After news broke Friday that the former Bachelor star and his final pick Vanessa Grimaldi recently ended their engagement, the reality stars — who vied for Ben Higgins‘ heart on his season of the hit ABC show and appeared on Bachelor in Paradise with Viall — opened up to PEOPLE exclusively about the sad news.
“I think it’s funny that a lot of the girls from Nick’s season claim to know Nick and his relationship with Vanessa. Emily and I were both fortunate enough to become very close to both Nick and Vanessa,” the Ferguson sisters say in a joint statement. “We hung out with them not only together but also separately.”
“They both loved each other very much and tried very hard to make their relationship work. Like any normal relationship outside of the spotlight, they had their ups and downs. We love them both very much and hope that everyone will respect their privacy during this hard time,” the statement continues.
Viall, 36, and Grimaldi have battled split rumors since their awkward appearance on After the Final Rose, where they insisted there were no wedding plans in the works.
“It’s with a great amount of heartbreak for the both us as we have decided to end our engagement,” the couple, last pictured together on Instagram Aug. 15, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Friday. “We gave this relationship our all and we are saddened that we did not get the fairytale ending we hoped for. We will continue to be there for each other no matter what. This hasn’t been an easy decision, however, as we part ways, we do so with lots of love and admiration for each other.”