The new season of The Bachelor doesn’t begin airing until Jan. 5, but Jason Mesnick tells PEOPLE exclusively that he did find love on ABC’s reality dating series.
“I’m engaged!” Mesnick says. “I found exactly what I was hoping for, what I was looking for. I’m completely in love.”
Fans will be excited for the 32-year-old Seattle single dad, whose marriage proposal to DeAnna Pappas was thwarted in July on the season finale of The Bachelorette. Instead, Pappas chose professional snowboarder Jesse Csincsak.
“I really did fall in love with DeAnna,” he says, adding that when he heard she and Csincsak split in November, “I was shocked. I thought they were going to make it.”
An outpouring of support from fans and family helped convince the divorced Mesnick to take another chance at finding love in front of the cameras.
“I don’t want to be by myself,” Mesnick says. “I’m ready for a relationship and a family.”
That family includes Ty, Mesnick’s 3-year-old son from his first marriage. Mesnick says that the woman of his dreams has to understand that falling in love with him also means connecting with Ty.
“I was not looking for a mom,” he says. “I was looking for a partner for me and a mentor and a friend to Ty.”
Mission accomplished: Mesnick says he’s still in awe of how his life has changed in the past year. “I just really believed this can happen to me,” he says, smiling. “I cannot believe it’s this great!” — Monica Rizzo
For more on Mesnick, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands FridayMichael Caulfield/WireImage