On May 15, the former Bachelor star and Bushnell, 27, revealed in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE that they had broken up. Less than 72 hours later, Higgins revealed details about the split on his new iHeartRadio podcast with fellow Bachelor alum Ashley Iaconetti, Ben and Ashley: Almost Famous.
“The whole podcast thing was really hard at first because I was hurting so much and all of a sudden they’re doing a podcast,” Bushnell tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “But that was just really bad timing.”
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Despite Higgins’ open-book policy after the duo called it quits, Bushnell understands he had no ill intent.
“I know that wasn’t intentional by any means,” says Bushnell, who has communicated with her ex since they ended their romance. “I know when it came to us talking, there was some frustration. This is so private and so fresh and so new.”
- For more from Lauren Bushnell, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
On the podcast, Higgins revealed “life was getting more difficult” for the pair and admitted that “the joy that we felt toward our relationship at the beginning was — for some reason — slipping away, and we were both working very hard to bring that joy back. And it just never seemed to get there. So it was a long time coming, but it wasn’t necessarily like we dragged it out.”
Although Bushnell would have preferred to keep the details of the parting private, she fully supports Higgins, 29, in his next steps.
“I genuinely support what he does and always will,” says the Sparkle in Her Eye style and travel blog founder, who has since returned to Los Angeles to pursue fashion since calling it quits with Higgins. “It’s nice that nothing bad happened so that we can remain really close, but at the same time it almost makes it more confusing.”
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Last March, Bachelor Nation watched Higgins get down on one knee and propose to Bushnell, who was working as a flight attendant at the time. After their stint on season 20 of The Bachelor came to an end, Bushnell moved to Denver in April 2016 to be with her fiancé, where cameras captured the former couple in one season of their own own reality network series: Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After?
Reflecting on their relationship together, much of which was captured by cameras, Bushnell finds comfort in knowing that the love they had for one another was real.
“It does give me some sense of peace that I know that what we had was real. That love we had for each other still exists,” Bushnell says, and adds, “It just maybe wasn’t the forever, happily ever after love.”
The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.
—With NATALIE STONE