Tarek and Christina El Moussa struck a deal. Despite a messy breakup last summer during which Christina called 911 on her husband, who had left their $2 million Yorba Linda, California, home with a handgun in his backpack, the stars of HGTV’s hit Flip or Flop agreed to film their house-renovation series as if nothing was afoot. “It was stressful,” Tarek tells Us Weekly. “But we had to do our job.”
They had practice with the show-must-go-on mandate. Since their 2013 network debut, the parents of Taylor, 6, and Brayden, 18 months, have grappled with infertility (before having Brayden, they suffered a miscarriage and underwent IVF) and cancer. “Over time,” explains Tarek, “it took a toll on our marriage.” Still, nothing prepared them for the rumors when the split became public in December. Multiple outlets reported Tarek, 35, was suicidal (“Not true!” he says); one tabloid claimed he verbally abused his ex, 33 (“Absurd,” counters Tarek). In his first postsplit interview, he set the record straight on February 19 with Us’ Amy Cosman.
US: Can you pinpoint what went wrong in the marriage?
TEM: It was a gradual thing over time. We were both very busy people with health issues and kids. We didn’t fight, we just grew apart.
US: Why did she call the cops in May?
TEM: You’d have to ask her. It was blown out of proportion. I went hiking in Chino Hills State Park. We have bobcats, mountain lions. I took my gun only for protection.
US: Did you talk that night?
TEM: We didn’t stay together that night. We went to counseling to see what we could do to work things out. Ultimately, it was best to separate. Over the summer, I moved out. We thought it was best to have space. We didn’t want the kids to see us upset.
US: How did you tell them?
TEM: It wasn’t the easiest thing. When Taylor asks, I kind of deflect the question.
US: Was it awkward to continue working together?
TEM: You have good days and bad days. Now we say, “Hi, good morning.” We film together and talk about houses and the kids.
US: Has it gotten easier?
TEM: It’s fine. We’ll be together for the rest of our lives because we have kids. We need to get along for the kids and for our sanity.
US: Has the divorce been amicable?
TEM: There haven’t been fights. We have fifty-fifty custody now. She’s a great mom and I like to think I’m a great dad. Sometimes she or I will say, “I need them for an extra day or two.” We’re both flexible.
US: Ever hang as a foursome?
TEM: We did their birthday parties as a family. We’ll spend a lot of time together — Christmas, Christmas Eve.
US: Christina has been dating show contractor Gary Anderson. Thoughts?
TEM: It bothered me [at first]. But she can live her life. I’ve totally moved on. (Editor’s note: Christina has moved on, too. Us exclusively confirmed after Tarek’s interview that Christina and Anderson split so she could “focus on her children and herself.”)
US: True you hired a private investigator to follow her?
TEM: No. I’m done worrying about the past.
US: As for your love life, are you still dating the kids’ nanny, Alyssa Logan?
TEM: I did date her for a month. I was going through a tough time, and she’s amazing. I never held hands with her around the kids, though. Now I’m not dating anyone specifically. It will be a long time before I’m in a relationship.
US: How has life changed?
TEM: I rented a home in Newport Beach, and I’m selling real estate on my own. I take Taylor to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and we go for bike rides on the beach. My son is obsessed with music. We have Christmas music playing to this day and we dance. My goal is to create memories, and I think I’m doing that. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. It takes a situation like this, where you get knocked down and you rebuild yourself into the person you want to be. I’m becoming the person I want to be.
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!