EXCLUSIVE: Linda Thompson opens up about Caitlyn Jenner marrying Kris after coming out as transgender

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EXCLUSIVE: Why Linda Thompson Didn't Resent Ex Caitlyn Jenner for Marrying Kris Jenner


When it comes to Linda Thompson's relationship with her ex, Caitlyn Jenner, it's complicated.

Thompson sat down with ET for an intimate sit-down to talk about her new memoir, A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between, candidly discussing her five-year marriage to Jenner, as well as Jenner's later decision to marry Kris Jenner. Jenner married Kris in 1991, which was after she had told Thompson that she was transgender, ultimately leading to their own 1986 split.

Thompson says she was actually "thrilled" and "delighted" about Jenner's new relationship because she wanted her ex to be happy, but now acknowledges she was "naive" about Jenner still wanting to be a woman.

WATCH: Caitlyn Jenner Says Ex Kris Brought Her 'Back to Life,' Calls Kids Her 'Greatest Accomplishment'

"In my naivety and my ignorance, I didn't know that she was still repressing who she was," Thompson, 66, tells ET's Nancy O'Dell. "I thought, 'Well, maybe she's found a way to live with this and to move on.' And again I'm thinking, in those days, I'm thinking 'he.' I was thinking maybe he has found a way to repress this further and to move on with his life and to find a partner in a new life."

PHOTOS: Linda Thompson and Bruce in the past

12 PHOTOS
Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner together
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Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner together
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1990: Bruce Jenner and Linda Thompson circa 1990 in New York City. (Photo by REP/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner - June 20, 1981 in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER, 1981: Bruce Jenner and wife Linda Thompson go to see the play 'Come Blow Your Horn' at Hollywood's Huntington Hartford Theatre in October, 1981 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images)
Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Bruce Jenner and Linda Thompson during Muscular Dystrophy Benefit at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
(Original Caption) Honolulu: Bruce Jenner and his bride, Linda Thompson, toast each other following their wedding on the beach in Oahu, Hawaii, at the home of producer Allan Carr, (R), January 5. Jenner is the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion who is currently under contract to NBC Sports as a commentator and actor. Linda is the former girl friend of Elvis Presley and now a regular member of the Hee Haw TV series.
Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner during 'Can't Stop the Music' Premiere - June 19, 1980 at Lincoln Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Bruce Jenner, Linda Thompson, and Loni Anderson during George Burns 85th Birthday Party at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - JUNE 1980: Athlete turned actor Bruce Jenner with his fiance Linda Thompson, parents William and Esther Jenner and sister Lisa Jenner at a promotional event for the film 'Can't Stop the Music' in June 1980 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - JUNE 19: Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner attend the premiere party for 'Can't Stop The Music' on June 19, 1980 at Lincoln Center in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
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"Honestly, I was so happy for Bruce because I loved Bruce ... and Bruce felt like my brother," she adds. "You know, I wanted him to be OK and I was just thrilled he'd found someone who had four children, and someone who understood what it was like to be a parent -- you know, just to have that great family life again. ... I thought he had found his forever and he pretty much had."

Thompson praises Jenner's long-lasting third marriage -- 23 years -- but says she didn't watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Although she had nothing but good will towards the union, she admits that Jenner being transgender did cause her to have doubts about her own identity.

"I questioned everything about myself," Thompson says. "I questioned everything about life and what I knew of life. I questioned my own femininity, my own sexuality, my own intelligence, where I was going to go in the future with my life, and what would happen to my children. I questioned everything."

"It was devastating," she continues. "I was unearthed. It was a crazy time."

WATCH: Kris Jenner Says Caitlyn Never Told Her 'I Want to Be a Woman' in Tense Conversation

Thompson and Jenner married in 1981, after she dated Elvis Presley for more than four years. They have two children together -- 35-year-old Brandon and 33-year-old Brody.

"I had this normal, wonderful, athletic, down to earth, free and easygoing guy, that I fell in love with, and who fathered two children, two sons with me," Thompson says about her initial relationship with Jenner. "So, I really felt I had found my normal, until my world collapsed."

The beauty pageant winner found out Jenner was transgender 30 years ago, and says she was "completely blindsided." At the time, Brody was just 18 months old, and Brandon was three years old. The two went to therapy, where Thompson educated herself on transgender issues.

"In my naivety and my ignorance, I thought it was something that possibly we could fix, and if we couldn't fix it and stay together, at least I could educate myself and understand better what was happening in my life for my family," she says.

Though nothing could prepare Thompson for the devastation she felt when she saw Jenner dressed as a woman for the first time.

