Ashley Graham's past helped her realize what she wanted out of a relationship.
ET's Jennifer Peros sat down with the 29-year-old model in New York City on Tuesday, where she opened up about how her strained relationship with her father helped influence her "incredible" marriage to Justin Ervin.
"My father, growing up, I realized how much he really shaped me as a woman today, and I thank him for that," she shared. "It's made me realize what I wanted in a man, and what I wanted in a husband, and also who I am as a woman to men. For so long I didn't know how to have a relationship with men, because it was based on what I had growing up."
"I actually had to teach myself what it was like to have a relationship with a man and not base it on what I felt at home," she continued. "That's why I really wanted to share my story, because just because you have a bad experience with somebody in your home growing up, doesn't mean it's gonna carry over into your real life. You just have to be open."
In her new book, A New Model, Graham claims that her father was "absent" throughout her upbringing, and opens up about how it impacted her early romantic relationships.
"I take you through the journey of feeling like, you know, my father was a little more absent, and then walking into dating and a boyfriend saying, 'I'm breaking up with you because I feel like you're going to be fat one day and fatter than my mom,' and then having the fashion industry tell me that I had to lose weight," Graham recalled. "It was like one thing after another."
Graham said she was also involved in an abusive relationship, and claimed she was chased around by an ex-boyfriend with a butcher knife.
"In the moment, I said, 'This is just what love is. Love is crazy, love is amazing, love is a butcher knife.' It was really crazy looking back on it. I should have ran. I should have gotten out of that abusive relationship right away and I didn't because I was insecure," she revealed. "If I would have respected myself before I got into that relationship, and if I would have said, 'You know what? My body's good enough. I'm worthy,' then things would have been a lot different."
"Everything was about exterior, everything was about weight for me, and I really had to step back and say, 'OK, am I looking for love through sex? Am I looking for love through food? Am I looking for love through the affirmation of fashion people who don't understand my body?' and I had to really have, like, a come-to-Jesus moment," she said.
The supermodel also opened up about being molested as a child.
"My body already looked like a 25-year-old at 10 years old, and [an 18-year-old family friend] made me touch him and he said that I had done that to him," she claimed."It was a moment where I really didn't know what was going on. I can say right now, thank god it didn't go any further."
Though life wasn't always easy for Graham, she said her past has helped shape her future.
"I look at my mom and dad's relationship, and it's like, 'OK, this is what I want. This is what I don't want,' and you take from it," she shared. "You have to say, 'OK, I'm going to learn from their mistakes and I'm going to take also the good with me.'"
Graham married Ervin in 2010, and says life has been "incredible" since.
"I've got my life partner and I've got someone who makes me better," she said, opening up about the pair's rocky fifth year of marriage. "You really do [have to work on marriage]. I really wanted to let even young couples know that even couples who have been married for 25 years, everybody goes through it."