Ben Higgins talked his emotional goodbye from The Bachelor Winter Games

By Brianne Tracy
February 21, 2018 12:20 PM

Ben Higgins might have left the Bachelor Winter Games in tears, but he assures fans he’s moving on from his heartbreak.

The former Bachelor star left the Olympic-themed spinoff show Tuesday night after realizing that he didn’t connect with anyone and admitting that he still wasn’t ready to date after his split from ex-fiancée Lauren Bushnell in May 2017.

“I was talking to Ashley [Iaconetti], a good friend, and she was bringing up a lot of questions,” he tells PEOPLE. “I think this is the first time she has seen me around women and has seen me interact with women. She started asking direct questions that made me realize a few things — I was scared to death that I wasn’t healthy enough, and I guess I still am, if I were to enter into another serious relationship and it were to end and that I could heal maybe as well as I have right now.”

Higgins says he was in a “pretty healthy place” when the breakup with Bushnell happened but that it was still incredibly hard.

“I also realize that I was in a committed relationship for so long that I accepted these boundaries in my life for commitment — like for example, you can’t be alone with another woman or you’re not going to text with another woman,” he says. “I set those up and they were in my life for 18 months and doing that again felt almost still like I was doing something wrong. So I had to get over that mentally. I don’t know why that was a block.”

Before telling his fellow Winter Games contestants that he was leaving, Higgins had a conversation with host Chris Harrison in which he said “coming back to a place like this brings up a lot of weird memories” of his season with Bushnell.

“I realize that I was ready to find somebody, but that person wasn’t here on Winter Games,” he says. “I went to talk to Chris, who’s a friend of mine and who I knew would understand where I’m coming from, and he and I both agreed that this isn’t the place for me anymore. It was right for me to go, and I think looking back it was the right time for me to leave.”

Jamie Kripke

Nine months after his breakup, Higgins says he has been back on the dating scene outside of the show.

“I am dating again,” he says. “I was dating before the show. I think in December, I had my first date after Lauren. I’ve gone on a couple dates and it has been nothing serious, but it has been fun.”

He adds: “I’m ready to date, and I’m excited about the possibility of a relationship.”

Higgins is also keeping busy with the business he started, the Generous Coffee Company.

“That has been taking up a time of time and I think right now, that has been a really good thing for me in my life to have a purpose outside of just dating,” he says.

Edward Herrera/ABC

As to whether we’ll see Higgins as the Bachelor again, or even in Paradise?

“I don’t want to ever say I would never do anything again, but it would have to be the right situation,” he says. “This was the right situation. It was a new show that had an international cast that fit well into where I was at with life. I don’t know what’s next and I can’t say I would never do anything like this again.”

The season finale of The Bachelor Winter Games airs on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.