Theirs was certainly an untraditional love story. Moments before Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell got engaged on the season finale of The Bachelor, he said goodbye to another woman. And when he later told Bushnell that he had also professed his love to JoJo Fletcher on the show, she was crushed.
“For a long time, I was really angry for being blindsided,” Bushnell, 26, tells PEOPLE. “I was heartbroken. And that resentment and anger affected our relationship much longer than it should have.”
Says Higgins: “I look back at the day we got engaged, and there is a cloud over it, because I really did hurt Lauren. Instead of being able to jump into a really happy time, the first few months of our relationship consisted of difficulty and strain.”
Post-show, Bushnell and Higgins, who are starring in a new reality series on Freeform, Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?, were subjected to endless questions about his dual confessions of love.
“We had waited so long to be in public and we were so excited to be engaged,” says Bushnell. “It was hard to move on because I was constantly reminded of it.”
- For exclusive photos and much more from Ben and Lauren, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.
Higgins says his feelings for Fletcher ceased to exist the moment he proposed to Bushnell. “Even before I proposed to Lauren, my heart was already hers,” he says. “From that moment forward, JoJo didn’t really have a place in my mind. But it was a helpless situation in a world where you are never going to do it right.”
Now, the pair, who live together in Denver, have happily moved on from their Bachelor past — and are embracing a new future together.
“I don’t have any resentment,” says Bushnell. “We’ve all moved forward and we can all be happy for one another. It feels like a fresh start.”
Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After? premieres Oct. 11 on Freeform.