What I Learned About 'Real Love' After Being Proposed To By 9 Different Men

Photo: Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
lessons learned about real love after being proposed to 9 times

I've been proposed to nine times (one of them, quite seriously, was on the first date, and several others within a few weeks).

But I wasn’t in love with most of those men.

I have also been married twice and engaged a third time. And, no — I didn’t manipulate, lie to, use, or lead any of those men on. In fact, with both of my divorces, I took nothing and got nothing … financially.

So what did I do? I put on a façade of “being perfect,” one that made men drop to one knee thinking they had so easily found the “ideal woman.”



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And that was all I was in those relationships, a façade.

But, the truth is, I am truly far from perfect. And my saying all of this to you is by no means an attempt to show off.

We all have a façade.

We put it on for public consumption as a protective mechanism. It’s a side of us, but it’s not who we are at our core.

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The three lessons I learned about real, true love after being proposed to 9 times: 

1. Building a wall to protect your emotions backfires

As a dating coach, I see this every single day. New clients will come to me wondering why:

  • They continue to go on first dates that never lead to a second because they just don’t feel anything for the guy.
  • After a handful of amazing dates, during which they may have even had sex (and it was good!) he mysteriously is over her and ends it.
  • They are in unequal relationships within which he feels much more deeply for her and she’s just “not there yet.”
  • They have never truly been in love.

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You're making excuses to avoid being real and raw.

With every single one of these clients, I ask, “Do you get raw on the first or second date?” In other words: Do you open up, reveal your true self, get a little vulnerable, and connect through stories instead of surface-level conversations?

And do you know what almost every single one of them says? “No.”


  • Because she doesn’t trust him yet.
  • He hasn’t proven himself yet.
  • He doesn’t "deserve" that type of emotional intimacy from her yet.
  • Or, some women have the same reason I did, the same reason that kept me emotionally distant and shut down — “I don’t know who I truly am or how to open up.”

And that is both sad and scary. It’s also common. Many of us have walled up and shut down due to old emotional scar tissue. Trying to avoid a fight or seem "well behaved" in past unhealthy relationships, we hid our true selves.

After years or sometimes just months of the learned behavior, it became ingrained. We lost our sense of self, and sometimes even our self-worth. 

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2. Following the 'rules' wrecks marriages

My two marriages occurred when I was still young, 21 years old and then again at 24. I was playing by the "rules” of dating and relationship engagement.

My husbands were both good men. They just, in the end, were not good for me at the time.

But then I entered a string of extremely unhealthy relationships that left me unsure of all I had before “known", including who I was. I shelled over, iced up, and became cold and vacant.

I knew what to do and how to act in order to turn guys on. But I left one very important element out of the equation: me.

It’s not that I deliberately intended to hide who I was. I simply had no idea how to show it. I withheld my dirty “truths,” my weakness, my fears, my failures, my shame.

And instead, I presented the perfect façade, still with an understanding that in order to get men to open up (which is what I wanted because I wanted to truly know them), my “vulnerability” was required … to an extent.

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3. You can't feel love if you never open your heart

After this long lead-up, let me tell you the crux of the problem: Because I closed my heart, I was unable to fall in love.

If you don’t open your heart (and the most direct route to heart opening is through showing vulnerability), then you will not feel true love and connection with another.



Being human is what makes you truly loveable.

You are also not allowing someone truly to love you. It’s our humanity that makes us truly lovable and allows others to deeply and authentically fall in love with us (and with one another).

Sure, men find confidence attractive. But it’s “weakness,” or rather a vulnerability, that they fall in love with. This is also the reason why so many women who put on “perfect” in the first handful of dates end up dumped for “no reason.”

The actual reason is that they were forgettable. They weren’t layered and multi-faceted. Really, they were too perfect!

Still men and women fall for these facades every single day, thinking they have found the mythical unicorn — the perfect person who is fun and nice and adventurous and hot and loving and nurturing … all the time!

They are “never” challenging or emotional or sad or angry or shut down or “normal”… ever! Isn’t it grand?! No. It’s not. It’s fake.

So, screw the rules. Drop the façade — enough with the manipulative games. If you want to find real love, get real, get vulnerable, get raw ... even on the first date.

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Laurel House is an international celebrity dating and relationship coach, a dating coach on E!’s “Famously Single,” and writer who has appeared in Oprah, Vogue, The Washington Post, and 500 other media outlets.