Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev made their relationship official in July

By Jodi Guglielmi
September 26, 2019 12:46 PM

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev may be happily in love now, but their relationship certainly got off to an interesting start.

Bella, 35, recently opened up about her first date with Chigvinstev, admitting she quite literally ran away from him out of fear their outing would be caught by paparazzi. (The two first sparked romance rumors in December 2018 when they were photographed at a farmer’s market together.)

“Our first date was at the farmer’s market in Studio City, and I had no idea that it was filled with paparazzi,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “So Artem and I are, like, looking at vegetables — and I honestly think he was picking up tomatoes — and I see a paparazzi in this corner, and one in the other corner and I just freaked. I walked away from him, all the way to my car. And poor Artem, all of a sudden I get a text like, ‘Uhh, where did you go?’ I didn’t even say anything.”

For his part, Chigvintsev, 37, said he was left confused and fearing he did something wrong.

“I’m [with] a basket of vegetables, just standing there, thinking, ‘Did she [go] somewhere? What happened?’ ” the former Dancing with the Stars pro added. “And I’m seeing, like, a shadow crossing the road and almost running. So I’m like, ‘Did I do something wrong?'”

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev
David Livingston/Getty

RELATED: Going Strong! Nikki Bella and Boyfriend Artem Chigvintsev Step Out Hand-in-Hand in Los Angeles

But while they were able to adjust to the media attention and continue dating, Chigvintsev still had to win over Bella’s twin sister Brie — which wasn’t easy.

“She was very mean to me [at first],” he said. “It was very tough in the beginning because I had to prove himself in a sense. But I appreciated it from her, because she’s a sister who’s looking after another sister and I feel like she wanted to have her back. I respect that.”

That said, the two were able to get past the roadblocks and have been going strong ever since. They made their relationship official in July after dating with “no labels” for nearly four months.

“I feel like Artem balances me in all the right ways. I get so busy and get into hustler mode so much and Artem just literally, and this is such a weird analogy, but he does make me stop and smell the roses,” the former WWE star said. “He makes me enjoy life in such a simple way and I love it.”

Bella ended her engagement to pro wrestler John Cena over a year ago. On an episode of The Bellas Podcast last month, she said that she’s still in the process of healing.

“As far as how you get over a breakup, you really have to do the work on yourself,” she said. “You really, truly, have to love yourself and every day dedicate something to you that is making you better.”

“You also have to let yourself cry,” she added. “That’s one thing my life coach helped me a lot with, because I still, you guys, get days when I cry about my breakup. But we were together a long time, we had an amazing relationship and an amazing bond and a lot of love for each other.”

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