A Jersey girl in love! Dolores Catania and Paul “Paulie” Connell were going strong before season 13 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey — but that didn’t mean she wasn’t hesitant about putting her love life on the Bravo series.
“I don’t wanna put him on. Absolutely not. But I know what I signed up for and [him] being such a part of my life — he wasn’t somebody who I go out to dinner with once in a while. You know, he’s not just a friend. He’s a part of my life now,” Catania exclusively told Us Weekly ahead of the February 2023 premiere. “I’m nervous for him because this is a big deal to people. You know, Paul’s a very successful electrical contractor in the city. He owns a company called Eco Electric, and he’s done so well, and he came to this country alone [from Ireland] in his 20s. And he just, like, took over so much and then I’m like, ‘You may have done that, you have may have left your whole family behind in another country and came here and become this huge success in one of the greatest places in the world, but I’m going to tell you, I don’t know that you’re prepared for this.’”
RHONJ viewers have watched the former corrections officer navigate her relationship with her ex-husband, Frank Catania, since she joined the show in season 7 in 2016. The former couple share adult children Gabby and Frankie. While Frank got along well with Dolores’ ex-boyfriend David Principe, it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing between her new beau and former spouse.
“We’re not on the best of terms because Paul is not used to the dynamic between Dolores and me,” Frank told Us in October 2022. “If you spend more time with Dolores and me, you get to see there’s nothing to worry about, right? I love her. I will always love her. I always take care of her. … He’s gotten better, and we’ve spent a much more time together and I think he’s gotten much more comfortable.”
He added: “Any tension that was there before, I feel it’s gone. … When I see him, we hug now.”
While some fans refuse to give up hope that Frank and Dolores could eventually reconcile, she told Us that it doesn’t bother Paulie.
“I try to put myself in his shoes all the time. … I’m very mindful of him and his feelings and the situation,” Dolores told Us in February 2023. “So I tried to make him — and I think everyone tried to make him — as comfortable as you could. … I think Frank wanted so badly just to like, ‘Hey bro, we’re bros.’ And Paul’s like, ‘I’m just getting in a relationship with her. I’ll get to know you, but I don’t wanna be in a relationship with you and Dolores.’ I tried to explain [to] Frank, I’m establishing my life now. The dynamics have changed a little bit because I wanted this relationship to be different than my other ones.”
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Scroll through for Dolores and Connell’s timeline: