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People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Thursday June 20, 2013 07:10AM EDT
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- March 26, 2012
- Vol. 77
- No. 13
The Bachelor's Ben & Courtney: Can This Really Last?
Ben Thought He Found the One-Until He Saw What She Was Doing Behind the Scenes. Now, After a Turbulent Engagement, the Couple Say Their Love Will Prevail
Lounging around a Los Angeles-area home on March 5, Flajnik seems nothing less than head over heels. But less than 24 hours earlier, as he was interviewed for ABC's After the Final Rose special, the Sonoma, Calif., winemaker, 29, was in tears as he shared details of the couple's rocky four months since getting engaged in Switzerland last November. A controversial presence on the show and greatly disliked by many of its more than 8 million viewers, Robertson, 28, revealed a nasty onscreen persona that turned off her fiance once episodes started airing in January. By February Flajnik had called off their engagement. "We were essentially broken up," he says. Watching Robertson on the show during such low points as mocking the other contestants and threatening to shave off their eyebrows in the middle of the night, Ben adds, "It became so much. I just cracked."
With Flajnik not returning her calls during a "cooling-off period" that lasted three weeks, "I feel like he abandoned me," Robertson revealed tearfully on ATFR. In the meantime, photos emerged showing the Bachelor kissing-and seemingly groping-more than one other woman, leading to allegations he was cheating, charges he vehemently denies.
Though the troubled pair reunited in February-and are once again engaged-fans have been left wondering if Ben and Courtney are doomed from the get-go ... or just putting on a show. A recent seemingly made-for-paparazzi shopping trip in which Robertson tried on wedding dresses was, she admits, just that: "Ben was so stressed out [by the bad press], I did it to create a diversion." Still, Robertson says she's no longer bothered by the backlash. "When Ben and I are together, it makes me happy," she says with a smile. "We weren't ready to throw it all away." The pair opened up to PEOPLE senior writer Monica Rizzo about their rough start-and uncertain future.
How has it been for you since the cameras stopped rolling?
BEN: It was really difficult. I had a lot of people coming up to me saying, "She's a bad person," and I had to keep my mouth shut. Even my mom fed into the fodder a little bit. I didn't have a lot of support.
COURTNEY: I wanted him to let me be there for him.
BEN: But I kind of ran away from it. It was cowardly.
Courtney wasn't, shall we say, the popular choice.
COURTNEY: People have been saying Ben made a mistake the whole time. I wish we had more support.
BEN: I did not make a mistake. People who don't know her say that.
Courtney, you were admittedly catty to the women but sweet to Ben. Did you earn this reputation?
COURTNEY: Look, I was crazy about Ben. It was hard for me to hear them talking about their dates with him. So I was sassy and a little sarcastic, and that didn't come off well.
That's an understatement ...
COURTNEY: A few times I did twist the knife a bit. I'm not denying that.
BEN: Those other women weren't angels either. All the women were capable of that behavior.
Ben, how did you reconcile what you saw on the show with the Courtney you'd grown to love?
BEN: I'm not going to make excuses for her. She apologized and said she could have handled herself better, and I agree. Unfortunately America saw that stuff and didn't see the really sweet moments we had together.
During the time you were split, tabloids said Courtney was pregnant and Ben was with other women.
COURTNEY: I'm not pregnant.
BEN: I have not hooked up with another woman-on my father's grave. Those women they mentioned are my friends in San Francisco.
But Ben, there are photos of you kissing someone and grabbing her rear ...
BEN: If you look at the pictures, I'm not kissing her. And that's a butt pat. My friends grab my butt. I'm physical and affectionate with friends-guys and girls.
COURTNEY: Maybe you just needed to let your hair down. [At the time] we were still in a rough place. But I believe he didn't cheat.
After so many problems so early, what made you decide to stay together?
BEN: We had a rocky few months, but coming together again [for the Rose special], realizing we're still very much in love with each other, in that moment we looked at each other and thought, "It really is us against the world."
COURTNEY: I have a newfound strength having gone through all this. You can't break me.
Were you able to spend any quality time together at all since the show ended?
BEN: We had Christmas in Santa Barbara. She got me a pickling kit, and we spent the weekend making cioppino.
COURTNEY: And look at the ring Ben gave me! [shows off a gold band with tiny channel-set diamonds]
So is a wedding in the works?
BEN: Marriage isn't something we've even discussed. We realize we have a long way to go before that. But we're in love with each other.
COURTNEY: We're thinking long term. I'm going to try and get up to San Francisco in the next few months. We'll move in together, and if things go smoothly, we'll definitely plan a wedding. Right now it's "Let's have fun getting to know each other."
Looking back, Ben, do you wish you'd done anything differently?
BEN: No. You know, I believe the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, so go for it. Life's too short.
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