07/10/2012 at 07:00 PM EDT
After he braved public speaking in the Hyde Park, searched the streets of Prague to steal extra time – and kisses – and worked up the courage to declare his love for Bachelorette
Emily Maynard in Curacao, Sean Lowe
was sent home sans
rose in a final-three
PEOPLE caught up with the Dallas insurance agent, 28, at last weekend's Men Tell All
reunion taping, where he admitted it was "a little weird and awkward to see Emily again," because "it transported me back to a very sad moment in my life." Still, he was able to reflect.
What went wrong?
I don't think anything went wrong necessarily. Me, Ari and Jef are three very different guys. We all have our own great qualities and, I'm sure, we all have a few that aren't so great. At the end of the day, Emily realized I'm not the one for her and had to make the decision that was best for her. It was hard to accept at the moment, but I've come to realize that when I find my wife, she's not going to have any doubts about whether I'm the one she wants to be with forever.
Were you blindsided?
I was absolutely shocked. I didn't think in a million years that I was going home that night. I was standing at that rose ceremony thinking I was going to marry her.
Did you understand why that night?
No, it happened so fast. I was confused. It's like, "Sean you didn't get the rose. Say your goodbyes. Go home." I didn't have much of a chance to say anything. I didn't get answers. When she walked me out, I was in no state to have a serious conversation. I was seeking closure, some of which I got tonight. It helped that I took extra time off work when I got home and spent time with my family. After a few weeks it hurt less, and I realized she was not the one for me, either. If she was, she wouldn't have had any doubts about our future.
That's a healthy way to look at it.
Well, it did take a few weeks to get to that point. I'm not a saint. I created my own closure. The positive reception I've gotten from viewers also helped.
Knowing you're not the one, would you have rather gone home earlier?
No. I'm glad I made it as far as I did. I experienced heartbreak for the first time and it sucked. I don't want to do that ever again. Once is enough, but once is an important life moment. It opened my eyes to what I want out of life, love and my wife. I want someone to love for the rest of my life. I want a family to live the simple life with. Emily made me aware of how much I wanted that, and that it's important to open yourself up to love. For that, I'm forever grateful.
Any hard feelings?
I wish nothing but the best for Emily. I'm not mad she didn't choose me. She had to do what was right for her. That isn't to say I wasn't really sad or that it doesn't hurt to see the episode. When I saw the footage, it took me right back to that night in Curacao. But I also care about her and want her to have her happy ending. I'm sure, whether she chooses Ari or Jef, it's going to be great because those are both great guys. I would never say a bad word about either of them.
You spent a lot of time with her and with the final two men. Do you think one is better for her than the other?
I don't think I could ever answer that. I got to know them very well. Ari and Jef are fantastic guys and have qualities that make it easy to understand why she finds them attractive. But it comes down to Emily's heart, and I don't know what type of special connection she has with those guys. It isn't like I spent a lot of my time with her talking about why she liked them. But she can't go wrong with either.
Are both ready to be a husband and stepfather?
Yes. I would never have allowed her to get that far with a guy who wasn't ready. I would have spoken up if I questioned their intentions and qualifications. I would have pulled myself out if I hadn't felt ready.
You're a popular choice among viewers to be the next Bachelor. Interested?
That's a hard question. If ABC offered, I would have to think long and hard. It was an emotionally draining experience. Could I go through that again? I could end up heartbroken again. But I'm an open-minded optimist, and I believe the process can work. I fell in love. If I found my wife, it would be worth it.
Are you ready to date again?
Yes. Hopefully, Mrs. Right will come around sooner rather than later.