Arie Luyendyk Jr. vied for Emily Maynard‘s heart on season 8 of The Bachelorette. Now, he’s on his own journey to find love on the latest season of The Bachelor — and he’s blogging about it exclusively for PEOPLE! Follow Arie on Twitter at @ariejr.
My first week of dates left me eager and excited. It all felt like a crazy dream. Did we really just meet Rachel Zoe? Did I actually introduce someone to my parents? Did 15 beautiful women that I am currently dating really crash cars into me? The dates were mind-blowing in terms of grandeur but, more importantly, they were where I started making strong connections. Going into the next week, I couldn’t wait to see which relationships grew, as I was feeling more confident than ever that one of these women could be my future wife.
As I got to know some of the women faster than others, I realized just how different being the Bachelor was from being one of the guys on The Bachelorette. Trust me, being on The Bachelorette wasn’t easy (it was very hard going so long without seeing Emily), but back then I only had to focus on one relationship. Here, with so many amazing women, I had to compartmentalize my feelings and go into each date with an open mind and open heart. I promised myself at the beginning of this journey to give relationships a chance to develop at different speeds.
The GLOB (Gorgeous Ladies of Bachelor) date was such an epic way to kick off the week. I don’t know anything about wrestling, so thankfully we had two of the original GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) wrestlers to show us the ropes. Ursula Hayden, also known as the Farmer’s Daughter, and Angelina Altishin, known as Little Egypt, were amazing teachers. Watching it all back, it was tough to see how much their intimidation effected Tia and Bibiana. I understand their fears and frustrations. Like Bekah M. said, it was all supposed to be part of the fun and theatrics of wrestling, but trying a new sport in front of a live audience is already really scary. On top of that, wrestling is hard. You only saw one of my failed somersaults on the show, but trust me, there were so many more. Seeing the amount of hard work that goes into learning just a couple moves makes me respect the women of GLOW that much more.
Watching the women get their costumes was one of the early highlights of being on The Bachelor. The costumes and props ranged from sexy to downright hilarious. I know some of the women weren’t initially thrilled with their outfits, but watching them embrace their alter egos was such a fun part of the day. Maquel’s Lunch Lady costume may not have been the most glamorous, but she really owned that character! Watching her slam Bekah M. with her lunch tray made the entire audience scream with laughter. That’s what these crazy group dates are all about — having fun with the weird, extreme activities we do. At the end of the day, I obviously don’t care if my future wife can wrestle. I do care, though, that she can embrace life and have fun in all situations.
Being the Bachelor means that I also need to embrace the craziness, though in this situation I wish that didn’t mean wrestling a professional. I mean, have you seen Kenny “Pretty Boy Pit Bull” King‘s muscles? Watching him on Rachel [Lindsay]‘s season of The Bachelorette, I always had a lot of respect for the guy, but now I know just how much goes into this career. After he lifted me over his head the first time, I was pretty sure I was going to die in the ring. That would truly make this the most dramatic season yet. Race car driving is intense and I live for the adrenaline, but this is a whole different beast. Plus, my alter ego, the Kissing Bandit, is more of a lover than a fighter. Thankfully, Kenny was an amazing wrestler and made sure that I didn’t die. I think he also probably let me win? Perhaps one day I can do the same for you on the racetrack, Kenny!
The women’s wrestling matches were everything from weird, to hilarious, to — dare I say it? — arousing. Marikh and Lauren B.’s wrestling looked more like a sexy slow dance than a fight, but I wasn’t complaining. All the women really hammed it up for the crowd and after all the drama earlier, I was so happy to see Bibiana and Tia really embrace the day. But before we move on, I have to point out one more thing you missed… Chris Harrison breaking a chair over Kenny’s head, GLOW style! Sad you guys missed it, but the story shall now live on in infamy.
The after party that night was at the Caravan Outpost in Ojai. I LOVED this place. Seeing it on screen really doesn’t do it justice. I was floored by how beautiful and rustic it was, and I’ve already cleared my calendar to bring friends back sometime this summer.
Emotionally, this evening was really wonderful — I remember this being the first night that I really built on the relationships I was starting. The first week of dates, especially the group dates, was mostly about introductions and learning the basics. Now that we had that out of the way, I was getting to know the women on a deeper level and was starting to see if our relationships could last. I was feeling comfortable now, and was so excited to see where the next few weeks were going to take me.
One of the wildest parts of watching the episodes with you guys is seeing what’s going on between the women. I remember at this point sensing some tension amongst them, but being unsure of who or what was the cause. Watching it back, it’s obvious that Krystal was rubbing the women the wrong way. From my perspective, I was flattered by her aggressive approach. It felt like she truly put our relationship first. Also — and I know this from Emily’s season — it’s really hard to go from an early one-on-one date to a group date. After having so much alone time, it’s difficult watching the person you’re falling for spend so much time dating other people. Yes, you know that’s just part of being on the show, but actually experiencing it is way harder than anyone realizes. On the other hand, I totally get why the women were a little annoyed. They’re all trying to get time with me, and I think maybe her approach could have been more finessed.
I love that Bibiana felt like she could come to me with her frustrations about Krystal and the other women — I just also wish that we had been able to use our time to get to know each other better. Group dates can be really intense, but my hope was always that the girls would be able to ignore the weirdness of all dating me at the same time and focus on OUR relationship. Tia did a really amazing job of putting that all aside and really opening up to me about her feelings about us.
With each and every date, Bekah M. continued to impress me. She’s able to be vulnerable and open and sexy. Our chemistry was truly off the charts and, on top of that, our conversation was phenomenal. Every time we talked, I learned so much about her, about our potential as partners and about myself. This is why I gave her the group date rose.
My first really hard goodbye came on my only one-on-one of the week. After the intensity of the wrestling, I was so excited a relaxing, intimate date. This date was so much more my speed. I’ve only wrestled once, but I drink wine often, and really appreciate a good cabernet. Besides racing and real estate, wine is probably the thing I know the most about.
Going into the date, I didn’t really know Lauren S. very well, but I knew she was attractive, mature, and kind. Taking her to Hall Wines felt like the perfect date because we’d be alone in a beautiful location, and would have plenty of time to really get to know one another. Lauren S. is a great woman with so much to offer, but as the day went on, I realized that the connection and chemistry were missing. I really felt like she just didn’t let me in. Even though I knew saying goodbye was for the best, this one felt very personal. I really wanted it to work, but I knew even with time, I could feel she wasn’t the one for me and that being decisive was best for us both. After Lauren left, I listened, alone, to a beautiful orchestra, reflecting on how many hard goodbyes laid ahead.
This really was a week of showing the women things that I love. First it was wine, and now it was Bastian! After Krystal and I brought Bastian back from Scottsdale, I knew we had to incorporate him into at least one date. He’s such a big part of my life and such a good judge of character. Not only was he great with the women, but he was also amazing in the dog show. I know we didn’t see him perform in the episode, but he was the only dog that nailed all his tricks. I always knew Bastian could be a show dog!
It was a bummer that Annaliese had a difficult time with dogs, just like she had with bumper cars. I was hoping she’d finally get to enjoy herself on a date. I get it, though — some people have fears surrounding animals. I was just happy to see she could embrace her crappy role (of the pooper scooper) and enjoy the day without getting too scared.
Here’s a fun easter egg from the dog show: You can see Brittany in the background playing various props in the scenes, like her excellent work in the role of lamp. Also, can we talk about how cool it was to have Fred Willard from Best in Show to commentate on our little dog show? He was so funny and kind, and once again I was totally starstruck.
