"I knew it wasn't the exact right time and that there could be consequences," season 20's Bachelor reveals of saying the L-word
brightcove.createExperiences(); After Ben Higgins made viewers swoon as a fan favorite on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of The Bachelorette, he’s now on his own journey to love on The Bachelor. He’s been blogging exclusively about each and every rose ceremony for PEOPLE – check back each week and follow him on Twitter at @benhiggi!
So there you have it.
I am in love with two women. Two very different, but equally remarkable, women. Believe me, I am just as surprised as you all are and was even more so when it was all starting to happen. Especially considering that going into this, I still had a fear that I may be unlovable, and now here I am with not just one woman that I can see a real and wonderful future with, but TWO. I’m still not sure how it happened but it did.
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I think my biggest fear with people seeing this this week and hearing me express that I am in love with both JoJo and Lauren is that it will make everyone feel like it’s not real love. Or that I don’t comprehend what love is because I am feeling it for two women at once. But I really do. I gave this more thought than you can possibly imagine. I feel like as I watched it back this week, it looked like it came so easy for me to let those words slip out, but I can’t tell you the hours of anguish and sleepless nights I faced as I wrestled with those feelings and came to realize that I was truly in love with both JoJo and Lauren. I really searched my soul and prayed and tried to figure out how this was possible. But at the end of the day, I could not deny my feelings for each one of these women. I came into this journey telling myself that I needed to trust myself and not shy away from any and all feelings I experienced. For better or for worse. And so after all of that prayer and soul searching and tossing and turning in bed, I just had to accept it and see where it led me.
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But before we get into all of that, I guess we should start at the beginning. And that is how gorgeous Jamaica really is. When I think of Jamaica I definitely think of the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, and the beaches. I think when we got there I was really expecting it to be almost exactly like the Bahamas. But what I didn’t realize was how beautiful and green Jamaica is too! Jungles and forests that lead right up to the beach. Rivers upon rivers and waterfalls everywhere. And then you have the beaches too, just like you expect. Just so much prettier and more diverse than I thought it would be.
And Rio Chico, where I was staying might be the prettiest place I have ever seen in my life. It’s actually built at the intersection of multiple rivers, which means there are all these little secret waterfalls leading up to, and into the sand. It had a live pool, which was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. Lush grounds, beautiful beach, just wow. I think my closet there might have been bigger than my first apartment.
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But enough about Jamaica, on to the dates!
I was extremely excited to kick off the week of dates with Caila because our relationship really was feeling like it was gaining steam at the exact right time. She had really started opening up to me so much lately and the more I learned the more I could see what a complex and wonderful woman she is. Which is why the tension and awkwardness during the daytime portion of our date really surprised me. There was nothing bad really, but I could tell there was something bothering her. She was holding back and while she was being polite, it made for some very awkward energy. I thought about bringing it up when we sat down at the jerk shack (that chicken was unbelievable by the way!) but I started to see her opening up slightly then and I thought it might’ve just been jitters for what I knew was going to be an important decision that night in regards to the fantasy suite.
After we left there and I was changing for dinner, I just knew I had to confront her with what I was feeling. The longer I was on this journey, the more I started to realize that putting things off or pretending there wasn’t an issue just wasn’t going to work. And especially with it being this late and with a possible proposal coming up, there was no time to waste. So the second we sat down, I brought it up. And Caila responded wonderfully. Part of me was worried that she didn’t feel what I felt. And that maybe that tension was totally normal and fine for her. That would’ve been concerning. But it wasn’t. And when she told me why, it all made complete sense. It was because she cared. And because she loved me even. Hearing her say that really made my heart skip a beat. And I think in that moment I may have attributed that to the strong feelings I had for her as well. I think looking back at it now, I realize that part of that feeling may have been that I was scared. Scared because I knew where things were with JoJo and Lauren and where they were with Caila in relation. But in the moment, I didn’t realize that. I just had a beautiful and complex woman who had once said she didn’t think she was capable of love, telling me that she loved me. I was overjoyed. And it was just the most special part of what was a wonderful night with Caila once we had gotten past what had happened earlier that day.
