Garner admits that "nannygate" wasn't easy, especially for their three children, Violet, 10, Seraphina, 7, and Sam, 4. "Bad judgment? Yes. It's not great for your kids for [a nanny] to disappear from their lives," she explains. "I have had to have conversations [with my children] about the meaning of 'scandal.'"
In June 2015, Affleck and Garner announced their plans to divorce, which immediately sparked a media frenzy around the beloved couple. "I turned on CNN one day," she recalls, "and there we were. I just won't do it anymore. I took a silent oath to myself last summer to really stay offline. I am totally clueless about all of it."
Garner says that her ex didn't feel that way. "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."
The actress insists that, despite what has been reported, she was in a "real marriage" with Affleck. "I didn't marry a movie star; I married him," she asserts. "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. What am I going to say about that?" Garner continues. "He's the most brilliant person in any room, the most charismatic, the most generous."
That being said, the mother-of-three doesn't deny that her estranged husband is a "complicated guy."
"When his sun shines on you, you feel it. But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it's cold," she explains. "He can cast quite a shadow."
While Garner speaks highly of Affleck, 43, she doesn't offer any hope that her marriage can be salvaged, though she understands why outsiders remain hopeful. "When Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up, I was dying to see something that said they were getting back together," she admits.
Garner says she has now accepted a future without Affleck as her husband. "The main thing is these kids -- and we're completely in line with what we hope for them," she insists. "Sure, I lost a dream of dancing with my husband at my daughter's wedding. But you should see their faces when he walks through the door. And if you see your kids love someone so purely and wholly, then you're going to be friends with that person.”
While she is currently great at taking the high road in her VF interview, Garner still can't help but quip about Affleck's post-split tattoo of a rising phoenix that covers his entire back.
"You know what we would say in my hometown about that? 'Bless his heart,'" the West Virginia native says. "A phoenix rising from the ashes. Am I the ashes in this scenario? I take umbrage. I refuse to be the ashes."