The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC

By Arie Luyendyk Jr.
January 30, 2018 05:31 PM

Arie Luyendyk Jr. vied for Emily Maynard‘s heart on season 8 of The Bachelorette. Now, he’s on his own journey to find love on the latest season of The Bachelor — and he’s blogging about it exclusively for PEOPLE! Follow Arie on Twitter at @ariejr.

Welcome back, everyone! After a crazy week in Tahoe, it was time to pack our bags and head to Fort Lauderdale. Though the surprise snow on the survival date was surreally romantic, I think the women and I were happy to spend a week somewhere known for picturesque beaches and beautiful weather.

​As I rode around town in my black convertible, I reflected upon how far we’ve already come and how, in just a short while, I was able to build such strong relationships. More than ever, I was hopeful that I would find my wife among the remaining women. I popped over to the women’s suite to announce the first date of the week. Usually announcing the dates is Chris’ duty, but I missed the women after a full day of travel. Sorry, Chris, I’m not trying to steal your job.

​Fort Lauderdale is known as the “yachting capital of the world,” so it would be wrong not to spend a date on one of these extravagant boats. I chose Chelsea for this one-on-one for so many reasons. From the first moment I met her, I knew Chelsea was sexy and mysterious. Even though I now knew she was a mom, Chelsea was still an enigmatic force. I still needed to get to know her as her, not just the mother of Sammy. I’ve always had such respect for single mothers, and I’ve dated a few in the past. That was something I loved about Emily when I was on The Bachelorette. With this date, I really wanted to give Chelsea a much-deserved day of luxury and see if we connected on a deeper level than just our mutual love for kids.

​Man, that yacht was cool. It felt like we were in a music video. The beautiful, clear skies and crisp ocean water made for a perfect day. It also didn’t hurt that the yacht had everything from Jacuzzis to jet skis. The fun toys and amenities were nice, but the real fun of the day was getting to see another side of Chelsea. This day she wasn’t just the mother of Sammy or the woman who aggressively pulled me on group dates — she was the woman who would reenact scenes from Titanic and the woman who would get adventurous on jet skis.

WATCH: The Bachelor’s Arie Luyendyk Jr. Says He’s okay with People calling him the “old” bachelor “I’m older and wiser—and grayer”

​By the way, both of us jumping on the one jet ski was really sexy and so fun. At the time, though, I had no idea that the other women could see me and Chelsea making out. When I became the Bachelor, I promised myself that I’d never flaunt any relationship in front of the other women. I know from Emily’s season just how hard it is to all be dating the same person. The relationships naturally develop at different speeds, and at this point in the journey many people are beginning to have real feelings. As difficult as it is for me to compartmentalize all my different relationships, it’s just as hard for the women to focus on their one relationship with me and remain unfazed by my relationship with their friends. As much fun as it was, I wish it hadn’t made the others feel bad.

Going into that night, there was still so much I needed to know about Chelsea. To give Chelsea a rose, I always needed to be 100 percent sure that I felt we could have a future together. Every woman made a sacrifice to come meet me, but, with Chelsea, each week with me was a week away from Sammy. During dinner, Chelsea opened up so much about her relationship with her ex and how that shaped her life. It broke my heart to hear her story of heartache and loss, but it made my appreciation for the strong, beautiful woman who sat before me grow even more. Her story and perspective on life and material things was inspiring, and it was heartening to know we share so many similar values. Chelsea is a woman who asks for so little and deserves so much. Ending the night dancing to Tenille Arts was the perfect end to an incredible date. Just like the day, our final moment was all about us and our relationship, not about all the fancy stuff surrounding it.

​Not all dates can be on luxury yachts, though, so that’s why I was really excited to take the women on a group date that was more grounded. Trust me, I love wrestling and demo derbies and dog shows as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s nice to do an activity without all the frills. Plus, I got to do my badass reenactment of The Big Lebowski and get some fantastically hilarious advice for the local women’s bowling team. I didn’t expect them to have so many questions about the fantasy suites. One of them even promised to set me up with her granddaughter if things didn’t work out of the show. Thanks, ladies!

​I was truly shocked that the bowling date caused so much drama. I thought the idea of a friendly competition for time at the cocktail party was fun, but after reflecting I decided that it would be nice to invite all of the women. At the end of the day, finding love and finding my future wife is one of the most important decisions of my entire life and maybe a bowling competition shouldn’t dictate who I spend time with. It was an honest change of heart! There are a lot of qualities I want in my future wife, and believe it or not, winning at bowling is not at the top of that list. That all said, huge shout-out to Jenna for being so good at bowling. She’s hilarious and fun and always full of surprises. Another missed part of the bowling date was Jacqueline pulling me aside and sneaking a kiss. I know you haven’t seen much of her on the show, but Jacqueline is so beautiful, intelligent and interesting.

