‘Knife’s edge’: Secret heartbreak of Steve and Rose Jacobs
WHEN affable TV weatherman Steve Jacobs emotionally farewelled the Today show after a decade to focus on his young family and sea change to Vanuatu, there was secret heartbreak happening behind the scenes.
"People didn't realise we were already on the knife's edge by the time we arrived," Steve's wife Rose Jacobs exclusively told news.com.au amid divorce proceedings, opening up for the first time about the complicated end of her seven year marriage to the loveable television personality.
The idyllic life many thought the couple were living was a myth. After one year in the South Pacific paradise, reports of AVO applications and altercations surfaced before it was announced the seemingly perfect marriage had ended.
This month, they both moved back to the city they escaped - but to separate lives.
"I've been through hell and back with this," Rose said this week at a Clovelly coffee shop in Sydney's eastern suburbs, around the corner from the Bronte apartment she recently purchased.
"I now know that trying to pretend it's been all happy days is not helping anyone. My focus now … it's on my girls and moving forward. I don't have a problem (admitting) that the shiny, public image was not true and there was a lot of heartbreak behind the scenes."
The couple - who first met on the set of the Today show in 2007 and married in an intimate ceremony in Bali, Indonesia, three years later - had been suffering through "years of turmoil" that counselling couldn't fix.
In his demanding on-air job, Steve worked 300 days out of the year on the road, putting in 14 hours a day. Their relationship broke down.
In a "last ditch attempt", the decision was made: Steve would quit his high profile gig and the couple would relocate with their two young daughters - Isabella, 7, and Francesca, 5 - to their holiday home in Vanuatu.
It seemed like the perfect plan. Their problems would be solved.
In the media, they blamed the hustle and bustle of the city and explained they wanted to get away from the "toxic" Sydney lifestyle. But there was another reason. And darkness soon loomed over paradise.
"For me, it was worse," Rose, 39, said of the relationship after the move. "It was worse because I was isolated without longstanding friends or family and without people who knew our history. So I had no one I could trust or talk to. And we were trying hard to make it work but in my heart I knew it wasn't and it was like treading water."
After 12 years of rarely seeing each other, they finally had time to spend together - a change Rose described as "confronting".
The same problems that plagued their marriage in Sydney travelled with them to Vanuatu. Before they moved to the island, Rose once took steps to apply for an AVO (it's on police record but she never finalised it, she said). And, after an incident in their picturesque villa, she did it again.
"The AVO was because I had been advised to record any incidents, and there was a serious incident that I recorded and I wish that it had never occurred but unfortunately it did and that made me make the final decision to seek the AVO," the Sydney Weekender presenter said.
"I think anyone who enters into a face-to-face situation with their phone ready knowing that it's likely to be volatile, by then it's a no-brainer. You are in a situation where you need to get some support and legal interaction. It was a pattern that I knew was long term.
"No person ever intends on going and seeking an AVO. Until it's necessary. And for me, I really found myself in a situation where all the advice I was receiving from counsellors and the police and friends and family was that it was necessary at that stage for myself and the girls."
The AVO subsequently lapsed and no charges were ever laid against Steve Jacobs. By December, the couple had split.
"We had an argument that became volatile and I needed to leave with the kids," Rose said. "And that was the moment when I knew."
In the months that followed, reports surfaced about Rose's new relationship with Canadian soldier Dylan Nash, who was also living on the island. She said they were introduced by friends after the split and they enjoyed a four-month relationship.
"I had no anticipation of meeting someone fantastic so quickly but Dylan swept me off my feet and really it was the first time I had smiled in so long," she said, explaining Dylan's now in the UK applying for residency - something he couldn't do in Australia.
"There's a lot of love and support there and it's genuine and he's still my rock and I am his, so if and when we meet again, that would be lovely. But right now I'm just going day by day."
It was during this four month romance that reports surfaced of an "altercation" between Steve and Dylan at a Vanuatu gym.
"People assumed I had overnight left Steven for no reason and moved on super quick. But people didn't realise because we didn't land in Vanuatu and express to anyone that we'd been going through years of turmoil," she said.
She said she was judged by the public - and other people on the island.
"Dropping the kids at school some of the dads, I would wave to say good morning. And one in particular, he would look at me and shake his head and walk away," Rose said.
"I think a lot of women often look like the bad guy if they leave a marriage - even if they had an AVO, even if they spent years doing couples counselling."
Two weeks after moving back to Sydney, Rose is relaxed. In the middle of winter, she shows off her tanned skin in a white singlet and has her hair tied back in a scarf. A few days earlier, she picked out furniture for her New York-style apartment - an experience that left her "feeling free".
It's Rose's week with the girls. She shares custody with Steve - one week on, one week off. The kids have just gotten back from a week of skiing with their dad, and they've been getting familiar with mum's new home. This included roller blading on the slick timber floors. "Nothing's precious," Rose laughed.
"He loves his kids more than anything. He's an amazing dad," she said of her former partner. Steve now lives in nearby Bondi, but the former couple keep their distance.
"We've kind of glimpsed each other in passing. He dropped the kids off the other day," she said. "That was the first time we've been able to exchange the kids in a one-on-one scenario. But his car was leaving as I was coming down. We're not face-to-face at this stage."
The sea change wasn't the solution they hoped for. Still, she doesn't regret it.
"I think Steven's an amazing father and I'm happy to give him any space he needs to find himself again and be happy in his own skin."