Dr. Jackie Walters has faced many challenges, but the Married to Medicine star didn’t expect infidelity to rock her world. The OB/GYN has struggled with infertility and battled breast cancer, but publicly facing her husband Curtis Berry’s infidelity might be her toughest emotional challenge yet. The cheating scandal broke when photos of Curtis and another woman went viral. The other woman was allegedly unaware that Curtis was married, until the cozy pics hit the internet.
“I didn’t intend to share it,” Dr. Jackie tells PEOPLE. “However, it was addressed. It’s one of those things that you do better than healing in private than you do allowing the public to share it. So yeah, tough is… tough is probably an understatement.”
Dr. Jackie and Curtis have since been working through the messy conflict, in an attempt to save their marriage.
“I want to figure out a way to fix it,” Curtis says in the Season 5 trailer. “How do you fix humiliation?”
Fans of the show will have a front row seat as Dr. Jackie and Curtis face their splintered marriage, but the reality pro admits that she’s still journeying toward forgiveness.
“If you asked me to describe Dr. Jackie in season 5, I think my line would be, ‘Dr. Jackie gets to decide on the courage to forgive vs. the freedom not to.’ That’s kind of where I live in season 5,” she says.
“The forgiveness part of infidelity is a spiritual journey and it does not always happen overnight,” Dr. Jackie continues. “I’m certainly at a place where I can forgive most, if not everybody. But how can infidelity-damaged relationships survive?”
“Who says I’ve forgiven him?” she adds. “It’s such a rollercoaster effect. And deciding to stay or not to stay changes from day to day. Whether you stay with the person or not, you still have to walk in forgiveness. It doesn’t always end in saving the relationship. I think unforgiveness is poison to me and not to the person. It takes a lot of work … and sometimes it doesn’t work.”
Dr. Jackie assures fans that she does not blame herself for her husband’s affair.
“I have refused to own any rights to that choice that Curtis made,” she says. “I firmly think infidelity damages a relationship because there are a host of conditions and qualifications and considerations that you have to go through and ask, ‘What is it that got my significant other to that place?’ So I own none of it. Infidelity to me is a choice. I cannot make you make a choice. You choose to respond, nobody made you respond that way.”
Dr. Jackie shares that her current focus is on building herself back up, after being knocked down.
“I’m allowing the mistakes and the pain to have a purpose,” she says. “And building self-love and self-consideration. I’m guilty of it, putting everybody before me. But this season, I’ve learned to love me. And loving me isn’t selfish.”
Married to Medicine premiers Sunday at 10:00 p.m. ET on Bravo.