Nick Viall also shares his heartache over saying goodbye to Raven Gates

By Nick Viall
March 14, 2017 04:40 PM
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He was devastated twice on The Bachelorette and had a summer fling on Bachelor in Paradise, but Nick Viall found love — and a fiancée! — as The Bachelor‘s most recent leading man. This is his final exclusive blog for PEOPLE. Follow him at Twitter, @viallnicholas28!

This is it guys. After all the years, dates, roses and tears there I stood in Rovanemi, Finland, staring down the snowy crossroads of my life.

I’ve been told I’m a bit of an over-thinker but imagining starting a family with Vanessa or building a future with Raven and trying to choose between the two had me back in my head spinning my roller skate wheels. It was time to call in for back-up, cue Bella and the rest of the Viall cavalry to my rescue.

As grateful as I am for Chris Harrison and the sage advice he’s given me over the years, it was a huge relief to have family fly out so I could share my feelings and get their perspectives. Raising my 10 siblings and me back in Waukesha didn’t provide many opportunities for international family vacations so we were so excited to be together somewhere as exotic as Finland.

That being said, something people watching at home don’t experience is just how difficult this very public journey can be for our families. The hope, the heartbreak, the high points and the haters are something I accepted when I decided to take this role, but since my family has always stood right beside me they’ve had to face it all as well. Watching them go through it has been as hard as anything.

As fate would have it my family already broke the ice with Raven back in Wisconsin at Bella’s soccer game so their faces lit up when I told them how seriously our relationship had progressed. Watching Bella and Raven bond like sisters felt like she was meant to be part of my family, like we had already been dating for years.

Credit: ABC/Terhi Tuovinen

It took some effort to not just relax the whole time and ignore the huge decision that was days away, but luckily everyone in my family — especially my sister Maria — didn’t hold back with the challenging questions. It was clear that after having met Andi and Kaitlyn that they weren’t going to leave any concerns unspoken. After kissing her goodnight the only thing I was absolutely sure of was how incredible a wife and mother Raven will be someday — and also that I wasn’t going to get any sleep all week.

I actually think I was a little more anxious than Vanessa when she came to meet my family the next day. She was making a first impression knowing Raven had a head start but wasn’t fazed. A trait that made me fall so hard so fast for Vanessa is her courage to get straight to the point and express her genuine feelings in any situation. That was on full display when she didn’t take more than five minutes to tell them about the time she puked on our first date and follow up by making my mother Mary cry by describing with sincerity the connection she’s shared with me from the moment she stepped out of the limo. I got so wrapped up listening that I forgot to say something myself, which is very, very unusual for me.

What I wasn’t expecting to see is my father Chris and Vanessa crying in each other’s arms. I think his message of needing to push beyond the feelings of love and embrace the sacrifices couples have to make actually turned out to be some of the best advice we got on our relationship. Vanessa made her struggle with not getting the well-defined answers crystal clear weeks before, and I could tell she was second guessing everything she felt. I’ve been in her spot. Having the old man explain to her that sometimes letting go of something is the only way to hold onto the people you love may have saved us.

Credit: Terhi Tuovinen/ABC

My final date with Vanessa turned out to be the most significant date of my life. Sometimes no matter how strong your imagination is and how many days you spend picturing a life with a woman, she turns out to be so amazing that only being there with her in the moment, holding her in your arms, can you find the truth in your heart.

It was so cute to see her jump on that horse like a Canadian Mountie. Out of all the stunning settings I had gotten to share with these women around Finland, riding up that mountain on horseback was the most beautiful. I tried to describe it but the only word that came out of my mouth was “wow.” It’s a place on Earth you have to see to truly appreciate.

Meeting the real Santa? Another first I’ll never forget. The history of the holiday and Santa Claus is actually intriguing and ingrained in the culture in this part of Finland. I’ll never take another picture with a mall Santa after having a cup of joe with the confirmed real big guy.

RELATED VIDEO: The Bachelor’s Vanessa Grimaldi Reveals Her Last Text To Fiancé Nick Viall Was X-Rated

Throughout the day up until we said goodbye that evening, Vanessa stayed true to herself and was completely open about both her love for me and her fear about how all this could end. In those moments you search for the right words to say to this person you care so much about but at the same time have to be honest about other relationship you’re in. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but it was the truth.

You didn’t see it at home but Vanessa brought a jar of her nonna’s homemade tomato sauce all the way from Montreal and gave it to me that night. I know what you’re thinking and yes it really does taste as amazing as “nonna’s homemade sauce” sounds.

Ice skating on the pond in the middle of the Lapland forest was a simple, perfect date with Raven. It took me back to the roller rink in Wisconsin where my feelings for her started to move past infatuation to something that became so real. It’s just impossible to be around that young woman and not smile all day. I returned the favor by busting out my secret weapon, husky puppies. It’s too bad they haven’t invented smell-o-vision for TVs yet because those little guys were as smelly and wild as they were cute.

The conversation with Raven that night was decidedly different than the one I’d had with Vanessa. Raven’s calm reassurances that she ready to say yes felt profound. I’ve been ready to propose before and thought I knew what the other person felt only to be blindsided, so to hear her say the choice was easy was a new sentiment for me.

By the time Neil Lane showed up the next morning I had made up my mind to propose to Vanessa but was still scared out of my mind. The last few times I sat down with Neil I experienced a devastating breakup right after. He was like the Grim Reaper of my love life. Something felt different this time, not because I was in the position of being the Bachelor but because my feelings for Vanessa were different than the feelings I’ve had for Andi or Kaitlyn or any other women in my past.

The final rose ceremony came and the sense that this journey was ending and a new, even better one could be starting finally set in. The fear of this not working again was either about to vanish or become my permanent reality and in this moment my fate felt totally out my hands. All I could do was finally tell these two women without holding back my truest feelings.

Credit: Terhi Tuovinen/ABC

Saying goodbye to Raven hurt. Even if I had all the time and words in the world I don’t think I could communicate to her how unbelievably deserving she is of true love and how sorry I was that I couldn’t give that to her. In the moment she was so strong and understanding. I’ll never doubt how much she cared for me because of the kindness so showed me even at the end. I’m forever thankful to her.

Then the time came. Vanessa stood before me and I took her hand and finally let go of the apprehension and caution that I carried into the final week and just opened my mouth and let my heart talk. I think I blacked out during some parts of my proposal. When my knee touched the floor and I reached for ring in my pocket everything we had been through together and the all the possibilities our future could hold went off like the big bang in my brain. Then I heard the most beautiful “yes” and exhaled for the first time in months. Vanessa Viall has a nice ring to it, eh?

RELATED VIDEO: Bachelor Nick Viall & Fiancée Vanessa Grimaldi Share the Funny Story Behind Her Engagement Ring

I think how candid Vanessa and I were at After The Final Rose regarding the challenges we’ve faced as a newly engaged couple in a secret, long-distance relationship might have surprised some fans, but hey, it’s really tough to hold back when you just want to scream from the top of mountain that you’re in love with your amazing new fiancée. Now that we can celebrate our love unrestrained with the rest of world, we only see opportunities to take on together!

I want to thank all the fans of the series that have supported me through the years. This experience challenged and changed me as man and I’m better for it. Even when things looked ugly, Bachelor Nation never gave up on me and I never gave up on love and look at us now.

Thanks for reading,
Nick