Ashley Darby reveals on this week’s episode of Page Six’s “Virtual Reali-Tea” podcast how her estranged husb&, Michael Darby, feels about her blossoming romance with Luke Gulbranson.
The “Real Housewives of Potomac” star, 34, says her 63-year-old ex wasn’t paying much attention to her relationship with the “Summer House” hunk, 38.
That changed, though, when a photo of the pair enjoying a date night at a Capitals hockey game in Washington, D.C., went viral on social media just weeks ago.
“So Michael has seen Luke,” she explains, adding that the Australian businessman didn’t seem “too fond” of their potential as a couple — or the sweet snap taken at the game.
“It’s probably not his wallpaper on his phone, for sure,” she notes.
Ashley’s intuition told her the pic might ruffle a feather.
“Luke & I, we did a little conference & were like, ‘Should we really take this picture?’” she recalls. “Because we’re both being a little bit private about this, you know? So he was like, ’Should we?’ And I was like, ‘Eh, why not?’ So we took the picture.”
Despite Michael’s reaction, Ashley asserts that he is “living his best life” at the moment.
“Let’s be fair, he’s an attractive man,” she says. “I know he’s a little bit older, but he’s still got his personality, his business is thriving. So Michael, even though this is a difficult time for him too — as he’s told me — he’s doing his thing, he’s floating like a butterfly.”
At the behest of Bravo honcho Andy Cohen, Ashley began exploring a connection with Gulbranson at BravoCon 2022 last month in New York City.
The “Coffee & Love” singer tells Page Six that she knew the entrepreneur was “special” when they met up at the three-day Bravo After Dark party to watch Tom S&oval & The Most Extras play live.
“We watched Tom perform on stage & it was so good. Both of us got really wrapped up in the music. I was, like, with somebody who I was meant to be [with] at that concert. It was a really surreal feeling,” she says of their night soundtracked by the “V&erpump Rules” star’s cover b&.
“We just were vibing & singing together,” Ashley elaborates. “And that was when I was like, ‘OK, this is something a little more than what I thought it was going to be.’”
The mom of two — who shares sons Dean, 3, & Dylan, 1, with Michael — notes that her relationship with Gulbranson is “still fresh” after only a month of dating long-distance. (She lives in Virginia, while Gulbranson splits his time between New York City & Minnesota.)
“I do really want to get to know him first & we really are friends. Like, when I tell you we’re establishing a friendship, I’m not even exaggerating that,” she says.
Ashley also points out that it’s “nice” to be with someone who can relate to the experience of being a Bravolebrity.
“Honestly, it’s just a little bit refreshing for me, too, to be connecting with someone who also — you know, being in this sphere — underst&s this life,” she says.
Ashley announced in April that she & Michael had called it quits on their infamously rocky marriage as cameras rolled for “RHOP” Season 7. (Their impending divorce is currently playing out on the reality series.)
She explained in a statement at the time that the two were at “very different stages” of their lives & had “very different goals.”
The “Housewife” tells Page Six, however, that both she & Michael — who wed in 2014 — are on the same page when it comes to their kids.
“As far as Michael & I, we really do co-parent. Our communication strictly is about the children,” she reveals. “Maybe that will graduate & we’ll eventually have some sort of friendship, but at this point in time … he is very guarded. And we’re keeping it to the kids, which I think is better ultimately.”
Ashley — a self-proclaimed “partnership person” who is open to another marriage — says that reviving her love life as a single mom can be “so challenging” at times.
“I feel very protective of my kids, No. 1. So I’m always looking at everybody with a side-eye. But also, my children require so much time,” she tells us.
“So even … when I’m talking to [Gulbranson], my kids will be screaming or they’ll run around in the background naked,” Ashley continues with a laugh. “And I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, children, can I just have a minute?!’”
But the chaos seems to be worth it so far.
“Luke is a really great guy. And I’m going to be honest, when I first heard about him, I didn’t know anything about him … but that he’s very attractive. And I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, is he just going to be this, like, pretty douche?’” Ashley confesses.
“But no, he’s actually a very compassionate, kind guy. He actually gives really good life advice, too, which I was really surprised about. And yeah, there’s just so many layers to him, to his personality. He’s got a lot more depth.”
“The Real Housewives of Potomac” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.
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