"It wasn't a good look 10 years ago, and it isn't a good look now," Melissa Rycroft tells PEOPLE
“It wasn’t a good look 10 years ago, and it isn’t a good look now,” says Rycroft, who got engaged to season 13 Bachelor Jason Mesnick in 2009, only to have him end things with her on national television to pursue the runner-up, his now-wife Molly Mesnick. “Arie saw what happened our season with Jason and he talked to Jason before he did this, and yet he still made the move.”
Despite the obvious similarities between her breakup and Luyendyk Jr.’s about-face — he ended things with final pick Becca Kufrin to reunite with runner-up Lauren Burnham — Rycroft, 34, says her situation was different.
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“I think when Jason proposed to me, he genuinely thought it was me and was being honest about his feelings,” says the Dallas-based mom of three with husband Tye Strickland. “He realized the relationship didn’t work, and that’s how it ended. But with Arie, no woman out there wants to hear you picked me because I was safe, because the woman you really wanted you think would have rejected you. Even if you are feeling that, don’t say it!”
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And Rycroft, who says she “cringed” watching the breakup scene, sympathizes with Kufrin.
“I had no clue what was coming when Jason broke things off,” says Rycroft. “And I don’t think Becca knew. I think she was blindsided. And Arie didn’t even give her a good reason. He’s not justifying anything. He was so unemotional and detached from it.”
In contrast, “Jason was very emotional,” says Rycroft. “It made me feel better that at least he was upset about it.”
Continues Rycroft: “When it’s somebody who is supposed to be the guy you’re spending the rest of your life with and he ambushes you on camera, those were the feelings coming back to me — when I was like, ‘This could have been done privately, you could have warned me, and now I’m humiliated and I’m heartbroken and I’m embarrassed.’ “
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And when it comes to Burnham, Rycroft says she was “baffled” by her reaction.
“She saw how he handled the breakup with Becca and was still okay jumping back into a relationship,” she says. “It had a really weird feeling all around and it didn’t make sense to me.”
RELATED: Lauren Burnham Defends Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s Change of Heart — ‘He Won’t Change His Mind Again’
As far as the proposal, Rycroft says Luyendyk Jr. should have waited to pop the question at a time other than on After the Final Rose.
“He didn’t think about the tone,” she says. “I think he’s emotionally clueless. And as a woman, Lauren should have said, ‘Out of respect for what’s going on, let’s take this slow.’ But she defended him.”
In comparison, after splitting from Rycroft, Mesnick dated Molly for seven months before getting engaged.
“Arie’s breakup was much colder,” says Rycroft. “I felt really bad for Becca, and I hope it all works out for her.”