"I never would have thought I would have been with a Russian ballroom dancer," says Nikki Bella, who adds of fiancé Artem Chigvintsev, "I'm so in love"

By Christina Dugan
January 29, 2020 01:00 PM
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Nikki Bella is opening up about her painful split from ex John Cena — and how she found love again with fiancé Artem Chigvintsev.

In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the Total Bellas stars, 36, gets candid about her six-year relationship with actor and professional wrestler Cena, 42, and how she pushed past the nerves following their breakup to allow herself to open up to someone new.

“It definitely took time working past the nerves,” says Nikki, who ended her relationship with Cena in July 2018 and started officially dating Chigvintsev, her former Dancing with the Stars partner, in July 2019. “I feel like when you have a love like that, you never fully move on because that person touches your life so much. My life coach said it so perfectly. Sometimes these people that are in your life, they’re almost like mothers and you have that attachment because they care for you or they take care of you so much. So when that’s gone, you romanticize and you get these feelings that come up.”

John Cena and Nikki Bella
Kevin Mazur/Fox/Getty

“I never wanted John to also think photos of Artem and I was me intentionally trying to hurt him. I just wish I could have lived that privately so no one would get hurt,” she adds. “Everyone starts to make something of something. And I just didn’t want anyone to get hurt. I also wanted time to feel okay. I didn’t want to hurt Artem. I didn’t want to hurt John. It took me a while,” she says, adding of her twin sister, “Brie was there for me a lot.”

While Nikki says it took her “a while to commit” to Chigvintsev, she says she fell “in love with him so fast.”

  • For more from Nikki Bella, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

“Like, how am I falling for this guy? We’re so opposite. I never would have thought I would have been with a Russian ballroom dancer. It’s crazy, like I slammed people for a living, but we have so much in common. But it took me a long time. Honestly, a lot of therapy, a lot of meditation, a lot of journaling, and you still have to go through it. I was about to marry the man. It’s never easy,” she says of the process.

Since getting together with Chigvintsev, Nikki says she’s become very “protective” of him and their relationship.

“We live in these shadows and I get protective of him because he constantly gets compared,” says Nikki, who got engaged in November, but didn’t announce the news until Jan. 3. “And the engagement made me — I didn’t announce it right away because I just didn’t know. I wasn’t ready for the backlash. I knew there’d be a lot of positivity, but I wasn’t ready for even that small amount of backlash. It really just made me nervous about our relationship, about myself, about Artem, my family. Was it too soon? Is it not? I’m in love. But why am I double thinking it?”

“I’m so in love,” she adds, admitting, “It’s just, it’s scary.”

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev
Matt Winkelmeyer/KCASports2019/Getty Images for Nickelodeon

Last year, Nikki opened up about her public breakup with Cena on The Bellas Podcast.

“For John and I, it was just … the timing was off,” she said. “I think what I realized is that I want someone … when I spend the rest of my life with someone in marriage, I wanna be with them every night. I want to spend holidays with them, I want to grow with them, I want to know that they really do wanna be a parent.”

For years, Nikki expressed her desire to be a mom, but Cena was adamant he did not want to have kids.

Now, the reality star and Chigvintsev are preparing to start their own family.

On Wednesday, Nikki and Brie exclusively revealed to PEOPLE that they are (both!) pregnant — and due only a week and a half apart!

“Wait, twins being pregnant at the same time?” Brie says. “People are going to think that’s a joke. We both are shocked. People are going to think we planned it, but you can’t really plan pregnancy!”

Nikki and Brie Bella
James White

“[It was] a total surprise,” Nikki adds. “It took even me a good week to come to terms with like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m pregnant.’ I’m not ready for it.”

And while the twins are both experiencing morning sickness, they could not be more grateful for this season.

“Even though I feel really sick, I can’t believe I’m going to be a mom soon,” says Nikki. “I’m going to have this person to take care of for the rest of their life and help them do the right things and just show them the way of the world. That’s amazing!”

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” she adds. “So when I thought it was going to be taken from me, it was really difficult. Because I was just like, gosh, I can’t imagine life without being a mom and experiencing the miracle of life and raising a child. And I’m just so family-oriented that I couldn’t imagine not having that family life.”