However, "I knew that I wanted this," she says. "I made it a priority, and I pursued it with some purpose"

By Kate Coyne
September 04, 2013 08:00 AM

When John Molner tried to pop the question to Katie Couric on the beach in East Hampton, the seasoned newswoman wasn’t exactly overcome with joy. Confusion is a better word.

“He said that there was a reason he’d brought me there to the beach, and that he loved me and was committed to me, and I said, ‘Yeah, I know that, you didn’t have to bring me here to tell me that,’ ” the Katie host tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.

“Finally he said, ‘Couric, I’m trying to propose to you,’ and I was stunned.”

So much so that as Molner, 50, got down on one knee and offered up a gorgeous diamond ring, “It took me a while to say yes, because I was so confused!” Couric, 56, says. “It took a long time for my brain to process what was going on.”

It’s also taken a long time for Couric to get her happily-ever-after. Since losing her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer in 1998, Couric has had a string of romances that didn’t go the distance. But she never lost hope that she’d finally find someone built for the long haul.

“I knew that I wanted this,” she says of finding a husband. “I made it a priority, and I pursued it with some purpose.”

For much more on Couric’s engagement, including how her two daughters reacted and how she reached out to her late husband’s family, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.