The former Laguna Beach star details how breaking up with the Chicago Bears pro football player actually improved their relationship
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Though they found their happy ending as a family of five, Kristin Cavallari is the first to admit her relationship with husband Jay Cutler didn’t follow a fairy-tale narrative.

The former reality star broke off their engagement in July 2011 but reconciled with the Chicago Bears’ quarterback the following November, announcing she was pregnant. They got married in June 2013, 10 months after welcoming son Camden Jack.

“Relationships are hard work, especially with kids,” Cavallari, 29, writes in her new book Balancing in Heels. “But those couple months of being broken up showed us how much we meant to each other and how much we were both willing to do whatever it takes to make our relationship work.”

Their courtship was certainly a whirlwind romance: The TV host and designer says Cutler, 32, asked her out through her publicist, which she calls a “ballsy move” that paid off a year later, when she left Los Angeles behind (along with “the clubbing and superficial people”) to visit her mother in a Chicago suburb. While watching a Bears game, her super fan cousin Danny convinced her to ask the team for passes to meet Cutler after a football game.

“We hung out two nights later, and that began a swift and intense romance,” she says. “I flew back to Chicago at least every two weeks. When we were apart, we texted constantly, and he wrote me the sweetest love emails. Jay told me he loved me weeks into our relationship and told me he wanted to marry me after only two months. It all happened quickly, but it made sense: He was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a man, a real man. A guy who could fix something if it broke and whom I felt safe with, in every sense of the word. Eight months after our first meeting came the ring.

“Then, just three months later, I gave the ring back and called off the wedding.”

Cavallari attributes the decision to a gut feeling that “something wasn’t right.”

“A few things needed to change, and I knew the only way Jay would see how serious I was, was if I ended the relationship. On the outside, I tried to put on a tough, calm exterior even though I was dying on the inside,” she writes. “So I walked away from Jay, and it is the best thing that could have happened to our relationship. We talked the entire time we were broken up – working on a lot of our things together – but I stuck to my guns.”

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“We started seeing a therapist, whom I credit for saving our relationship,” she adds. “She opened up our eyes to the other person’s perspective and gave us great tools for communication. Sometimes it takes an outsider to mediate and get things back on track. We still see her periodically to this day.”

Cavallari and Cutler got back together two months later and decided to have a baby.

Telling Cutler’s “very traditional family,” was “nerve-racking,” she says, and though his parents “weren’t please” that they didn’t tie the knot before she gave birth, they “still managed to be excited for us.”

Cavallari says that after witnessing her parents’ “difficult” divorce, she would have been happy being engaged forever, but Cutler did want to become man and wife – and after Camden was born, her outlook changed, too.

Today, they’re also parents to son Jaxon Wyatt, 22 months, and daughter Saylor James, almost 4 months.

“Having a kid made me realize that I wanted the security of a legal union for him. I wouldn’t want him (or any of our kids, now,) to ever interpret our voluntarily not getting married as a sign that Jay and I may not be completely committed to our family. I figured out that my reticence boiled down to one thing: my ego. Not marrying Jay gave me a false sense of control, as though I was in charge. But that wasn’t actually wanted – I wanted the relationship to be fair and equal. Also, I felt as though not marrying Jay made me not give the relationship 100 percent; that not being married kept me from trying as hard as I could. I knew I wouldn’t be all in unless we got married. Plus, we were in love and wanted to be together forever, so why not!”

Balancing in Heels is available on shelves now.