It would seem like an enviable dilemma, but for Chris Soules, falling in love with a trio of beautiful women on The Bachelor made his final decision all the more challenging.
"It would have been easier had there not been so many great women," Soules tells PEOPLE of his strong feelings for the final three ladies. "It was a very difficult decision to be in."
As viewers saw Monday, the farmer, 33, said goodbye to runner-up Becca Tilley, choosing instead to propose to outgoing fertility nurse Whitney Bischoff.
"Becca is in a different place in her life compared to where I am. That doesn't make it a bad thing, and it didn't change how I felt about her, but it's about trying to find the person that you can see in your life and that you have the best chance of making it work forever with," he tells PEOPLE. "My sister said, 'You're not looking for a girlfriend, you're looking for a wife.' That's the truth."
So how does he know Bischoff is the one?
"She was the person I could see myself with," Soules explains. "Whitney is my soulmate. It became even more clear at the end. It just felt right."
Now, the betrothed couple, who have communicated in secret since the finale's taping in November, can finally come clean about their relationship.
"I'm relieved that this is over," Bischoff, 29, says. "I'm looking forward to the life that we're going to start. I think a lot of great things are going to happen."
Bischoff plans to relocate to Soules's hometown of Arlington, Iowa, where the pair one day hope to start a family. "I'm ready to be a dad," says Soules. "I'm 33. I think I'm past due!"
As for the wedding plans? They're taking it "step by step," Bischoff says. "I don't think you can put a time limit on something like that. When we feel it, it will happen." Adds Soules: "We had this great love story that now we get to build upon and start a new love story in real life."
For exclusive photos and more from our cover story with the happy couple, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday