Last month, the duo, who stayed together for more than a year after meeting and becoming engaged on The Bachelor, revealed that they were splitting in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE. But before they both came to the mutual decision to end their engagement, they gave it their all to save the romance from ending.
“At the end of the day, there was a lot of hurt and pain. It was a rocky road from the start. It just didn’t feel right anymore,” Bushnell, 27, says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.
“I think Ben said this at some point, but there just wasn’t that joy that should be there and that was there at the beginning,” says the Sparkle in Her Eye style and travel blog founder. “It just slowly faded until the point it just wasn’t there anymore. I don’t why, but it just wasn’t. At that point, we were at a crossroads. We needed to make a decision.”
In March of last year, Bachelor Nation watched Higgins get down on one knee and propose to Bushnell, who was working as a flight attendant at the time. After their stint on season 20 of The Bachelor came to an end, Bushnell moved to Denver in April 2016 to be with her fiancé, where cameras captured the former couple in one season of their own own reality network series: Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After?
Although the pair was living together at the time, they jointly decided to enter couple’s counseling last fall in an attempt to resolve some of the struggles that they were facing. “We’re not the perfect couple,” Higgins, 29, told PEOPLE in October.
RELATED VIDEO: Ben Higgins Opens Up About His Split from Lauren Bushnell
Now, reflecting on her yearlong relationship, Bushnell believes a combination of events led to their breakup.
“Looking back, I wish I could be like, ‘That’s why it didn’t work out.’ But I think it was just a very abnormal situation and one that unfortunately … I mean we tried,” says Bushnell. “We went to couples counseling. We continued that after the show and I went to personal counseling.”
- For more from Lauren Bushnell, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
“I feel like we gave it everything we could,” Bushnell says, and adds, “just at the end of the day, it didn’t feel right anymore.”
The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.
—With NATALIE STONE