Jodi Guglielmi
April 16, 2018 10:52 AM

John Cena and Nikki Bella‘s sudden split after six years together came as a shock to fans, but there were signs the couple was drifting apart.

For years, the wrestlers struggled to connect when it came to their future as parents. Cena, 40, was steadfastly against having children, while Bella, 34, was vocal about her desire to be a mother.

“I do want to be a mom,” Bella told Cena in 2013 on Total Divas. “I feel like I’d be missing out.”

“I’m going to choose my words carefully,” Cena replied. “I can’t give you that.”

A year later, Cena told Bella he was concerned that their inability to agree on starting a family would eventually lead to the end of their relationship

“I’m trying to be a realist,” Cena said to Bella in 2014. “I’ve told you I don’t want to get married and I don’t want to have kids, and you do want to get married and you do want to have kids. I feel like there’s a time bomb over my head.”

But while Cena did change his mind about marriage, proposing to Bella in April 2017, the wrestler never wavered when it came to the issue of kids.

The topic continued to cause tension among the couple, with Bella’s family even expressing their concern.

In 2014, Bella’s twin sister Brie told Cena she felt like her sister was “lying to herself.”

“Nicole and I were talking and she brought to my attention that she’s over marriage, she doesn’t want to have kids anymore. It was a little alarming to me,” Brie said.

But Cena stressed that he’s always been open and honest with Bella about not wanting children.

“I was abundantly clear about that from our very first date,” he said. “It wasn’t like I tried to manipulate your sister into thinking a certain thing was going to happen and then all the sudden say ‘Ha ha.’ ”

“I love this girl, but I love my life,” he added.

John Cena and Nikki Bella
Gary Miller/FilmMagic

John Cena and Nikki Bella

After a few years, Bella said she eventually came to terms with the idea of not having kids.

“Would I hope John would one day want kids? One hundred percent,” she told PEOPLE shortly after the couple’s engagement. “But I have come to that decision to being okay with it, that I won’t be a mom. I will be the greatest aunt ever.”

And while promoting Blockers, Cena admitted the film had changed his perspective on becoming a dad, telling PEOPLE, “The movie helps with that, certainly my perspective on life helps with that, working on my relationship with my bride to be helps with that, so it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you just sit down and talk with people, so I’ve done a lot of that.”

The upcoming season of Total Bellas will also chronicle this issue: A teaser shows a tearful conversation between the stars.

“I’m not sure we should go through with this,” Cena says.

Cena and Bella called off their engagement on Sunday just weeks before their planned destination wedding.

“While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another,” the couple, who had been together for six years, said in a statement tweeted out by Bella. “We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives.”

Total Bellas returns May 20 at 9 p.m. ET on E!

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