In spite of everything, Rihanna still has a soft spot for Chris Brown.
During her candid conversation on the August 19 episode of Oprah's Next Chapter, the 24-year-old singer explained why she never stopped caring for the "Turn Up the Music" singer -- even after he was arrested for physically assaulting her in February 2009.
"We love each other and we probably always will, and that's not anything that we're going to try to change," Rihanna told host Oprah Winfrey, 58.
A judge lifted Rihanna's restraining order against Brown, 23, in February 2011; Brown had previously accepted a plea deal of community labor, five years' formal probation and domestic violence counseling.
When the exes run into each other at awards shows or in nightclubs, "It's awkward because I still love him," Rihanna admitted. "My stomach drops and I have to maintain this poker face and not let it get to the outer part of me. I have to maintain that and suppress it."
"I think he was the love of my life," Rihanna added. "He was my first love and I see that he loved me the same way. I truly love him. The main thing for me is he's at peace. I'm not at peace if he's not happy or he's still lonely. I care. It actually matters that he finds that peace."
In hindsight, Rihanna realizes she and Brown had their share of problems. "We were very young and very spontaneous. We were falling in love and going at a really rapid pace," she explained. "We forgot about ourselves as individuals."
Though some fans have expressed disappointment in Rihanna's decision to reconnect with her ex, "I have to move on," the singer said. "I have forgiven him. It took me a long time. I was angry for a long time."
"I can't tell people how to feel about it. They're entitled to feel angry because it wasn't a good thing that happened," Rihanna continued. "But I have forgiven him."
Rihanna decided to forgive Brown after repairing her relationship with her father, who had previously been abusive toward her mother.
"All kinds of emotions started happening after that," the singer told Winfrey. "All kinds of things started making sense. I thought I hated Chris and I realized it was love that was tarnished. It looked like hate because it was ugly, it was angry, it was inflamed, it was tainted and I realized that what it was is, I have to forgive him, because I cared about him still. And the minute I let go of that, I started living again."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Rihanna on Chris Brown: "He Was the Love of My Life"