"I was invited by my then-husband to come to New York to be with him on a weekend trip -- and this was in the midst of all the turmoil in my mind and in her mind," she recalls. "So, I thought she asked me -- or I didn't think 'she' at the time, I thought 'he' -- asked me to come to New York. I thought maybe we can get past this. Maybe, you know, he can kind of subjugate those feelings and put everything aside and move on. So that's the spirit in which I went to New York to be with my husband, and when I knocked on the hotel door, she opened the door as Caitlyn as we now know her -- full makeup and fully dressed as a woman. So it was devastating to me to see because I had envisioned Bruce opening the door, but it was helpful in my process."

"I crumbled," she admits. "I think I just fell down in the hall of the hotel. I crumbled and she was very apologetic. She said, 'I'm very sorry, but I just think you need to see who I truly am.' ... So then I finally got it. But it took a while for me to fully grasp and to assimilate it into my consciousness that that's who she really was."

Thompson says Jenner wanted to transition but stay married to her, but the two eventually decided to split less than a year later.

"About six months we stayed together after she came to me with her revelation, we continued in the therapy, we continued to put on the face of a marriage," she recalls. "We pretended that we were still together, and we were to an extent. But after about six months I realized this is what she needed to do, who she authentically was, and I need to move on with my life."

These days, Thompson says she's "very cordial" with Jenner and they actually see each other more than in the years after their divorce. Most of all, she is happy that Jenner is able to be herself. Thompson recalls one particularly "jarring" incident when a neighbor saw Jenner dressed in women's clothing, and Jenner lied and said she was going to a Halloween party even though it was July at the time.