​The fallout after the bowling date was one of the most disappointing and stressful parts of my time as the Bachelor. Krystal’s actions were confusing and misguided. There are two sides to every coin, though. For all the obvious disappointment I felt about Krystal, I felt equal parts pride and connection to the women who came to my defense. Bekah and Kendall really put themselves out there to defend me and my actions, and it says so much about their character that they were willing to speak out on behalf of me. That was also the night where Lauren B. and I really deepened our relationship. We finally got past some of the basics and started connecting on a deeper level.

ABC/Craig Sjodin

I know after all that happened this week many people will question keeping Krystal. The thing about love is it’s not always easy. It’s not all exotic dates and romantic one-on-ones and sunsets. She told me she was stressed and made a mistake and got angry. I’ve made mistakes and been upset about things I shouldn’t have been upset about. We all do that, it’s human. Was it a red flag for me personally? Yes, totally. I still, to this day, see the events very differently from her. The choice to not join the cocktail party was pretty immature and irrational. But the connection Krystal and I had that first week in Scottsdale was real and I wasn’t ready to throw it away just because she was having a hard week. That didn’t seem fair because we’ve all had irrational blow-ups before.

​After such a stressful day, I was so excited to get to spend a full date with Tia. She always, no matter what, made me feel happy and comfortable. From the moment I met her, Tia kept me on my heels. Our very first interaction was her being hilarious and brash. I’m not sure if you remember me missing her “I hope you don’t already have a small wiener” joke on the first night, but I sure do. We already had so many fun memories together, and I couldn’t wait to make more. One moment that wasn’t in the show: one night at the mansion Tia set up champagne glasses for us to shoot like a carnival game. And that’s who Tia is: the type of person to shoot Nerf guns in a cocktail dress. Sitting next to Tia on the airboat, swampland as far as the eye could see, I couldn’t help but keep laughing. The everglades are beautiful and bug-filled and absolutely spectacular.

WATCH: The Bachelor’s Arie Luyendyk Jr.: I Actually Ate on My Dates!

Meeting Gerald and seeing his house was really a trip. He built the entire house in the middle of the everglades himself! As a guy who builds things and fixes cars and is also in real estate, I really appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship it took to build such a home. If you ever find yourself in the middle of the glades, you have to try his fried gator and corn. I never knew corn could taste so good.

It’s easy to laud Tia for her foul-mouthed hilariousness and her ability to call me out (and I do love that about her), but that night at dinner really showed Tia’s other side. She’s smart and accomplished and has the ability to be vulnerable. I know she’s dated some jerks in the past, but she’s so much better than that. When she told me she was falling in love with me, I was humbled and my heart was totally full. This beautiful, fantastic woman sitting in front of me was falling in love and I was falling for her too. In this moment I had so much hope for the journey working, and knew now, more than even, that I could find my fiancé and future wife.

ABC/Craig Sjodin

​My strong connection with Tia helped put so much into focus heading into the cocktail party. It was wild watching all the women confront Krystal. I am attracted to people who are strong and can stand up for themselves, and though I had no idea these confrontations were happening, I am proud of everyone for speaking their mind. For me, this night was very different. I had tough decisions to make and needed to focus on the relationships that I felt could end in love and an engagement. Jacqueline and I really connected this night, with great conversation and her showcasing her psychology skills by making me a chocolate Rorschach test. Becca K. and I also ate chocolate (Nutella, my favorite) together and discussed her continued difficulty on group dates after having the early one-on-one.

I was so thankful that Maquel was able to return this week after spending time with her family, but our conversations this week left me realizing that the connection just wasn’t there. She has so much to offer, but our relationship was just too far behind and our chemistry too lacking to give her a rose. At the end of the night, I knew I also had to say goodbye to Marihk and Ashley. They’re both great, beautiful women, but in my heart of hearts I knew they weren’t my wife. These goodbyes are difficult, but if my gut tells me we aren’t meant to be together, that’s sometimes all I need to know.

​This week was really stressful — I wish I could say that the hard part of this ended now. The two-on-one is next week, which I knew would be difficult but is even more insane and dramatic than I anticipated. Also, we finally go international. So come back and watch all the drama and the tears as the feelings of love kick into high gear.

Thanks for reading!

Best, Arie

The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.