Ben and Lauren have been engaged for nearly one year

They did meet and fall in love in the land of champagne and red roses, but for Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell, life outside of The Bachelor is decidedly more real.

“We’re not the perfect couple,” Higgins, 28, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Far from it! But we are trying really hard and we love each other a lot.”

It was just 10 months ago that Higgins and Bushnell, who are starring in spinoff show, Freeform’s Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?, got engaged on the finale of The Bachelor. In April, she moved in with him in Denver.

Ben Higgins - News
Credit: Jamie Kripke

Jamie Kripke

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the cover of PEOPLE

“There are so many weird elements to being in a relationship after The Bachelor,” says Bushnell, 26. “We’ve gotten in arguments like any other couple, but about some things that other couples wouldn’t have to fight about, like the fact that we met when he was dating other women. You can say that’s what I signed up for, but it’s still real life and it’s still hard.”

To help guide them through the process, Higgins and Bushnell undergo couples counseling at their church. “We want to get a foundation that is healthy and pure and honest, with some help from a mediator,” says Higgins. “Bachelor or not, our life is not easy to navigate. We have our struggles. But we won’t give up. And for every argument, we’re stronger for it.”

  • For exclusive photos and much more from Ben and Lauren, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.

Adds Bushnell: “Even facing situations I didn’t know if I could handle, running away was never an option for me. I am so committed to Ben. I love him so much and at the end of the day, I want to spend my life with him.”

Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After? premieres Oct. 11 on Freeform.