The first time my husband told me he loved me I responded with a polite "Thank you."
In my defense, we'd only been dating a couple of months and I met him four days after my divorce, but it still took me another two years to really let him in and allow myself to be vulnerable. Six months into our relationship, he gave me a diamond ring that had taken him weeks to find. He wanted to make sure the ring was special because he was asking me to marry him. I had built such a strong wall around my heart that I actually didn't get that he was proposing! I thought he'd bought me a nice present. When some friends asked if we were engaged, I said "no" and broke his heart. He stayed with me anyway. This special man just kept telling me he knew we were soul mates, and he would wait until I realized it, too.
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I found it incredibly difficult to talk to him about my feelings or allow him to truly love me. I started arguments over insignificant things and hurt his feelings over and over again. Looking back, I can see that I was just scared. My previous marriage had scarred me much more than I had realized; I was protecting myself without even realizing it, but understanding the reasons didn't change the effect it had on our relationship.
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After almost three years together, we split up. It was sort of an "unofficial" breakup because he just moved to another state to work for a few months, but we both knew it was just an easy way to end our relationship. It didn't take long at all for me to realize, once he was gone, that there was a huge void in my life.
He moved on, and I was lost. I began to take a close look at the things I had said and done that had pushed him away over and over again. I came to the realization that I had to find a way to open myself up to love, whether it was with him or someone else. If I didn't, I would never have a fulfilling relationship.