Since news broke this week that John Cena and Nikki Bella have called it quits, the 75-page cohabitation agreement he made her sign in 2013 has been making headlines — but according to a source, the WWE star “was just protecting himself.”
“He comes from a very poor background and he takes care of his entire family, so I see his point,” the source tells PEOPLE. “He wanted to make sure he’s protected and honestly, he was making sure she’s not a gold digger. He’s a top guy in WWE, which means she immediately gets a push and a great storyline and TV time.”
The document and its signing — which formalized that Nikki would have to vacate his home with her things as soon as possible upon their potential split — was a major element of the former couple’s storyline on season 1 of the E! reality show Total Bellas. But according to the insider, Cena, 40, wasn’t the biggest proponent of the idea.
“He really didn’t want to do reality TV and show his private life,” says the source. “He loved being able to do his own thing. He hates answering to anyone, unless it’s for work.”
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On Total Bellas, Nikki expressed her hesitations about the contract to her twin sister Brie, taking issue with the fact that the contract referred to her as Cena’s “guest.”
“I just don’t understand it. I just don’t know what to feel. I’m so confused,” she said. “It kind of makes me second-guess where John and I stand in our relationship. I love John — but maybe he knows that he doesn’t want to be with me forever? Is that all I’m ever going to be in his heart, a guest? Am I ever going to have that permanent spot in the rest of [his] life?”
But Cena explained he had a good reason for the contract.
“This is what my life is. This is what it’s become,” he said on the show at the time. “You met my family. You think my mom paid for that house herself? She didn’t. My brother lives in that house, they’re expecting a child. My younger brother, he’s got medical problems. I make sure he’s okay. I always tell them, I’m a horrible brother, but I try to be the best provider that I can. I just don’t want to ever be in a position where that’s in jeopardy.”
Nikki eventually accepted his reasoning and signed the document.
“I had no idea that my man supports this many people,” she confessed. “If I had the money, I’d want to support my family, and I’d be damned to let anyone take that away from my family.”
During an appearance on Today in March, Cena said Nikki’s signing of the document was one of the reasons he knew she was the one.
“I was very abrasive and stern and she had to sign this huge, crazy agreement to come in the front door … just some sort of thing where I would be protected in case of a disaster,” he recalled. “She [signed it], totally without question, and it made me feel super bad, which I should have, but it also made me realize — and this was early on in our relationship — it made me realize, ‘This is one young woman I should not let get out of my life.’ Because when she says, ‘I’m with you because I love you, here’s proof I would still like to be here.’ “
RELATED VIDEO: How John Cena ‘Convinced’ Nikki Bella That He Was a Changed Man Before Ending Engagement
Cena and Nikki announced that they had called off their engagement Sunday — a year after he proposed during WrestleMania 33. The breakup came just weeks before they were set to tie the knot at a May 5 destination wedding, and a source recently told PEOPLE that Cena started getting cold feet as the date drew near. (The actor, who was previously married to Elizabeth Huberdeau from 2009-12, has admitted in the past that he didn’t want to get married again.)
“He talked a really good game about having changed, about having his priorities straight, about knowing what’s important, and that it was her,” said the source. “But as the day got closer, it was like he just went back to who he’s always been — which is someone who puts himself first, always. He’s an incredibly dedicated, driven, ambitious guy. And for the longest time he said he didn’t think he had room in his life for a spouse or kids. It seems like in the end that was still the truth.”
The former couple’s relationship will be a plot point in the new season of Total Bellas, which returns May 20.