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A couple days later, I got to see Lauren. When I heard about some of the things that we could do while we were in Jamaica, I knew that I had to rescue turtles with Lauren. I knew there was no one else I could possibly go on this date with. I knew her enormous love for animals (I think we all saw that even on pig island in the Bahamas), plus our date at Baker Youth Club in Warsaw showed me how much she shared my love for giving back and helping. Obviously, this was a different kind of helping but it was such a cool experience and I loved seeing the pure joy on her face when we were helping those little guys get out into the water safely. So cool and so cute. The turtles too.
When it came time for the nighttime portion of the date, I was just excited to spend more time with Lauren. To be honest, I think I knew I was in love with Lauren a while ago. Our relationship progressed faster than any other relationship I had had here. From the very beginning it just seemed so easy and so right. And I could tell she was feeling it too. For as long as I even consciously tried to keep myself from getting too carried away, I could not deny that I was in love with Lauren. And I think even her family saw that when I was in Portland the week prior. So when she told me that she loved me, I simply could not hold it inside anymore. I knew it wasn’t the exact right time and that there could be consequences but it was bursting to come out and I could not have been happier to tell her that I was in love with her right then and there. And then again and again and again. I simply didn’t feel like I could say it enough and just that alone let me know that this was right. And that this was the feeling I had hoped to find when I decided to embark on this journey for love. I’d found it. And I had found it with Lauren.
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Of course it didn’t hit me till the next day what that meant. Not that I loved Lauren, but that I had confirmed it in my heart and let her know about it. It means that if I wasn’t feeling that for these other women, I could no longer keep them here. I would need to end this thing earlier than I had anticipated and propose to Lauren whether the producers had a TV show to make or not. I owed these women that much and if that was where my heart was, the rest would just have to fall into place.
But from everything that I had been feeling these past few weeks, I knew I still needed to go on this date with JoJo and see how I felt. I truly don’t compare these women to each other. I respect them more than that, but seeing JoJo right after Lauren was going to allow me to compare within myself, where my heart might ultimately lie. I think at that point, had I allowed myself to really look at the whole picture, I knew it wasn’t going to be with Caila, but I was so caught up in what had just happened with Lauren, and the fact that I had a date that day with JoJo that I just didn’t allow myself to see that yet.
The second I saw JoJo I knew that just because of what happened with Lauren, this was far from over. I know I keep saying it, but I am more myself with JoJo than with anyone in my life. And because of those sleepless nights, deep down, I knew I was in love with JoJo too. I was just afraid to admit that. Not only because of what I was feeling for Lauren, but because I knew how guarded JoJo has been with her heart. I meant it when I said last week that I was terrified that she was about to break up with me. And after how things went with her brothers I needed to make sure she was still “Team Ben” and that I wasn’t going to get my heart broken by her. But I instantly felt comfort with her in my arms and despite all of that. All that was on my mind in that moment was JoJo and me and what we could possibly be.
Just like giving back and animals had kind of become my “thing” with Lauren, I guess helicopters were kind of becoming my “thing” with JoJo just this time without the flying table and shattered champagne glasses. The waterfalls that we went to were truly some of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. And being there with JoJo just made everything feel right. So right it was scary considering what had happened just a couple of nights ago. I wasn’t allowing myself to freak out about that yet because JoJo just had me so happy and at ease, but I think I knew that I was in trouble somewhere deep down.
