Nichole Holmes is thanking the "perfect stranger" who reported to her that her boyfriend was cheating - and speaking out on the importance of women supporting women.
The Marriage or Mortgage star, 47, shared on Instagram Thursday the direct message she received from a woman in California, a stranger who reached out after she says she realized the man she had just matched with on a dating app was already romantically involved with Holmes.
"I matched with a man on a dating app and we were supposed to meet up later this week," the stranger wrote. "I always google someone before meeting up to make sure there are no red flags. Sadly I came across his Instagram and it appears he is in a relationship with you. I've been in your shoes before and definitely appreciated when the woman reached out to me and let me know."
"It's a tough message to send," the woman added, "sorry if I've upset you at all."
But the message didn't upset Holmes. She instead expressed her gratitude, thanking the woman for helping her find out the information sooner rather than later. (To a commenter on her Instagram who asked whether the story is real, Holmes replied, "sadly yes.")
She tells PEOPLE exclusively that while she was "devastated" by the revelation, she was "glad" to be made aware.
"I am eternally grateful to the amazing women who reached out to me, perfect strangers with great hearts. I was of course devastated when I received the initial message, but I am so glad they were willing to share their recent and overlapping stories with me," Holmes said.
Contacted by PEOPLE, the now-ex boyfriend provided the following statement: "Nichole is a wonderful person and a great mother. I wish her the best. I just don't agree with her perspective on the breakup."
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Holmes says the interaction further cemented her wariness about serious relationships and played into her preference for "Team Mortgage" on her Netflix show, on which she tries to convince couples to invest in real estate rather than a lavish wedding.
"I choose mortgage because I am someone who deeply believes in my own independence, and I want to encourage other women who find themselves on that path as well. Being mistreated by a man says nothing about you and everything about his character," she says.
Holmes, a former Miss Illinois in 1995 who has been divorced twice, adds that this is an example of women looking out for other women, a concept she hopes to impress upon her daughter Arya, 5½, as she grows up.
"I believe in women empowering and supporting other women. It is so important that we look out for one another and ourselves," the realtor says. "This is especially important to me as I raise a daughter. I want young girls to know they do not need to be in competition with each other."
Since revealing the Instagram interaction, fans have been reaching out to Holmes.
"I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of supportive and heartfelt messages. Many ladies have shared their stories with me, which has made me realize we are all far more similar than different," she says, clarifying that, "I am not anti-marriage, but I want my daughter to see me taking care of myself by not allowing a man to disrespect me."
Courtesy of NETFLIX
There's a time and a place, though, for healthy competition: Like with her costar, wedding-planner Sarah Miller on Marriage or Mortgage. Holmes will always vote for the dream home versus the dream nuptials, and she previously told PEOPLE she hopes her daughter learns from Mom's relationship history.
What would she tell Arya in the future if she were a guest on Marriage or Mortgage? To make the "sound and wise investment" of opting for a house, of course.
"Especially given my background and my history: I learned that lesson. I had a big wedding the first go around, and look how well that turned out," she joked back in March, adding, "If she had to choose, I'm obviously gonna say choose a mortgage, come on! Do as I say, not as I did."
Season 1 of Marriage or Mortgage is now streaming on Netflix.