After weeks of looking for love on his Bravo dating series RelationShep, Southern Charm star Shepard “Shep” Rose made the surprise decision on Monday’s finale to forgoe his final two bachelorettes and choose Bella Clark — the 24-year-old brunette who had left the show earlier in the season to return to her job in New York City.
While Clark and Rose seemed poised to live happily ever after on-screen, PEOPLE confirms that the two have split.
“Sadly, it didn’t work out,” Rose, 37, tells PEOPLE exclusively of their short-lived romance. “It’s too bad. She’s an awesome girl, and when she left the show, I couldn’t get her out of my head. I really adored her. I had a warm and fuzzy feeling about her and I wanted to see where that went. But the only time we spent together was on camera, and once you are with each other in a different setting, you maybe find out you’re not as compatible as you thought. We just couldn’t make it work.”
Part of the problem for Rose was that they each had different priorities, something that was heightened by their age difference.
“What’s important to you, it’s just so different where you are in life that it’s hard to overcome,” he says. “After the show, I really earnestly wanted to hang out with Bella, so I went up to New York to see her a few times for a week here and there. And we spent great time together. But she was at a place in her life where she had a lot on her plate, and a relationship may not have been top priority.”
“We sort of just drifted apart, by no real fault of anyone,” he adds. “I went home and we were sort of texting a little less. And then I came back to New York one last time to see her, and it was clear there that it was over.”
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They may not have made a relationship work, but the two remain on friendly terms. “I still text with her in a very friendly, benign way,” he says. “It’s okay. Onwards and upwards.”
As for Peyton, 27, and Priscila, 34 — the two girls Rose left behind on the finale — he says he’s still friends with both, but may have missed an opportunity with Priscila.
“She doesn’t take anything from anybody, and I need to be slapped around a little bit sometimes,” he says. “I think she would have done that.”
Still, that’s all behind him now. And though Rose told PEOPLE prior to the show’s debut that he worried he would follow in the “lifelong bachelorhood” footsteps of Southern Charm costars Thomas Ravenel and Whitney Sudler-Smith, he says he’s relaxed those fears a bit and learned to embrace the moment.
“I don’t know where my life is going to take me, but I’m very happy,” he says. “Everything’s good. I’m sort of still trying to figure it all out and enjoy the adventure. Personally, I’m really excited to see what comes next.”
Southern Charm season 5 is expected to debut in spring 2018 on Bravo.