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Rachel Lindsay: How I Overcame Panic When the First Bachelorette Guy Said He Was Falling for Me

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Rachel Lindsay vied for Nick Viall‘s heart on season 21 of The Bachelor, now she’s on her own journey to find love on the latest season of The Bachelorette — and she’s blogging about it exclusively for PEOPLE! Follow Rachel on Twitter at @TheRachLindsay

Hey guys, I’m back with the scoop on another exciting week of romance and I hate to say it … D-R-A-M-A!

Let’s pick things back up at the after party of the spelling bee date. That night I was suffering from a pretty bad cold. I wasn’t kidding when I had been telling the men I was contagious. But let’s just say that didn’t stop men like Bryan and Peter from going in for some romantic moments, or Will taking the time to make me a hot toddy to sooth my sore throat.

The one thing that toddy couldn’t soothe, however, was the drama between Lee and Kenny. That’s why I made the decision that the last date of the week had to be a two-on-one with Lee and Kenny. But more on that later — let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

The next morning I was happy to get a break from the group date drama and bring Jack on my favorite kind of date: tasty food, great music and a cool local fair. I ate my very first oyster on my one-on-one with Nick in New Orleans last season, and now here I was staring down a couple buckets of un-shucked shellfish with Jack. We didn’t know if the locals were just bragging about having the best oysters in the world or maybe shucking your own does make them taste better, but Jack and I were about to find out.

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After what felt like 100 oysters later, I can honestly say they were the best I’ve ever had! But little did I know the shucking was just the foreplay to the “shagging” (it’s not what you think!) that was about to go down. Learning the shag with Jack was a blast. I mean who knew South Carolina had an official state dance?

On paper Jack and I are a perfect match, and this date was quickly showing me we could be a great match in real life too. Jack dings a lot of the boxes I am looking for in a husband: caring (check), career-oriented (check), handsome (check). And yet, heading into our dinner that evening, I felt like there was just one box left unchecked: the “special spark” box. 

When we sat down and really explored our connection, I wanted it to be there. But it wasn’t. Everything about him seemed right. I remember thinking that it would be so easy to go back to Dallas with Jack. But I’m not looking for easy in this journey. I’m looking for extraordinary. I’m looking for a man who I see and it makes me melt. I’m looking for the man I cannot imagine a day without him being in my life. I’m looking for the unexplainable connection and spark — real, true love.

I could take Jack on a dozen more dates and enjoy each one of them but I just couldn’t see him as my husband, and when I realized this, I decided to say goodbye right then and there. As hard as it was, I knew that it was better to send him home now rather than to allow feelings to progress knowing that mine would not. As I watched him drive away I knew that all the breakups from this point on were going to be very, very difficult.

Something that you don’t see in the episode is that when I canceled the cocktail party after saying goodbye to Jack, I stopped by the guys’ suite. It had been a long evening, but on the ride back I pushed myself to search my heart and explore the potential of each of the remaining relationships. I knew how I felt and knew that a cocktail party would only delay the inevitable. I could see the disappointment in their eyes and felt the weight of that on me, but I just hoped that by the time I saw them again at the rose ceremony they would understand and respect my decision.

Having said goodbye to three genuinely great guys finally put the tough part of the week behind me. It was a relief to lighten the mood and finally deliver a surprise I knew would blow the dress socks off these guys. We were heading to Oslo, Norway … a place not a single one of us had ever been to!

I like to keep the guys on their toes, so as soon as they got into Oslo, I nabbed Bryan for the first one-on-one date of the week. I vividly recall getting Nick’s First Impression Rose last season, and how excruciating it was to wait for that first one-on-one. But Bryan made it clear he had never let that spark fade. In fact, he had let that spark build into a roaring four-alarm blaze.

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Like I’ve said, I absolutely love the dates that let us hit the town and explore the local culture. But a little known fact about me is that I hate weird food. Not just food that tastes weird, but even food that has a weird sounding name … like squash or beets (I know — very basic of me.)  I always say I am only boring when it comes to food. If you would have told me at any point in my life that I’d eat a sheep’s testicle on a date someday, I would have laughed in your face and probably slapped it too. Well, the possibility of love makes you do crazy things, so having a bite of the local sheep’s testicle did not stop me on my date with Bryan. And don’t even get me started on rappelling from the ski jump. Between laughing and screaming, I don’t think I took a breath until my toes touched the ground and I was safely in Bryan’s arms. 

That night, Bryan not only showed me that our emotional connection had caught up to our physical chemistry, he told me he was falling in love! I thought I had banished old “scared-of-vocalizing-feelings Rachel” before this journey had started, but suddenly that old fearful me was in my chair staring across the dinner table at Bryan and starting to panic.

But something changed that night, and I was able to push past my old familiar fears and really take in the feelings behind Bryan’s words. Bryan’s vulnerability challenged me to reciprocate that vulnerability. I was developing feelings, too, and that knot of fear in my stomach turned into butterflies. I’ve always liked butterflies.

The handball group date the next day was my favorite competitive and athletic date of the season, probably because of the singlets the guys had to wear. That and also because I got to play along and score some points myself. The singlets prank was a joke Coach Tom and the Norwegian handball players helped me set up but when I saw all that man meat tucked in such a small amount of spandex I conveniently forgot to let them in on the gag. The real hand ball jerseys remained hidden from them, and I made them play in the singlets the whole game. Oops! 😉 You’re welcome ladies!

And can we spend two seconds on Will!? He was so sick during warmups, I had to check on him just to make sure he still had a pulse. Then, I watched him come alive and score 10 goals?! I mean come on, that’s heart! Even Coach Tom was a little impressed (emphasis on “little”).

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It was nice to see the guys all having fun and being flirty on a group date for once and no one at each other’s throats, but maybe that’s because Kenny and Lee were back at the hotel. I ended up giving Will the rose that night. It wasn’t because he was the best handball player, because if that was the case I would have ended up kissing Coach Tom. It was because Will made a huge effort not to just be more romantic with me but explain the hurt he had recently experienced that had made his heart gun-shy in the dates leading up to that night. 

And now for the most challenging date of the season thus far — the two-on-one. At this point in the journey, I absolutely couldn’t handle anymore strife between the remaining men. I was just over it. There were times when both Kenny and Lee communicated they were past the drama and focused on me, but I could feel and literally hear the discontent between them during cocktail parties and group dates. It was time to put this beast to bed.

I flew them out to a remote and gorgeous Norwegian forest where there was nothing that could distract us from the elephant in the fjord. What started out as just pleasant conversations focusing on the men sitting in front of me soon turned into a back-and-forth of contradicting allegations. It was so hard to know who to trust. The moment I stepped away to think was when things between Kenny and Lee came to an explosive head.

Next week you’ll see the climax of what was the most hostile feud of the season, and maybe in Bachelor history. But the goodbyes don’t end there … the next couple of dates are full of blood, sweat and tears as I continue to navigate through this journey. It will all end well, I promise you, but it sure won’t be easy getting there. Stay with me.

Xoxo,
Rachel

The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.