negative way."
Check out photos of Carlton as a kid, below.