“Ashley was going around saying that her marriage is ending, and she’s about to be on the dating market,” an insider who attended Karen Huger‘s RHOP: Karen’s Grande Dame Reunion premiere party on Saturday, April 16, exclusively tells Us.
The 33-year-old reality star confirmed her split from Michael, 62, on Tuesday, April 19, writing via Instagram, “It’s been almost 8 magical years.” Ashley told Bravo’s Daily Dish in a statement that she and Michael “will always love and respect each other” despite going their different ways.
“We have decided to separate. We are aware that there will be many speculative views as to why we have made this decision,” she began. “People will be quick to assume that the causes were too much intrusion by reality TV into the most personal parts of our lives, age gap issues, cultural problems, or child-rearing differences. Pieces of all these may have affected our pure love for each other, but no one reason is the root cause of our mutual decision to go our separate ways.”
Ashley noted: “We are now both at very different stages in our lives and have different goals for our futures. We both want the other to achieve true happiness and fulfillment and feel that we cannot do this together.”
She continued: “We also know that true happiness can only be achieved by continuing to work together and putting our hearts and souls into raising our two beautiful boys, Dean and Dylan. They will always feel loved and supported, for they were truly created out of love. As this is a personal matter for us, we appreciate everyone who has been a part of our journey and ask for your continued support by respecting us as we go through this emotional situation.”
Ashley and Michael tied the knot in 2014, two years before RHOP premiered on Bravo. The pair’s relationship quickly became a topic of conversation after Michael allegedly grabbed the rear end of Katie Rost‘s then-fiancé, Andrew Martin, at a party. The contractor and his wife denied the claims during the season 1 reunion, which aired in April 2016.
In September 2018, Michael was accused of groping a cameraman’s butt while working on an episode of the reality series. He was suspended from filming and charged with second-degree sexual assault and improper sexual contact.
The network released a statement to Us at the time of Michael’s suspension, noting, “Bravo has comprehensive policies and guidelines relating to the safety of cast and crew which production companies are required to follow, in addition to their own protocols they have in place. We take all allegations seriously and then proceed accordingly with our producing partners. Bravo and Truly Original, the production company for The Real Housewives of Potomac, have suspended filming with Michael Darby.”
One month later, Michael’s charges were dropped. “The case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence,” Ramon Korionoff, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, told Us in October 2018. “The complaining witness states there were no witnesses who actually saw the incident.”
Michael’s attorney, Mike Rowan, also offered a statement. “The charges were dropped. They were baseless,” the lawyer argued that same month. “There were a number of alleged witnesses who said it did not happen. The peace order request by the alleged victim was also denied. There was simply nothing that happened, and nothing here.”
Amid their public ups and downs, the Paper Wristbands author addressed where she stands with Michael. “Michael and I are in a much better place,” she shared during the RHOP Season 3 reunion episode in August 2018. “We are trying to have a family. I actually did conceive a week before my birthday and unfortunately, I had a miscarriage two weeks into the pregnancy.”
“I never thought this day would come,” Ashley wrote via Instagram after giving birth. “When I learned I was pregnant, I started thinking about when I’d feel the first kicks. Then, when I was feeling the flutters, I wanted to know when I’d finally start to show. After watching the bump grow, my mind went to birthing day (WILL THIS REALLY HAPPEN?!) And when the day finally came that this sweet child came into our world, it felt like the sunniest day after a sky filled grey. The most sensational day of our shared life. Mickey and I are savoring every moment with our wonderful son.”
The duo welcomed their second son, Dylan, in March 2021. The Bravo personality gushed about her growing family via Instagram at the time, writing, “Dean loves being a big brother and covers the baby in kisses and hugs all the time. Thank you for your well-wishes and being patient as we settle into our new normal. This is even more amazing than I thought it’d be. … I didn’t know my heart could hold this much love.”