Just weeks after Johnson — a pastor whom Williams met last spring at a spiritual retreat — popped the question in March, the former Destiny’s Child singer broke off the engagement. Three months later, she was hospitalized and subsequently entered a treatment facility for severe depression.
“There was a period of time where we did not know if we were going to make it down the aisle,” Williams, 38, tells PEOPLE exclusively in its latest issue.
The entertainer didn’t see “healthy conflict resolution” growing up, and she also had her heart broken by exes who never made her feel secure.
“I’m assuming a lot of relationships go through a period of time where one or more people get overwhelmed,” she says. “You don’t even know what it’s like to have real love because I’ve had to fight so much in past relationships: fight to have a place, fight for you to see me, fight for you to love me, fight for you to be faithful. In this relationship I didn’t have to do that, but I was so ready to fight.”
Though Johnson’s proposal was a “dream” come true for Williams, the engagement uncovered buried feelings of insecurity.
For more on how Michelle Williams battled through depression to find lasting love with her fiancé Chad Johnson, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
“She said it really unearthed stuff in both of us. It made us run into a wall,” says Johnson, 41. “It had taken me a long time to get to this place of vulnerability and love and commitment. I picked up everything to move to L.A. with her and not long after she pulled the plug.”
Though the singer tried to push Johnson away, he supported Williams through her time in the hospital and treatment, and the couple are still undergoing intense individual and premarital counseling.
“I [told myself] ‘You better get yourself together because do you not know this is what you prayed for? God gave this to you.’ What if he really leaves and this time next year I see him with somebody else? I’ll be like that Beyoncé song ‘Ring the Alarm!’ I’ll be damned if I see another chick on his arm.”
Waiting until marriage to consummate their relationship, Williams and Johnson are hoping to have a family sooner rather than later.
“I can’t wait for you to be pregnant with babies — a big ol’ basketball in there!” says Johnson. Adds his future wife: “I’m absolutely thankful for Chad. I’m so grateful and thankful for him. It’s not about marrying him, it’s to do life with him. I feel like I found someone to do life with.”
The couple’s new OWN reality show Chad Loves Michelle premieres Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. EST.