Matt James And Rachael Kirkconnell's Entire Relationship Timeline

Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell's love story began on the popular reality TV show "The Bachelor." Graphic designer Kirkconnell met nonprofit founder James, the first ever Black "Bachelor," at the grand Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania (the alternative location to the Bachelor Mansion amid the COVID-19 pandemic). However, their meet-cute was just one of many that night, as James had 31 other women to chat up during the premiere episode, which garnered five million viewers (per Deadline). 

James didn't even give his first impression rose to Kirkconnell, and instead handed over the highly coveted prize to contestant Abigail Heringer at the end of the premiere episode.

Over time, James and Kirkconnell's love flourished, and they admitted to one another during a one-on-one date on "The Bachelor" that they were both falling in love. Ultimately, James gave Kirkconnell the final rose. Instead of them riding off into the sunset together, however, controversy ensued as racially insensitive photos surfaced from Kirkconnell's past, ending the couple's romance — that is, before they decided to give it another go.

From "The Bachelor" to real life, here's the complete timeline of Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell's relationship.

Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell fell in love on The Bachelor

They may not have swiped right on one another or met through a friend, but Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell found a way to cross paths. The couple met on ABC's "The Bachelor," which aired in January 2021. James was the namesake "Bachelor," and Kirkconnell was just one of 32 women vying for his love. Though she didn't score the first impression rose, Kirkconnell ultimately won his heart.

Viewers at home got a chance to watch their romance unfurl, from the one-on-date where James treated Kirkconnell to a "Pretty Woman" shopping spree (per Page Six) to the hometown date where they jumped out of an airplane together, as captured by "The Bachelor" cameras.

Their road to love wasn't always easy — and James dating dozens of other women might've been the reason why — but they overcame the odds and fell in love. The two declared their feelings during a one-on-one dinner on "The Bachelor." Kirkconnell made the first move, telling James, "I really am already like completely falling in love with you and I wanna walk out of here with you." James told her he felt the same way, and they sealed their future with a kiss.

Matt gave Rachael the highly coveted final rose

Through the ups and downs of a televised romance, Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell ended up leaving on a high. During the season finale of "The Bachelor," the two may not have gotten engaged, as previous couples have traditionally done, but they did leave the show together. 

Bachelor Nation shared a video clip of the finale, at the moment the two stood together in a forest surrounded by candle-filled lanterns to decide whether or not they wanted to start a future together. Kirkconnell was one of the two finalists; the other one was Michelle Young, who later became the Season 18 "Bachelorette." Only Kirkconnell was left standing during the finale after James sent Young home. 

"When I think about the life I want to live, I think about living that life with you and I wanna leave here with you," James told Kirkconnell, adding, "The truth is that I love you." 

Kirkconnell repeated the sentiment to the bachelor and said she also saw that future, adding, "Like, I really do picture our life together after this." They kissed, and while he didn't give Kirkconnell a ring, he did give her the final rose. 

Racially insensitive photos of a younger Rachael circulated on social media

"The Bachelor" fairytale turned into a nightmare when racially sensitive photos of Rachael Kirkconnell came to light as the show was airing. 

While Bachelor Nation watched the two falling in love on "The Bachelor," photos of a younger Kirkconnell attending an antebellum plantation-themed college party in 2018 (per Reddit) resurfaced. And that's not all. Following the season premiere, a TikTok user accused Kirkconnell of bullying her in the past for dating Black guys. Another TikTok user accused her of liking racist photos. 

James addressed the allegations with ET Online, saying, "Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people's lives. So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully, she will have her time to speak on that."

Kirkconnell also responded to the allegations and issued an apology on Instagram, writing, "At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything ... I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist."

They broke up and discussed why on live TV

Following the allegations and resurfaced photos of Rachael Kirkconnell, the TV couple broke up. They reunited face to face in March 2021 to discuss their relationship on ABC's "After the Final Rose" special. 

The two exes sat down with host Emmanuel Acho and reflected on their relationship, which ended when racially sensitive photos of Kirkconnell from 2018 resurfaced. When Acho asked the two about their relationship status, James confirmed they were no longer together (per People).  

He called the split "heartbreaking" and "as tough as you imagine" before adding, "If you don't understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there's a lot of me that you won't understand. And it's as simple as that," referencing the antebellum-themed college party that Kirkconnell attended.

Kirkconnell apologized to James on camera and told him she wanted the best for him. The couple had broken up before "After the Final Rose," according to James, who told ET Online that he initially ignored the rumors circulating on social media, but it ultimately came to a point that he couldn't ignore them anymore. "It's heartbreaking because everything is real at that moment," he told the outlet, adding, "It's no longer rumors. It's real."

Matt and Rachael sparked rumors that they were back together

Are they or aren't they? That's what Bachelor Nation fans wondered when rumors started circulating that Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell had reconciled a month after appearing on "After the Final Rose," where they announced they had broken up. 

