The couple got engaged after he dumped his longtime girlfriend on the rebooted reality show
A year after wrapping season 1 of USA Network’s Temptation Island, Evan Smith and Morgan Lolar are going strong.
“The last year has been wild,” Smith tells PEOPLE. “The first six months [of our relationship], until the show was done airing, we really weren’t allowed to be out in public together. But ever since the finale, it’s been so much better.”
The rebooted show, which returns for season 2 on Thursday, follows four couples at a vulnerable time in their relationship. They travel to Maui, Hawaii, where they are separated and then joined by a cast of sexy single men and women, ready to steal hearts. Ultimately, each couple is forced to decide whether to commit to a lifetime together — or give in to temptation.
Last year, Smith arrived on the island with his longtime girlfriend Kaci Campbell, whom he’d dated on and off for 10 years. Almost immediately, he hit it off with Lolar, one of the singles.
In the heart-wrenching final bonfire, Smith and Campbell came came face-to-face for the first time after being apart for 30 days. He ended the relationship and informed her he was leaving with Lolar — then, when the show flashed forward six months later, Smith got down on one knee and proposed to his new girlfriend.
Today, Smith and Lolar are still happily engaged and living together in the Washington, D.C., area. Speaking to PEOPLE, they say they have no regrets about their Temptation Island experience.
“I knew really, really soon — almost right off the bat — that the way I felt about Morgan, there was no way I could have gone back to my old relationship,” Smith says. “I just wanted to talk to Kaci and get the whole situation out there and prove to Morgan that I truly did want to start a new chapter with her.”
On the show, Campbell was in hysterics during the breakup and later told PEOPLE that Smith’s betrayal “blew [her] mind.”
“This was someone that I considered my partner in life, my best friend, the person that I’m supposed to trust to protect me and my heart forever,” she said after the finale aired in March. “And he humiliated and blindsided me on national television with zero hesitation.”
But Smith says he never considered staying with Campbell for the finale, then breaking up with her in private once production wrapped.
“You know, if I did that, I would have lost Morgan for sure,” he says. “I knew that I was not going to let the love of my life slip away. And I also thought that it would be kind of a cowardly thing to do, to make nice on television and then in the privacy of our own home end things. If I could go back, I would do the same thing.”
Smith and Campbell no longer speak — “That ship has sailed,” he says — and Lolar says she has never considered reaching out to her fiancé’s ex.
“I wasn’t in their relationship — I never knew her, never met her,” she says. “And then also, as the season was going on, I was kind of getting angry — because, you know, I’m in love with this person and she was bad-mouthing him every single week. So if I were to meet her, I just don’t think that I would have anything nice to say.”
Smith and Lolar say the “hardest part” of their experience was watching the show as it aired.
“We had a love story — the entire month we were together, it was so much fun and we were so excited to live back those conversations that we had,” Smith says. “But it really just was slow-mo, 360-degree drone shots of us making out. Not a lot of substance. And really, there was so much.”
Up next, the couple is working on launching a joint fitness website and, of course, planning their wedding. While those plans have taken a backseat to summer travels, Lolar says they’ll “start soon.”
“I’m such a boy,” she admits with a laugh. “Wedding planning isn’t on my priorities. I’m like, someone do it for me! Make me look pretty, that’s all I care about.”
And when it comes to trolls bashing their relationship online, they’ve learned to shake it off.
“We knew there would be haters,” Lolar says. “I think that there’s a lot more than we expected, but we also know that we’re going to be in it for the long haul. It’s funny. You have to be lighthearted about it. I mean, people get creative with it, too. I give them props. I’ll be dying laughing at some of the things that people say.”
As for their advice for the season 2 cast?
“I just hope that the couples left it all out there on the island,” Smith says. “I would hate for them to regret anything that they did or not pursue their feelings, be it with somebody they just met or getting back with the significant other they came to the island with.”
“My advice, for sure, would be to not take everything too seriously,” Lolar adds. “Because you’re always going to have haters and people are really ruthless. You just have to be able to laugh at yourself.”
Season 2 of Temptation Island premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on USA Network.