'The Bachelorette' 's Runner-Up Robby Hayes: 'JoJo Will Always Have a Portion of My Heart'

JoJo Fletcher handed out the final rose on Monday night

Photo: ABC/Matt Klitscher

After a season filled with drama and heartbreak, JoJo Fletcher opens up about finding true love with Jordan Rodgers. Subscribe now for a behind-the-scenes look at how they’ve stayed solid despite all the rumors, only in PEOPLE!

Spoiler warning: For those who haven’t seen Monday’s finale of The Bachelorette, this season’s final results will be revealed below.

On the day of his would be proposal, Robby Hayes was so sure that Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher would choose him, that he was convinced he was the only suitor still left in Thailand. When she rejected him, he was left stunned and heartbroken.

“I was so caught off guard,” Hayes tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I was so confident in our relationship and my feelings for her. I had already been dreaming about our future together.”

Since that fateful day (“It was 70 days ago, not that I’m keeping track,” says Hayes), the former competitive swimmer, 27, has had plenty of time to think back on his journey.

“Everything I said was honest and from the heart,” he says. “If I didn’t tell JoJo I loved her, I would have been lying. The only thing I’m upset about is what was taken from me. I come from a very traditional family where marriage is a one time thing. But it’s not just the marriage. It’s the picking of the ring, the asking the parents for permission, giving the speech before you get down on one knee. JoJo took that from me and I can’t ever get it back.”

For more on The Bachelorette, including exclusive photos and updates from JoJo Fletcher, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

WATCH: Bachelorette Superfan Jennifer Weiner Breaks Down the Emotional Season Finale

Still, “JoJo will always hold a portion of my heart,” he says. “I fell in love with her, and in falling in love, I attached strings. One of them was unconditional care for her. I want JoJo to be happy and if I’m not the guy, I understand.”

As far as JoJo’s fiancé, Hayes calls his pal and former roommate Jordan Rodgers, “a great guy.”

Says Hayes, “I respect the hell out of that kid. I think he’s sincere. And if JoJo couldn’t find happiness with me, I wanted her to find it with someone else.”

Related Articles