The Bachelor star sounds off on his relationship with Nikki Ferrell

By Steve Helling
Updated October 15, 2014 10:30 AM

Juan Pablo Galavis is used to public scrutiny of his relationships. When he was on The Bachelor, the former soccer player, 33, drew fire for declining to propose to girlfriend Nikki Ferrell at the end of the season.

Now appearing on Couples Therapy, he has taken a lot of heat for waiting to say "I love you" to Ferrell.

The backlash has been brutal – and not just for Galavis. After a recent episode, Twitter erupted with hateful tweets aimed at Ferrell, 27, calling her names for staying in the relationship. It got so overwhelming that Ferrell, who admits to being hurt by online chatter, suspended her Twitter account.

Despite the online drama, Galavis tells PEOPLE that he and Ferrell are still going strong. In an exclusive interview, he talks to PEOPLE about reality TV, Internet bullies, and why he hasn’t said those three little words.

So let’s get this out of the way. Are you and Nikki still together?
Yes. We’re loving and missing each other a lot. (He’s in Miami; she’s in Kansas City.)

Your relationship is so new. Why did you go on Couples Therapy in the first place?
There were two specific issues that we were going to work on: living apart, and me introducing Nikki to [my daughter] Camila as a girlfriend and not just a regular friend. Nikki had other things that were bothering her, but she hadn’t told me. I’m glad we went to therapy because those things were hurtful to her.

Any surprises?
The cameras were always around, 24/7. A lot more than on other shows. So we shared some very personal things.

Do you have any regrets?
That’s a hard question to answer. It depends on how I look at it. I’m glad I did it, because I know if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be together right now. But when I see my family and Nikki suffer from what people brutally write to us on social media, I wish I would have met “Mi Catira” [My Blondie] at a baseball stadium eating a hot dog or at a country music concert.

But because you have such a public relationship, people can weigh in on it. Does that bother you?
It doesn’t bother me at all, unless it’s someone who really knows me, and to this day, that has not happened. I’m responsible for what I say, but I’m not responsible about how people interpret my situation. Different people have different opinions, and it’s okay to respect all of them. On a TV show, people just get to see bits and pieces of what’s really happening.

Can you give me an example?
A huge example was when I said, “Guys are more logical.” Some women were offended and thought I was being arrogant. But I learned that from a session that Nikki and I had with Dr. Jenn where she told me, “Juan Pablo, what happens is that men are more logical while women are more sensitive.” Unfortunately, the production company didn’t show the clip when Dr. Jenn told me that, so it seems that it was my own cocky, arrogant opinion.

Have people been critical of you in person?
People usually don’t say anything bad to us in person. It has happened once. We were at Target, and I was in the men’s section; Nikki was in a different section. A woman and her child came up to Nikki and said, “I’m so glad you’re not with that guy anymore.” And Nikki said, “He’s right over there. Why don’t you tell him yourself?” The woman freaked out, and apologized. But usually, the feedback is really positive.

You haven’t said you love her yet. Can you explain that?
There’s definitely a culture barrier that people don’t understand. In Latin culture, there are many words you can say to a woman to tell her that you care about her: falling in love, loving her, needing her. Those words might not have a translation in English. Te quiero [I like you], Te quiero mucho [I like you a lot], Te adoro [I adore you], Me encantas [McDonald’s translation is "I’m loving it"]. These mean something to Latins, but they don’t mean the same to Americans. I’ve learned that “love” is used a lot in the States for everything: I love that burger, I love my shoes, I love a friend. To me, if it’s overused, it loses meaning.

Therapy has gotten tense sometimes. There have been some tears.
It’s a process. It’s hard to get people to understand that sometimes. There’s a stigma on the word “therapy.” People relate it to big problems. That’s something we have to change. Going to therapy can be very healthy. It can change the way you see things and treat others.

So ultimately, it was a positive thing for you?
Yes. Couples Therapy helped the relationship because we learned how to communicate better, understand better, be patient with each other and for me, especially, to understand some of Nikki’s reactions towards things that are culturally different. I’m glad we did it.

Couples Therapy airs Wednesday nights (9 p.m. ET) on VH1.

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