As much and I loved hanging with Bastian, I was really excited to get to the Reserve to spend more quality time with the women. Someone who you haven’t seen much of thus far is Jenna, but just know that she is fantastic. Have you ever met someone who could always make you laugh? She’s so funny, light-hearted, charismatic, quirky and sexy. I’ve never met anyone like Jenna before.
It was nice to see Becca K. again after our one-on-one. Like I said earlier, I know it can be hard to be on a group date after a one-on-one, but that evening proved we hadn’t lost our spark and were continuing to build on our already amazing foundation. And Chelsea was really amazing during the day portion of the date — her mama bear side really shined through with the dogs. That night, she really opened up to me and I started to see more of her than Chelsea, the super aggressive woman who pulls me aside first, or Chelsea, the mom. That night she reminded me why I find her so confident, kind and sexy.
I entered the cocktail party knowing by the end of the night I’d have to say a couple hard goodbyes. It was important to me to pull Seinne aside first because she didn’t have a date that week. Sometimes I don’t put women on dates because I already have so much confidence in them and I need to give other relationships a chance to grow. After last week, I knew how much I liked Seinne. She’s so beautiful, fun, smart and worldly. I missed her during the week and spending time with her was a great way to start the night. One thing you didn’t see was that she used part of that time to teach me some yoga. After a long week, I did my best to not just stay in child’s pose.
Ah, this was also the night of the infamous daybed. Bibiana, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry about the mixup! You truly created an amazing setup and picked the best spot in the house. That’s why all the girls and I wanted to use it! It’s such a bummer watching back and realizing you put so much thought and energy into creating it, only to not be able to use it first.
One of the most memorable conversations of the night was with Bekah M. At the cocktail party (on the infamous daybed) she really cut to my core. I was astonished how someone could know me so well so fast — and would be bold enough to call me out. As I said in the moment, she’s really… kinda nailin’ the… nailin’ the… nailed it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! All I can say is that when you push past my lack of verbal expression is that Bekah M. clearly blows me away.
There were lots of amazing moments that night. This was the first time sparks really started to fly with Lauren B. I had been interested in her since the first night, but hadn’t had much time to grow that relationship. I also really enjoyed my time with Tia. What better way to show her I was thinking about her than to bring the south to Southern California? I still prefer red wine to moonshine, but I loved getting to hang on the hay bales and talk about our feelings.
One of the more difficult parts of watching this episode back is seeing Annaliese feeling so neglected and so hurt. Annaliese is amazing, and I really felt a connection with her the first night. I thought we had really great potential. But, by this time, I really didn’t feel the chemistry. I know that the women left a lot behind to come meet me, and I really promised myself that I wouldn’t lead any of them on. As soon as I was 100 percent sure someone wouldn’t be a long-term partner, I knew I had to say goodbye. That’s why I couldn’t kiss Annaliese, and why I ultimately had to say goodbye. As much as being rejected can hurt, I couldn’t lead her on.
As up and down as the weeks can be, the most difficult evenings are always the rose ceremonies. It’s something you never really get used to. After a couple weeks of dates, saying goodbye is only getting harder. I’ve really started to get to know these women and, even if they’re not for me, they’re amazing and I don’t want to hurt them. Bibiana is so beautiful, strong, sassy and hilarious. I knew that she wasn’t my future wife, but that didn’t make it easy to see her go. I really wish her the best in finding the love that she deserves.
With every difficult decision, I knew I was getting closer to the happily-ever-after I came into this journey looking for. Be sure to tune in next week, because as I get closer to finding love things get more dramatic than ever. I thought that as we settled in, the drama and tears would stop, but I was very wrong. Next Monday, we head north to Lake Tahoe for one of the craziest weeks yet. One woman’s shocking revelation has me questioning our future, and there’s a devastating exit that leaves another woman going home to her family. Over the next few weeks, watch as fights unfold, romance heats up and I start to fall for multiple women. Though we’ve made it a few weeks in, the journey is far from over. Thanks for reading.
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.