The Bachelorette alum reconnected with ex-girlfriend Holly Allen after filming for Winter Games wrapped in January

By Brianne Tracy
February 23, 2018 09:03 PM
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Luke Pell is in love because of The Bachelor Winter Games — though not with his fellow contestant Stassi Yaramchuk.

After taking heat for the way things ended with Yaramchuk during the World Tells All reunion special on Thursday night, on which Yaramchuk said she had no idea why they broke up, The Bachelorette alum explains to PEOPLE exclusively that there’s more to the story.

“I originally went on [Winter Games] after a breakup, a relationship I had last year that was a non-Bachelor relationship,” Pell explains. “I decided to go back on the show and see if that might work because that had worked in the past for me when I was on with JoJo [Fletcher]. I wanted to give it another shot.”

Paul Hebert/ABC

Though Pell started off the show on a date with Yaramchuk’s fellow Bachelor: Sweden alum Rebecca Karlsson, he quickly bonded with Yaramchuk over their heart conditions, and they competed as a couple during the nearly two weeks of filming.

“During that time, I really started reflecting on where my heart was at and I started thinking a lot about my ex, honestly,” Pell says. “I came to the epiphany of saying, ‘My heart is with somebody else.’ I wanted to make that clear, and that didn’t take away from the fact that Stassi and I had that initial connection. She’s amazing and she’s great, and I want the best for her.”

Pell says that after filming wrapped for the show, he and Yaramchuk had a “heart to heart” in which they spent hours talking about life and that “they weren’t going to have a future.”

“I went on the show to find love, and I did find love,” he says. “It made me realize where my heart was, and that was to reconcile with my ex.”

Edward Herrera/ABC

Having thought that Yaramchuk had a mutual understanding that it was over, Pell reconnected with the ex-girlfriend in question, Holly Allen, after the show and the two got back together in January.

“That was the greatest decision I’ve made,” he says. “We’re together now and stronger than ever. I’m in love with her. I’m just thankful that going on this show helped me to find where my heart really was and who my heart was with.”

He adds: “I hate if Stassi was hurt in the middle of that.”

Pell says he was “shocked” to get an icy response from Yaramchuk during the World Tells All because of the conversations they had about going their separate ways.

“Two months had gone by since we had those conversations,” he says. “I was uncomfortable from the time I stepped out there because I was confused and shocked at how emotional Stassi was, and I was in a relationship with my ex again and trying to be respectful of that. I was happily moving on with my ex and I was in a weird position at that point on the show to try to navigate that experience.”

Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC

While Yaramchuk previously told PEOPLE that she doesn’t have Pell’s phone number, he claims that he has hers.

“I actually do have her phone number,” he says, adding, “I don’t want to get into a conflict or anything about that.”

Moving forward, Pell hopes that fans of the show can support him and Allen being together even though they didn’t form their relationship on one of The Bachelor franchises.

“[Our relationship] happened because of the show, and I have great hopes about what the future holds for us,” he says. “I’m happily in a relationship with Holly and that’s what I’m trying to focus on now. I have my experience on the show and the show to thank for helping me find that out.”