Erik Pendzich / Rex USA 1 / 9
Erik Pendzich / Rex USA 1 / 9

Last summer, Jennifer Garner couldn't look online or watch the news without seeing her face plastered on the screen.

At the time, it had just been announced that Jennifer and Ben Affleck, her husband of 10 years, were splitting, despite the fact that she still calls him "the love of my life."

Jen couldn't take the constant attention about the demise of her marriage, so she did everything she could to avoid media of any kind.

"Ben says, 'Oh, you just don't care,' and I say, 'No, it's the opposite.' It hurts me so much, and I care so much," she said. "I cannot be driven by the optics of this. I cannot let anger or hurt be my engine. I need to move with the big picture always on my mind, and the kids first and foremost."

In the new Vanity Fair, Jen dishes on her separation, the infamous nanny and even Ben's insane back tattoo, and she's incredibly honest.

"It was a real marriage," she says in the March issue. "It wasn't for the cameras. And it was a huge priority for me to stay in it. And that did not work."

Contrary to what has been reported, the family's nanny, Christine Ouzounia, had nothing to do with the split.

Shortly after the A-list couple announced their separation, multiple outlets pointed the finger at Christine, claiming Ben was cheating on Jen with the children's nanny.

"Let me just tell you something. We had been separated for months before I ever heard about the nanny," she said. "She had nothing to do with our decision to divorce. She was not a part of the equation. Bad judgment? Yes. It's not great for your kids for [a nanny] to disappear from their lives. I have had to have conversations about the meaning of 'scandal' [with her children]."

Ben and Jen have three children together: Violet, Seraphina and Sam.

Despite the hurt from the split, Jen says she would do it all over again with Ben.

"I didn't marry the big fat movie star; I married him," she said. "And I would go back and remake that decision. I ran down the beach to him, and I would again. You can't have these three babies and so much of what we had. He's the love of my life ... He's just a complicated guy. I always say, 'When his sun shines on you, you feel it.' But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it's cold. He can cast quite a shadow."

For all Ben's faults, being a great father isn't one of them. He's sensational with their children, she admits.

"You should see their faces when he walks through the door," she says. "If you see your kids love someone so purely and wholly, then you're going to be friends with that person."

She does, however, shake her head at one of Ben's post-split decisions: getting that huge tattoo of a phoenix on his back.

"You know what we would say in my hometown about that? 'Bless his heart.' a phoenix rising from the ashes," she said, wondering, "Am I the ashes in this scenario? I take umbrage. I refuse to be the ashes."