Colton Underwood "has shown me what a healthy relationship looks like," Cassie Randolph tells PEOPLE

Cassie Randolph shocked fans of The Bachelor when she was unable to commit to a proposal from Colton Underwood and left him before their fantasy suite date. But Underwood fought to get her back, and now she’s opening up about her change of heart.

“I thought I made the right decision in leaving,” Randolph tells PEOPLE in the latest cover story. “But Colton fought for me. And he has shown me what a healthy relationship looks like.”

Randolph says she based her initial decision to leave the show on her fears of not giving Underwood what she thought he wanted.

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“Colton was so good at articulating how he was feeling about me and I was trying to get there,” she explains. “But it got to a point when there was three of us left, and an engagement in two weeks, and I still hadn’t told him I loved him. I didn’t want to take away the possibility [of a proposal] for him.”

Credit: Jim Wright

Devastated, she nonetheless chose to leave, though a sense of relief about making the right choice never came.

“The next day, I was a mess,” admits Randolph. “I was just heartbroken. I thought I had made the right decision. But I was really sad.”

So, when Underwood surprised her, letting her know he’d broken things off with runners-up Tayshia Adams and Hannah Godwin to pursue a future with her, Randolph was touched by his commitment.

“I was so happy to see him,” she says. “And when he told me what happened, I was a little shocked. But it felt really nice that he was fighting for [us] and that he understood where I was coming from and was okay with it. He knew I needed more time.”

And from that moment on, “Colton never put pressure on me,” says Randolph. “I think that’s why we’re still here today, because we took it at our own pace. We didn’t want to rush something that was going to be forever.”

Credit: Jim Wright

For his part, Underwood doesn’t harbor any hard feelings about Randolph initially walking away.

“Resentment would be the last thing I feel for Cassie,” he says. “I have so much love and respect for her, and I have no doubts about how she feels about me now. Our story might not be like anyone else’s on The Bachelor. But I wouldn’t change anything about it.”