Ben Higgins On Being The First Bachelor To Say The L Word Twice - Exclusive

When you start catching feelings for someone you're dating, the next step is to anxiously await the right moment in which to utter the three most important words you can hear in a relationship. We've all been there, anticipating the exchanging of "I love you's." It's stressful in any situation, but when you're the Bachelor, the pressure is really on. Since there are multiple women involved, it's usually customary for the reality show leading man to hold his tongue to protect them all from heartbreak. Of course, that can prove to be difficult, especially when the ladies are constantly pouring their hearts out to him. As loyal fans of the franchise, we've witnessed so many cringeworthy moments where a doe-eyed contestant tells the Bachelor that she's madly in love with him and he simply says, "thank you for sharing that" (via YouTube). We're looking at you, Matt James!

During his time on the show, Ben Higgins made an extremely bold choice when it came to the L word, and as a result, will be forever immortalized in The Bachelor's drama-filled history books. The small-town, mild-mannered Indiana native shocked Bachelor Nation by being the first of its stars to utter the L word to not one, but two women (via YouTube). So what are the franchise alum's thoughts on this risky move now, half a decade later? The List sat down with Ben over Zoom, where he was able to reflect on the sticky situation he got himself into back in 2016. Although he knows why he made the decision, he does realize that, in hindsight, it may not have been the smartest strategy. "I don't know if I would regret it, as much as I'd just say, I just don't think it was a great decision," he explained. "I just think I've learned from that."

In retrospect, Ben Higgins thinks the decision was unwise

So, if you didn't watch Ben's season, here's how it all went down. On the finale, Ben had two equally smitten ladies —  Lauren Bushnell and JoJo Fletcher — vying for his final rose. Love was definitely in the tropical air during their last one-on-one dates on the island of Jamaica, and the women decided to take matters into their own hands with fearless confessions.

After a romantic day that included a boat ride, Lauren declared that she was finally ready to share her feelings with Ben. "I feel like I've felt this way for a long time," she began. "But I am completely in love with you." To that heartfelt sentiment, Ben gazed into her eyes and replied, "I've known I'm in love with you for a while as well." They then kissed and held each other, basking in their mutual adoration. Fast forward to his sultry date making out under waterfalls with JoJo, and she too confessed her undying devotion. "I do love you and that's weird that I just said that because I have been so terrified about saying that," she said. "I just don't ever want to think about what it would be like to lose you." Ben put his hand on JoJo's shoulder, smiled, and responded with, "JoJo, I love you, too." And with a look of pure shock, JoJo went in for a passionate kiss.

When we asked if he would change his decision now that he's able to look back on it, Ben Higgins said, "Probably. I just think it was unwise; a little manipulating. I think I did it because it was authentic to how I was feeling, where I was at, but I don't think it was healthy, and I don't think it was helpful."

Ben Higgins believes he chose Lauren because she was the 'right person at the right time'

So after those two back-to-back bombshell confessions, how was Ben able to hand out his final rose? In his new memoir, Alone in Plain Sight, he explained that he prayed to God in order to make his decision, which ultimately was to propose to Lauren. "And so maybe that was just the right person at the right time to help expose some of my weaknesses and help me see what I was looking for in a partner," he said.

However, in 2017, the pair called it quits — just a little over a year after Ben Higgins got down on one knee with a Neil Lane sparkler. To make matters worse, their split was the most Googled celebrity breakup that year, according to Refinery29. When asked how he handled the heartbreak and public scrutiny, the former reality star told us, "Personally, I became a shell of myself ... you're kind of sitting in it, being like, 'Why is this going on in the midst of something really sad, really hard?'" During that devastating time, he was determined to reflect on all that happened in hopes of becoming a more self-aware person. "I had a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to figure out," he said. "And so I sat in it, sat in that season of life and just learned as much as I could."

One of the reasons Ben harbors no regrets about his Bachelor run is because his unique path led him to his fiancée, Jessica Clarke, whom he met in this interesting way. "I think there's a lot in there that I was still needing to learn and maybe that season of life was a learning period for all of us that were involved," he explained. "Maybe the whole experience... brought me to where I'm at today."