Melissa Gorga has had her fair share of ups and downs with sister-in-law and "Real Housewives of New Jersey" co-star, Teresa Giudice, over the years, to put it mildly, but she's learned a lot from their journey together.
In recent seasons especially, the longtime cast member, who is married to Teresa's brother, Joe, has felt "trapped in the middle" between Teresa and some of her closer friends on the cast but, as she told AOL's Gibson Johns over the phone in an exclusive interview ahead of the upcoming season 10 premiere, she's learned how to better navigate that dynamic over the years.
"I’ve learned to put Teresa in her place. Whereas before, we worried about the family not having dinner together, we’re in a spot now where I can put her in her place and let her know, 'We’re not children here. If you don’t like this girl and you don’t get along with her, then that’s a separate thing than us having family dinner on Sunday,'" Melissa told AOL. "I put my foot down with that, and I’ve also done the same with my friends to let them know, like, 'I know you may have had your issues, but that’s my sister-in-law and at the day, family is family and that’s it.'"
"It’s very difficult. I do sometimes feel trapped in the middle and not knowing what to do, because I don’t always agree with Teresa, but she is my sister-in-law and I’ll always protect her. It sometimes put me in that though spot," she added. "I’m a standup girl and I do what’s right most of the time. I’m always in that spot where it’s like, 'Are you going to be on this side or that side?' And I think I’ve done a really good job of not breaking either way and staying with my truth, which always works for me."
All six women that were on the season 9 cast of "RHONJ" are coming back for season 10, which premieres on Wednesday, November 6, carrying over a split-down-the-middle dynamic that emerged with the cast: On one side, there's Melissa, Margaret Josephs and Jackie Goldschneider, and Teresa, Dolores Catania and Jennifer Aydin are on the other.
In Melissa's eyes, there are several reasons why she gets along so well with Margaret and Jackie and continues to do so during this upcoming season.
"To be honest, I think it’s a lot about our lifestyles, but we also all think the same: We’re a bit more of the rational thinkers in the group, and we think a bit more before we speak, which helps us get along better and agree with each other more," she explained to AOL. "It wasn’t like a planned thing, it was just that no matter what was going on in the group, the three of us would say, 'Yeah, no, we don’t see it that way.' The other three would feel differently, and it was just such a natural split with personalities. It’s also the way we run our families and are in our relationships that are the same. There’s a lot that happens to be similar."
Ahead of season 9, the hype coming from the cast and executive producer Andy Cohen was that it was the best season of "RHONJ" in years and, for Melissa, this year continues to build on the relationships and dynamics that the cast established last year.
"I still feel like we found our group. 'Jersey' is very hard to cast -- I always say that -- because it’s hard to mix people in with Teresa and I and the family drama and make them feel comfortable like they can speak their mind," she said. "I’m telling you, in this cast we still have the family, which everyone loves, and we get enough from the new girls to keep it fresh and it just works. I really do think it’s a great cast."
Someone that complicates the cast's dynamic is "friend" of the cast Danielle Staub, who has existed as a sort of X-factor for "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" for years and has never been afraid of shaking things up, to say the least.
"Everyone knows she is good at coming in and ruffling everyone’s feathers and saying something outrageous that makes no sense," Melissa said of Danielle's presence this season. "Just know that there will be a lot of that going that going."
"I never really didn’t like Danielle, though," she added. "I’ve never had a big argument with her where I said I didn’t like her or wished bad on her, but I did always feel bad that she could never really get it right with men and was always single, and she’s always fighting for her own and I always feel for a woman that way. But, for me, I just can’t take in a high-maintenance friend, and she’s very high-maintenance. She’s a lot of work."
As for what else we can expect from Melissa this season, expect her to be "stressed out" as she prepares to turn 40, continue to grow Envy by Melissa Gorga and see her and husband, Joe, "contemplate whether or not we want to get pregnant again, which has been something we've been discussing for a while."
Season 10 of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" premieres on Bravo on Wednesday, November 6, at 8 p.m. EST