Former Bachelorette Emily Maynard Opens Up About Her Two Failed TV Engagements: 'I Felt Like There Was Something Wrong with Me If I Couldn't Make It Work – Again'

02/24/2016 AT 12:00 PM EST

As a contestant on The Bachelor and later as the leading lady of The Bachelorette, Emily Maynard was very familiar with the franchise's notion of a fairy-tale ending. But her reality was far from happily ever after.

"It was horrible," Maynard tells PEOPLE exclusively of the aftermath following the breakup of her second made-on-television relationship. "I felt like there was something wrong with me if I couldn't make it work – again."

As a single mom, (her ex Ricky Hendrick died tragically before their daughter Ricki was born), Maynard signed on for The Bachelor hoping to find true love.

"I thought nothing in my life has been normal," she says. "Maybe this is the way I'm supposed to find my husband."



Former Bachelorette Emily Maynard Opens Up About Her Two Failed TV Engagements: 'I Felt Like There Was Something Wrong with Me If I Couldn't Make It Work – Again'| People Scoop, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, People Picks, TV News, Emily Maynard

Emily Maynard Johnson

Gabrielle Revere

The Southern belle fell for Bachelor Brad Womack, and he proposed on the season finale in 2011.

"The feelings that I had for Brad were very real," says Maynard. "But I don't know if I was in love with him."

Former Bachelorette Emily Maynard Opens Up About Her Two Failed TV Engagements: 'I Felt Like There Was Something Wrong with Me If I Couldn't Make It Work – Again'| People Scoop, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, People Picks, TV News, Emily Maynard

I Said Yes

Julie Solomon

Still, the couple tried to make it work. Says Maynard, who has written a book about her journey, I Said Yes: "I thought maybe when the show was over, the walls would drop and we could be silly and have fun. I tried to bring that out in him, but we were just two different people. I had feelings inside saying this isn't right. I kept trying and we'd take a couple steps forward and then go straight back. It just wasn't meant to be."

Former Bachelorette Emily Maynard Opens Up About Her Two Failed TV Engagements: 'I Felt Like There Was Something Wrong with Me If I Couldn't Make It Work – Again'| People Scoop, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, People Picks, TV News, Emily Maynard

Emily Maynard and Brad Womack on The Bachelor

Mark Wessels / ABC

Still hoping to find The One, Maynard gave reality TV romance another shot as The Bachelorette in 2012. She developed feelings for Jef Holm early on. "He was a free-spirited young guy," says Maynard. "I don't get to explore that side of myself. I felt like he brought that side out in me."

The pair grew very close, but Maynard was determined not to make the same mistake twice. "I told Jef, 'I don't want to get engaged.' I told all the producers. I didn't want to put myself back in that same situation and get engaged twice on national television and have it not work out."

For exclusive photos and much more from Emily, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, before Emily's book, I Said Yes, hits stands March 1

Former Bachelorette Emily Maynard Opens Up About Her Two Failed TV Engagements: 'I Felt Like There Was Something Wrong with Me If I Couldn't Make It Work – Again'| People Scoop, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, People Picks, TV News, Emily Maynard

Elizabeth Taylor on the cover of PEOPLE

Maynard was shocked when Holm was down on bended knee on the season finale of the show. "But at the time, I didn't say yes out of pressure," she says. "I was like, 'You know what? I've lived a life of caution and second-guessing. Just do it!' But [after I said yes], Ricki ran up, and I was like, 'Something doesn't feel right. How did I get engaged to someone who's never really spent time around my daughter?' I had this weight on my heart like, 'What did I just do?' "

RELATED VIDEO: Emily Maynard: Ricki Won't See The Bachelorette Until She's 40


Again, Maynard tried to salvage a fledgling relationship off the show, but the pair split within three months. "I wanted it to work, but I knew in my heart it wasn't going to."

After their very public breakup, Maynard was inundated by the media. Salacious tabloid stories alleging cheating and other accusations were eating away at her.

"I felt like I couldn't trust anybody," says Maynard of that time in her life. "I stayed home, I lost weight, I cut off my hair, I was doing anything to make myself feel better. It was very lonely. I felt totally isolated."

Eventually, the dust settled and Maynard moved on, marrying Tyler Johnson in 2014. The pair welcomed son Jennings last July.

"Of course I have regrets," says Maynard, looking back. "But I don't regret doing the show. It showed me what I want and what I don't want. Honestly, it was a blessing in my life."
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