May 15, 2017 04:40 PM


It’s officially over for The Bachelor‘s Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell.

As one of the ABC franchise’s most recent fiancés, the news has left Bachelor Nation reeling — but, as most fans know, Higgins, 29, and Bushnell, 27, have faced their fair share of challenges from the get-go. Here’s a look back at the former couple’s relationship timeline.

A Controversial Proposal

Software salesman Higgins met Bushnell, a flight attendant, on season 20 of The Bachelor, which premiered in January 2016. Higgins ultimately offered his final rose and proposed to Bushnell — but not without controversy after he famously told both finalists, Bushnell and JoJo Fletcher, that he loved them during the Fantasy Suites episode. (A big no-no, and the first time it has happened in the franchise’s history.)

Of Higgins’ declaration of love to both women, Bushnell told PEOPLE exclusively at the time that “post-filming was more of an emotional roller coaster than the actual show.”

“I fall more in love with Ben every day, and it’s hard to separate what happened long ago and my current feelings,” she said. “It’s confusing. It does wear on me.”

Bushnell said the two had a heart-to-heart conversation after their Jamaican engagement, in which Higgins admitted he had told Fletcher he loved her — but Bushnell “hadn’t soaked it in or made sense of it yet,” she said. “I was still on a high from getting engaged.”

Of watching the show back, Bushnell admitted “it hurts.”

“It’s like, why did I have to go through that hurt?” she said. “It’s already a few months of confusion and tears, and then to have to deal with it again. It’s hard.”

Higgins, meanwhile, told PEOPLE he couldn’t apologize “for being honest or expressing what I thought was the best thing to express at the time.”

“Don’t get us wrong. Throughout this whole show airing and conversations we’ve had about decisions and life, it hasn’t always been easy,” he continued. “But it’s added a whole new level to our relationship. And [the show ultimately] led me to this woman who I love deeply. She’s the only woman I’ll love from now on.”

“Ben is the most understanding and empathetic, supportive, and a great listener,” added Bushnell. “Anytime I do feel things, I express them and he listens and we talk about it.”

PEOPLE also caught up with the couple half a year later, and Bushnell admitted she was “really angry for being blindsided” for “a long time.”

“I was heartbroken,” she said. “And that resentment and anger affected our relationship much longer than it should have.”

Higgins also acknowledged what happened with Fletcher had put a serious strain on the relationship.

“I look back at the day we got engaged, and there is a cloud over it because I really did hurt Lauren,” he said. “Instead of being able to jump into a really happy time, the first few months of our relationship consisted of difficulty and strain.”

Starting Fresh

The couple did their best to overcome their issues together, and shortly following the March season finale, Bushnell moved to Higgins’ hometown of Denver after going public with their engagement.

“Everything that happened led me to Lauren,” Higgins told PEOPLE exclusively at the time. “I couldn’t be happier.”

“It was all worth it,” added Bushnell. “I appreciate him more every day.”

Back on the Small Screen

Last October, Higgins and Bushnell returned to the small screen for one season of their Freeform reality show Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After?, which chronicled the couple’s life at home since getting engaged.

But it wasn’t all rainbows and roses — the reality show explored some of their challenges, too, including lingering trust issues from the drama with Fletcher. In the season premiere, Higgins and Bushnell both admitted that Higgins telling both women he loved them had had led to “arguments” and “resentment,” and that while they had moved on, it was hard for Bushnell to handle it constantly being brought up in the media and random strangers in the street.

Couples Counseling

Ahead of the Happily Ever After? premiere, the two revealed exclusively to PEOPLE that they were undergoing couples counseling at their church.

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

“There are so many weird elements to being in a relationship after The Bachelor,” said Bushnell. “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 decided to undergo the counseling.

“We want to get a foundation that is healthy and pure and honest, with some help from a mediator,” said 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.”

“Even facing situations I didn’t know if I could handle, running away was never an option for me,” added Bushnell. “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.”

Wedding Plans on Hold

Higgins and Bushnell aways maintained they were “not in any rush” to tie the knot.

“We’re both ready to get married, but we haven’t set a date because we want to make sure we’re not doing it for anyone but ourselves,” Bushnell told PEOPLE last October.

“It doesn’t say anything about cold feet or second thoughts,” said Higgins. “We just want to do it on our own terms. And we want to be engaged. We don’t want to look back when we’re 50 and think we could have enjoyed this time more.”

“We just want to do it on our own terms,” he added. “I just want to look over at Lauren and know that she is completely filled with joy in that moment. … Love is what life is all about.”

But in a November episode of Happily Ever After?, the two took things a step further, revealing that their wedding was indefinitely postponed as they focused on working on their relationship.

“We’re still engaged and we’re still together,” Higgins explained. We are building a foundation and we’re taking every day one step at a time. That’s what I’m excited about.”

Recent Breakup Rumors

In February, Higgins took to Instagram to address rumors that the two had broken up.

“No need to respond often to rumors or ‘fake news’ but the feeling I have in this picture is the same feeling I have for this girl today,” he captioned a photo of the two on one of their Bachelor dates.

“We have entered into a world where rumors will exist we know that,” he continued. “But just know as @laurenbushnell celebrates her birthday tomorrow I am still extremely lucky to be able to share life with her and be by her side.”

A few days later, Bushnell shared her own photo of the two.

“We ain’t perfect but we tryin,” she captioned the post.

Calling It Quits

On Monday, the two announced their split exclusively to PEOPLE with a joint statement.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce our decision to go our separate ways,” they said. “We feel fortunate for the time we had together, and will remain friends with much love and respect for one another. We wish nothing but the best for each other, and ask for your support and understanding at this time.”

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