War of the Roses

updated 01/12/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Barely a month after proclaiming his affection for Estella Gardinier before a TV audience of 18.6 million, The Bachelor's Bob Guiney found himself sharing a quiet Christmas in Detroit surrounded by friends and family—with no Estella to be found. "I never expected things to take the turn they took," Guiney tells PEOPLE. Still, "I think this is the best path for us."

And with that, the fourth Bachelor story ended in the same fashion as the first three: unhappily ever after. Mortgage brokers Guiney, 32, and Gardinier, 28, seemed like a perfect match during The Bachelor's Nov. 19 finale, taped last September. And now? "He's not the person I thought he was," says Gardinier (see box). "I don't see any reason to ever have a conversation with him."

The problems began almost as soon as The Bachelor signed off. "If we weren't together, people were assuming we were broken up," says Guiney. "There was a tremendous amount of pressure, and it wasn't allowing us to explore where our relationship could go." After the couple's chilly appearance at Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter's Dec. 6 wedding, the writing was on the wall. Guiney blamed his hectic schedule, as he criss-crossed the country promoting his new book (What a Difference a Year Makes: How Life's Unexpected Setbacks Can Lead to Unexpected Joy) and CD (3 Sides, which includes a plug for official Bob Guiney T-shirts sold on bobguiney.com). He then taped a cameo on the ABC sitcom I'm with Her. "It was largely my fault," he says. "I've been pulled in so many directions, and the one that I don't think got enough of my time was our relationship. For that, I feel awful." Says Gardinier: "The path that I'm taking is different than Bob's. He's a big-time star now! He's big-time, so my life doesn't compare to that."

After the breakup, rumors flew that Guiney had cheated on Gardinier. "There was no scandal," he says. "And the comedy was, at the wedding, the people I was dancing with were [ABC exec] Andrea Wong and my agent's fiancée. And then at one point I hugged Hayley Crittenden, who is dating Chris Sutter, and to read about it sounds like I had an affair with all three of them apparently!"

And then there was the lawsuit. On Dec. 19, And Syndicated Productions Inc., which produces The Bachelor, sued Guiney and independent record label Wind-up Records for breach of his Bachelor contract, seeking monetary damages and a temporary re-straining order to stop Guiney from promoting his CD. "It hurt my feelings," says Guiney. Though a judge denied the request on Dec. 23, ASP may ask to arbitrate the contract (their lawyers declined comment). Says Guiney: "I hope they let me get on with my life."

He wishes the same for Gardinier—"nothing but success and happiness"—but vows that he is through with public romances. "From this point forward," he says, "my personal life is going to remain as personal as possible."

Jason Lynch. Cynthia Wang and Sean Daly in Los Angeles

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