"I found a great man," the Bachelorette star tells PEOPLE

By Carrie Bell
Updated July 29, 2011 07:40 PM
Credit: Craig Sjodin

After being roasted to her face, ridiculed behind her back, led on by the season’s villain, walked out on by two men and reduced to tears on too many occasions to count, it was hard to believe The Bachelorette‘s Ashley Hebert would eventually find her happily ever after.

“There were certainly moments where I thought I’d made a mistake agreeing to be the Bachelorette and thought it wasn’t going to end well,” Hebert, 26, told PEOPLE at the taping of Sunday’s Men Tell All special, which airs Sunday (9 p.m. ET) on ABC. “But you come out a stronger person and learn so many things about yourself. Ultimately, I know I did the right thing.”

And now she admits all the heartache was worth it. “I’m so happy, so in love. I found a great man,” she says of her new relationship. “It’s going strong – we’ve been hanging out and talking all the time. I hoped I would leave with this type of relationship.”

With the finale looming (it airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET), Hebert is anxious to go public with the identity of the last man standing. “I’m really ready for this to be over so we can go into the light of day and get on with normal everyday life,” she says.

Of course, she had to first face the men she sent away at the reunion special. “At first, it was overwhelming to walk out and see the guys again, but the Men Tell All is good closure,” she says. “They leave so quickly once you say goodbye on the show. This gave me a chance to talk to them and explain my choices. I don’t think anyone hates me. Many of them sound happy for me.”

One person she didn’t have to face was heartbreaker Bentley, who declined the producers’ invitation to attend. “Part of me was happy because I am over him and don’t want to waste anymore time or energy on Bentley,” Hebert says. “An apology would have been nice to hear although something tells me I wouldn’t have gotten one.”

The season’s other controversies, including the masked man, Ryan’s surprise visit to Fiji, William’s hurtful roast and throwing of Ben under the bus on the two-on-one date were also discussed at length at the special. There were accusations, apologies, name-calling and even some tears, but Constantine Tzortzis, 30, was sure the hatchet was buried before the soundstage lights went out.

“With guys, you get it off your chest and then it’s water under the bridge,” he says. “I don’t think there’s going to be lasting bad blood. I have a ton of new great friends. You spend the most time with the other guys and it is only natural that you are going to get close to them. We’re like a fraternity.”