"We met when I hated men," Blige, 36, tells Parade about Kendu Isaacs, 38, a talent manager and producer she met through Queen Latifah in a recording studio six years ago.
"He said, 'Mary, I've got something to tell you that's going to hurt, but it will help you heal.' Guys didn't ever talk to me like that. 'You're scarred inside,' he said. 'It's like you have a cut, and it's infected. You have to let me put proper medicine on it so it can heal.' "
She had turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain from her abusive upbringing. "The relationship I was in was so terrible, I had a gun to my face," she says. "At that point, I said to myself, 'There's something wrong with me. Guys don't want to stick around because they're ashamed of me.' Ouch! That gives me the chills right now!"
At first, she treated Isaacs "so badly for a while, because I'd never experienced real love before. I was suspicious. It seemed too good to be true."
But he stayed by her side, and eventually she learned to let go. "I remember lying on the bed with my head on his chest. I decided to stop drinking that night and forgive all the people who had hurt me and to forgive and love myself, because I loved him and I wanted to be true."
The couple married three years ago, and today live on an estate in New Jersey with his two youngest children, ages 7 and 8, from a previous marriage.
"He was the first person to ever challenge what I did: 'Why are you drinking? Why do you hate yourself? You don't need to be around people who tear you down. You're beautiful, Mary.' He was the first man to ever tell me that."