And then she said it. JoJo looked me in the eye and told me that she loved me. And knowing how protective JoJo is with her heart, the walls that she had built up from her last relationship and even how her brothers had told her to hold back, I knew what a big deal this was for her to tell me this. Even if she had felt it, her saying it was so, so meaningful to me. So even though I hadn’t planned on it, and had even gone into this date wondering if I was actually going to be saying goodbye to JoJo, I found myself instead telling JoJo that I loved her too. Because I did. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was in love with JoJo. This girl made me feel like nothing I had ever thought was possible and despite what I had said to Lauren, I knew my feelings for JoJo were just as strong. It may not have come as easy or been as clear with JoJo from the beginning, but all that we had been through together had forced us to have some very real and deep conversations. I knew that I could trust JoJo with my heart and I wanted to show her that she could trust me with hers too. It’s not hard to see why any man could fall in love with JoJo but I had seen past all the stuff on the surface and seen the vulnerable woman underneath with a heart so big and full of love that her only problem in the past had been loving too much and too hard. I could see this woman as my wife. And I knew our future would be incredible together.
I realize that this is a very “first world problem” but what in the world was I going to do?
But it all hit me the next day. When I had said goodbye to JoJo and I was alone again with my thoughts. My mind was racing. Not only had I told two women that I was in love with them, but there was a third woman here still too. And she had also told me that she loved me only with her, I wasn’t able to say it back. In that moment, that didn’t feel like a problem. But sitting here a few days later, knowing how I had felt and what I had been unable to keep myself from saying when Lauren and JoJo had said it to me, now I could see this was a problem. I loved JoJo and Lauren. But I was not in love with Caila. She needed to know.
Of course it was just as I was coming to this realization when I felt a pair of delicate hands over my eyes and got a kiss. I couldn’t believe Caila was here. It honestly made it that much harder because I LOVED that she came to surprise me. Until you have seen what it is like to be on both sides you can’t realize what an effort that takes to do something like that with all the things that are going on every minute of every day. But she made an effort and found a way.
But that didn’t change what was in my heart. I just wasn’t ready to have that conversation yet. I mean, I was still sorting through everything that had just happened and processing my thoughts. Yet here she was. And I knew that I needed to do this now. No matter how badly it was going to hurt to do it. She deserved to know. And to know the second I knew. That was the promise I had made to all of these women when we embarked on this journey.
I think when we sat down she could tell something was off. She could feel the weight on my shoulders but I still don’t think she knew what was about to happen. I tried to get into it as quickly as I could while still explaining myself. I could see the hurt in her eyes. And I hated myself for hurting her.
To be honest, as I was sitting there, I started questioning myself. Caila is the perfect woman. I mean that. Perfect. She’s beautiful, she’s intelligent, exotic, successful and ambitious. She has a sense of adventure and a depth and complexity that is so incredibly rare in anyone. There is nothing wrong with her. So is there something wrong with me for not loving her? For not counting myself lucky that a woman this extraordinary was telling me that she was in love with me? I must be an idiot.
But at the same time, I know love is not about logic. And I could not help what was in my heart. I had to say goodbye.
And so here I am. With two incredible women. Both of whom I am madly in love with. And I have no idea what to do about it.
So get ready Bachelor Nation. I know none of you saw this coming because not even I did. And I can tell you that I never anticipated it all ending like this either. It may sound wonderful to have two women like this that love you, but I think you’ll see in a couple of weeks how incredibly painful being in this position can be. There are far, far more tears to be shed all leading up to an ending that I am still trying to wrap my head around to this day.
But before we get there, it’s the Women Tell All next week and I for one could not be more nervous. Terrified really. When I got this opportunity to be the Bachelor, the part I never thought about was having to sit in front of a firing squad of my ex-girlfriends. Many of whom were not too happy when I said goodbye to them. Maybe Caila most of all. That was maybe my hardest goodbye and I haven’t seen her since that moment she got into the car and Jamaica. I have no idea what to expect but I think I get now why they call that seat next to Chris Harrison “the hot seat.” And on top of that, Leah will be there in front of the girls that she lied to for the very first time, Olivia will be back with a vengeance, and when Lace is there, who knows what crazy things may happen.
So wish me luck Bachelor Nation, because despite having all those beautiful women there, things could get a little ugly next week!
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.