A Reddit poster alleged they'd spotted the two in New York. However, a source close to James shot down the reconciliation rumors, telling People that he and Kirkconnell "are just friends." Another source told People that Kirkconnell had flown to New York City, where James lived, to mend their relationship. "Matt and Rachael have FaceTimed every day since March, besides one week in between the finale and "After the Final Rose" when they were processing the photos scandal," the source told the outlet. 

Reality Steve, known for sharing spoilers of "The Bachelor" franchise, posted a photo on Twitter of the two eating lunch together in California in April.

They made their relationship Instagram official

It seemed the two couldn't stay away from each other for too long. In April 2021, Matt James confirmed to People that they were in a relationship after the two were spotted in Los Angeles and New York together, keeping "The Bachelor" fans on their toes. "I've seen [Kirkconnell] a handful of times," he told the outlet before adding, "I'm not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it."

Kirkconnell gave James an ultimatum, which ultimately sealed the deal between the two. "She was like, 'If you're going to make this work, let's do it. But if you're not going to make it work, I'm going to let you do your own thing,'" James shared on the Pomp podcast (via People).

James made it Instagram official when he posted a photo of him and Kirkconnell visiting children at a school in Manhattan for his nonprofit, ABC Food Tours. The photo captured his girlfriend talking to a child as James looked onward, and appeared to be teaching about financial literacy as seen on the dry erase board. 

The couple couldn't stay out of the spotlight

From attending the ESPY Awards together, where they made their red carpet debut as a couple (per People), to tackling ABC's popular dance competition "Dancing With the Stars," the happy duo couldn't stay away from the spotlight.

Following their stint on "The Bachelor" and their public love story, then their break-up turned reconciliation, Rachael Kirkconnell cheered on Matt James as he competed in Season 30 of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2021. On Instagram, she gushed about his new gig with a photo of the two with a caption that read: "My man is officially trading in his skateboard sneaks for some dancing shoes!" and urged followers to catch the show that night.

Although James got eliminated during Week 4 (per ABC), he didn't seem too upset by it, telling The E! News Daily Pop, "Nothing ever really catches me off guard anymore." Plus, he had Kirkconnell cheering him on every night from the sidelines. He told Access Hollywood that Kirkconnell was very supportive and helped him run through his steps after practice.

Matt and Rachael sparked baby rumors

Matt James put Bachelor Nation in a frenzy when he sparked baby rumors with an Instagram video he posted on his account in July 2022. The video clip, part of a Nissan ad, shows James hopping into a silver Altima and running errands around town. While tennis practice and grocery shopping didn't raise any alarms, one moment made fans think he was announcing a baby was on the way. At the end of the clip, James loaded a baby car seat in the Altima. 

"I count on my Nissan Altima to get me where I need to go, so that when this day comes — that's right, it's coming — we'll have enough room for the entire basketball team," he said in the voice-over.

The baby car seat prompted some fans to assume that Rachael Kirkconnell is pregnant. One Instagram user commented: "I think this man just announced a pregnancy." James and Kirkconnell didn't respond to those rumors, so Bachelor Nation may have to wait a little longer for that one.

Matt published a book that discussed their relationship

Matt James' memoir opened a flood of emotions for the famous duo. Titled "First Impressions: Off Screen Conversations with a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness," James' memoir tackled all those subjects and more, including the controversy surrounding his girlfriend Rachael Kirkconnell when racially insensitive photos leaked out (per Us Weekly). 

"I didn't anticipate just how divisive we would become," he wrote. "But more than the external perception, I didn't recognize the role that race would play between the two of us." Following the photo scandal and "After the Final Rose" episode, where James explained why he couldn't be with Kirkconnell, James confessed in the memoir that things went a little differently backstage. "...When the cameras shut off, we strode hand in hand back to the green room. We both still felt the spark. We took the rare opportunity to speak face to face and agreed to keep working on us," he wrote.

His girlfriend Kirkconnell gave a shout-out to the memoir in an Instagram story, where she wiped a tear away and said she "didn't make it" through the book without getting emotional.

Matt and Rachael aren't in a rush to get married -- but seem to be heading that way

Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James may not be in a rush to tie the knot, but things certainly seem to be heading that way. In an interview with ET Online in May 2022, James confessed that he saw a future with Kirkconnell. "At this point in my life, I wouldn't be dating someone that I wouldn't consider marrying," he told the outlet, adding, "That's the end goal and that's what we're working toward."

According to the duo, they're enjoying each other's company and living in the moment without feeling the pressures of marriage. In a joint interview with Us Weekly in July 2022, James said, "We're just living in real life. We're just enjoying where we're at."

Kirkconnell told the outlet that because of their "Bachelor" ties, they always get the engagement question thrown at them. While the two don't have a timeline — James called it "socially constructed" — Kirkconnell did tell the outlet, "I was like, 'I gotta have kids before, you know, I can't have kids.' So keep that in mind."

Despite their highs and lows, it seems this "Bachelor" couple is stronger than ever.