PHOTOS: Linda Thompson through the years

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Linda Thompson through the years
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Linda Thompson through the years
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Linda Thompson arrives for Los Angeles Confidential Celebrates GRAMMY Issue Cover Star And Nominee Mark Ronson at Exchange LA on February 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 10: Linda Thompson arrives at the 64th Annual BMI Pop Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on May 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 07: Linda Thompson attends the 7th Annual Unbridled Eve Derby Prelude Party held at the London Hotel on January 7, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Actress / Songwriter Linda Thompson attends the 2nd Annual Light Up The Night White Party at Mr. C Beverly Hills on September 26, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
MALIBU, CA - MAY 09: Actresses Linda Thompson and Jane Seymour attend the 5th Annual Open Hearts Foundation Gala on May 9, 2015 in Malibu, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Open Hearts Foundation)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30: Linda Thompson attends the Casamigos Tequila Halloween Party Brought to you by Those Who Drink It at a private residence on October 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Graves/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 20: Actress Linda Thompson arrives at the 21st ELLA Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Actress Linda Thompson attends the Mending Kids International's 'Rock & Roll All-Stars' Fundraising Event on February 14, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 09: Actress Linda Thompson attends the 5th Annual Los Angeles Unbridled Eve Derby Prelude Party at The London West Hollywood on January 9, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22: Actress Linda Thompson attends the 8th annual BritWeek launch party at The British Residence on April 22, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08: (L-R) TV personality Brody Jenner, musician Brandon Jenner, actress Linda Thompson and musician David Foster pose at the Brandon and Leah album release party for 'Cronies' on April 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08: Actress Linda Thompson poses at the Brandon and Leah album release party for 'Cronies' on April 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 14: Linda Thompson arrives at the 61st Annual BMI Pop Awards at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on May 14, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/WireImage)
MARINA DEL REY, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Actress/singer Linda Thompson attend the Life Rolls On Foundation's 9th Annual 'Night by the Ocean' gala at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on November 10, 2012 in Marina del Rey, California. (Photo by Todd Oren/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 14: Linda Thompson arrives at the Rape Treatment Center Brunch honoring Norman Lear hosted by Viola Davis at a Private Residence on October 14, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for RTC)
Actress Linda Thompson arrives at the 19th Annual Race to Erase MS held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 18, 2012 in Century City. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 28: Linda Thompson attends the 3rd Annual Fluffball on April 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Actress Linda Thompson attends the Los Angeles Confidential Magazine Celebration of The Men's Issue and Bachelors Presented By Acuraat The WaterMarke Tower on October 28, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Parry/WireImage)
TV personality Brody Jenner and Linda Thompson arrive at the 17th Annual Race to Erase MS event co-chaired by Nancy Davis and Tommy Hilfiger at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actress Linda Thompson attends Los Angeles Confidential Magazine's Pre-Emmy Party at Les Deux on September 20, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Linda Thompson arrives at the Stella McCartney And Tastybaby 2008 Collection preview event at the Stella McCartney store September 15, 2007 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Linda Thompson during Mentor LA Promise Gala Honoring Tom Cruise at Twentieth Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Linda Thompson (Photo by John Sciulli/WireImage)
Linda Thompson during The 3rd Annual Lakers Casino Night - Arrivals at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, United States. (Photo by Jason Merritt/FilmMagic)
Actress Linda Thompson arrives to the Sheila and Lynn Marbry's Elevate Hope Foundation 'Circle of Passion' pre-Oscar benefit event at the Pacific Design Center Sunday evening. (Photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)
Linda Thompson during Universal Pictures' 'The Producers' World Premiere - Arrivals at Westfield Century City in Century City, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Composers David Foster and wife Linda Thompson arrive at Warner Music Group's Grammy�� Awards After-Party held at the prestigeous Pacific Design Center. (Photo by Paul Mounce/Corbis via Getty Images)
David Foster, Linda Thompson and Clive Davis during Clive Davis' 2005 Pre-GRAMMY Awards Party - Dinner and Show at Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by L. Busacca/WireImage for J Records)
Linda Thompson during The Louis Vuitton United Cancer Front Gala at Universal Studios in Universal City, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
David Foster and Linda Thompson during NRDC's 'Earth To L.A.! - The Greatest Show On Earth' Benefit at Wadsworth Theatre in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Linda Thompson (Photo by Ron Wolfson/WireImage for NARAS)
Linda Thompson during 2003 Hollywood Awards Gala Ceremony - Arrivals at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Linda Thompson & David Foster during 2003 Emmy Creative Arts Awards - Press Room at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
David Foster and wife Linda Thompson arriving at the10th anniversary of the Race To Erase MS gala. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
Linda Thompson during The 15th Carousel Of Hope Ball - Arrivals at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Linda Thompson and David Foster during Arista 25th Anniversary Celebration at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
David Foster & Linda Thompson (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Producer David Foster and actress Linda Thompson attend 71st Annual Academy Awards on March 21, 1999 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Linda Thompson and producer David Foster attend Arista Records Pre-Grammy Party on February 24, 1998 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Producer David Foster and actress Linda Thompson attend 10th Annual American Comedy Awards on February 11, 1996 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Linda Thompson and producer David Foster attend National Grammy in the School Day on February 19, 1993 at Hollywood High School in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Linda Thompson and producer David Foster on February 28, 1987 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Producer David Foster, actress Linda Thompson and children attend National Conference of Christians and Jews on September 30, 1987 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Producer David Foster and actress Linda Thompson attend the nominees luncheon for 59th Annual Academy Awards on March 18, 1987 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Linda Thompson and producer David Foster attend 35th Anniversary Party for American Bandstand on September 14, 1987 at Chasen's Restaurant in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Linda Thompson during 1992 U.S. Open Tennis Championship - September 9, 1992 at Flushing Meadow Park in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY Â CIRCA 1994: Linda Thompson attends the 36th Annual Grammy Awards held at Radio City Music Hall circa 1994 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Linda Thompson during 65th Annual Academy Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Bruce Jenner and Linda Thompson during The 28th Annual GRAMMY Awards - After Party Hosted by CBS at Rex Restaurant in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Linda Thompson and guest during Nashville Network Live Telecast and Party at The Palomino in North Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY - JUNE 19: Linda Thompson and Bruce Jenner attend the premiere party for 'Can't Stop The Music' on June 19, 1980 at Lincoln Center in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Linda Thompson during Kenny Rogers After Party at Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - MAY 22: Linda Thompson attends an exclusive photo session on May 22, 1977 at her home in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Linda Thompson (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
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"You can imagine the agony that she went through, and I reminded myself every time I would feel slighted or hurt or cheated, you know, I would think about her -- and her feelings and how she must have felt far worse than I," Thompson says. "I saw the agony, I saw the pain, and the hurt, because she felt for her family too."

"You know, she didn't want to disrupt her family," she notes. "She didn't want to lose her family, she didn't want to hurt her children, she struggled. It was a lifelong struggle for her, being in Bruce Jenner's body."

WATCH: EXCLUSIVE -- Caitlyn Jenner Is 'Proud' of Dad-to-Be Rob Kardashian -- 'Things Are Going Well'

Thompson says she's now "delighted" whenever she sees Jenner.

"I enjoy her very much -- she's the same person, she's the same entity, she's the same living, breathing entity, the same soul, just a different facade," she says. "But it's kind of difficult, again, to grasp the concept that the man -- the very handsome, athletic, muscular man that I fell in love with -- is now this lovely, feminine woman, who identifies and thinks like a woman, but did back then too. I just didn't know it."

Tune into ET on Tuesday for more of our exclusive interview with Thompson.

ET also chatted with Thompson last April, when she gave her thoughts on Caitlyn's much talked-about interview with Diane Sawyer.

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