About last night ...
On Monday's episode of The Bachelorette, Kaitlyn Bristowe did something shocking: She got intimate with her boyfriend.
The only catch? Bristowe, 29, still has several other boyfriends on the show.
Despite an emotional breakdown and a cliffhanger ending, Bristowe tells PEOPLE she wouldn't change her actions and feels no regret regarding her relationship with Nick Viall, 34: "That's something I don't think I should be ashamed of."
So why was she crying?
Bristowe first points out that Monday's much-anticipated scene is "something that would probably happen in the real world." (For his part, Viall showed his support for Bristowe's "courage" Monday night with a series of Tweets in which he said "sex is [an] important part of many serious and meaningful relationships.")
"I know so many people can relate, but it's so easy for them to judge at the same time" because of the undeniably public nature of The Bachelorette. "It's easier to judge than to relate to my situation!"
Bristowe – whose last relationship was televised on the Chris Soules season of The Bachelor – attributes her own ability to ignore the cameras and get "lost in the moment" to a necessary self-preservation the show requires: "I was trying to compartmentalize relationships ... [and] focus on the one I was in at that moment."
She continues, "I think that's clearly all I was doing was going with my heart."
Still, when morning arrived over Dublin and, with it, the reality that she had to face the other men again, Bristowe tells PEOPLE, "I was thinking, 'What if I just ruined another relationship that meant something to me?' So that's where I got upset, and that's what made me cry and break my heart – thinking about if I just ruined another relationship because it was hard to juggle all those relationships and know exactly what was right and what was wrong."
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She says her relationship with first-impression-rose-winning Shawn Booth was "where I felt the most regret." Admitting that the other men clearly saw her connection with Booth – much as they had with Viall – Bristowe acknowledges that "part of me just felt, 'Did I just cheat on somebody?' "
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In all her dates, Bristowe says she had flashes when "I was thinking, 'This isn't me. This isn't my character to just be jumping from one guy to the next and the next.' I did, I felt a little bit of guilt."
Regardless, she affirmed something she previously told PEOPLE: The main issue with her choice was not what happened when the cameras weren't around, it was the timing.
"I don't know if I would have done anything differently," she says. "Because, what? If I had waited 10 days to do it in the Fantasy Suite and not talk about it, would it have been better?"
And that's a point on which she will continue to stand her ground – and why she's been not only hurt but also confused by the disapproval of Bachelor fans, who've gone down this road, oh, a couple dozen times before: "I don't understand why people don't understand that process! I'm still wondering why this is such a shock to people or why it's a big deal."
The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.
For more from Kaitlyn on her decision and the backlash she received, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday