Bachelor Ben Higgins Says He and Lauren Bushnell Were 'Looking for an Out' Before Split
The couple broke up in 2017, over a year after meeting and getting engaged on season 20 of The Bachelor
The couple met and got engaged on Higgins' season of The Bachelor, which aired in 2016. Monday's episode of ABC's retrospective series The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever! looked back on the journey and proposal, which came moments after Higgins said goodbye to his other finalist, JoJo Fletcher. Higgins had also famously told both women he loved them — a big no-no, and the first time it happened in the franchise's history. (But certainly not the last.)
Higgins, 31, and Bushnell, 30, announced their split in May 2017. In a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight, Higgins reflected on the breakup, acknowledging that the two had been struggling before calling it quits.
"I do think Lauren and I very early on were just trying so hard to make it work that it was just pulling pieces of us all the time," he said.
Bushnell, who is now married to country singer Chris Lane, 35, has also admitted it was "a rocky road from the start," telling PEOPLE after their split that "there just wasn't that joy that should be there and that was there at the beginning."
Though the couple moved in together after The Bachelor and returned to the small screen for one season of their Freeform reality show, Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After?, Higgins told ET he thinks "internally we knew just how unhealthy it probably was to continue to go on."
"We were just looking for an out, but trying our best to make it last as long as we could to see if maybe we found the secret sauce," he said. "At some point, we never did."
Since then, Higgins has also moved on and proposed to his girlfriend Jessica Clarke in March; the two are planning to wed in the fall of 2021. He said Clarke has thus far not seen his season of The Bachelor and that watching it back himself is "just uncomfortable."
"It's not healthy for me to see, it's not healthy for me to relive," he said. "I think I've given my focus and my heart and my attention to one woman now, and I'm setting up boundaries in my life to keep that healthy and good. Seeing myself propose to somebody else isn't a part of that healthy boundary, but I did it. So that was really hard for me to see, especially the place I am now in life and just how happy I am."
Ultimately, Higgins, who said he hasn't spoken to Bushnell, is grateful for the way things turned out.
"I do think the fundamentals to my relationship with Jessica are stronger," he said. "I can't speak for Lauren. I'm sure she feels the same way about Chris, but I'm with Jessica and she just expands everything I do. She encourages me. She supports me."