Isn't Warsaw great?!
I live in Denver now, but Warsaw, Indiana, will always be home. It is fun for me to watch that episode so that everyone can see what a great city Warsaw is. Everyone has these ideas about what Indiana is, but I honestly could not imagine a better place to grow up than in Warsaw. It's a great place to raise a family, and the community is warm and friendly and welcoming. I can't thank the city enough for all the love they showed us and how they opened their arms and just wrapped us up this past week. It was truly a humbling and also a little weird when the same people I walked by on the street for 18 years were now rushing to shake my hand and thanking me for coming back. It really meant the world to me.
That said, it sure doesn't get any easier does it? Every time I think the hardest parts are behind me and I am looking forward to an easy week, I am faced with the idea of hometowns and choosing whose family I am ready to meet.
I know when you watch it at home you probably don't feel much sympathy for me – and you shouldn't because this has been a wonderful opportunity for me – but I really can't tell you how much I care about each one of these women. The idea of sending any of them home or hurting them at all literally keeps me up at night. Not to mention the fact that the stakes are so high for me personally. I mean, these decisions are potentially about forever to me. Every decision I make I have to be sure of or I could be regretting it for the rest of my life. If that doesn't make you sweat I don't know what will.
What was really helpful and what I couldn't wait for though was seeing my family this week. This has been such an emotionally draining experience and even though I am constantly surrounded by people, from the girls to the camera guys and the producers, it still can feel really lonely at times. So seeing them and being able to catch them up on everything that had been happening to hopefully gain a little bit of perspective meant the world to me. It also just grounded me. It's easy to get caught up on this journey and get used to having everyone take care of you and have all these women sing my praises, but nothing sets your feet back down to earth like seeing mom and dad.
It also just felt so great to be back on the lake! Being the Bachelor can be so cool and so crazy, traveling the globe and doing all these amazing things but being back where I spent my childhood really just made me feel like me again. And the house the women were staying in is literally four houses away from where I grew up! It is a family friend's place, and it was so incredibly kind of them to let us use it (they even brought the ladies a home-cooked meal one night while they were there. I love Indiana!) But it also felt just so normal driving over to their dock.
What was NOT normal is that all these unbelievably beautiful women that I was dating were staying there! So cool. And I could not wait to get started with these dates this week. Not only because it was such an important week with hometowns coming up, but also because I just wanted to show these women my town!
I'll echo what the girls said though, asking Lauren out in front of them all was definitely awkward. And the second I did it I could feel the energy sucked out of the room. It's a really hard situation, but I just have to do what I think is best and after the way last week ended with Lauren B., I really felt like we needed to address our issues and get them out of the way if we were going to be able to move forward.
But before that, I just wanted to have fun. I was so excited that I was able to share my hometown and the places that were special to me with Lauren so while I knew we needed to address last week at some point, I didn't want to spoil what I knew was going to be an unforgettable day either.
Showing Lauren around my hometown just felt right. After all these extravagant dates for which I am forever grateful, this just felt so normal and I loved that. Seeing how genuinely interested and excited she was really meant a lot to me too.
But the place that might mean more to me than any other on the entire planet is the Baker Youth Club. I wouldn't be the man I am today without my experience at Baker's and with the people there – both the employees and the kids. They truly impacted my life in ways I can't possibly describe.
Being able to see those kids and Tracy brought a smile to my face that is still there as I write this. But because this place meant so much to me, I really wanted to do something special for them. As The Bachelor I have had so many new opportunities open up to me. Things I never thought I could do or would be possible. But all of that would mean nothing if I couldn't share it with the people that I love and the people that got me here. So seeing those kids' faces light up when Paul George, George Hill, Frank Voegel and Boomer walked in was priceless. I'll remember that forever. By the way, can we talk about how awesome Paul George is?! This guy is playing out of his mind right now! Okay, sorry, I know this isn't about sports I just had to say it because wow.
Anyway, the whole point of all of this is how awesome it was to watch Lauren just soak all this up and enjoy it just as much as, if not more than, I did. It showed me so much about her character, and I knew right then and there that she was definitely the woman that I thought she was. I knew we still needed to talk about it that night and get it out of the way between us but watching her that day, I didn't doubt her even a little anymore.
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So that night, while I knew I still trusted Lauren, we still needed to talk about it. Because I knew that, but she didn't yet. And communication is so vital in any relationship that I felt like it was important that we both understood where we were coming from and what we were feeling. What she said to me was perfect and I felt like that night we maybe came further as a couple than we ever had to that point.
What shocked me watching it that night was hearing Lauren say she was in love with me. I know to a lot of you this is a TV show and that you expect stuff like this, but I had no idea. I had no idea that she had said that and felt that that night until right now. It's really great to watch that and hear that and know that it wasn't just me that felt our relationship really take a step up to a new level that night.
I was VERY excited for my next date with JoJo. I just let my sports geek side show a minute ago when talking about Paul George, but I am the BIGGEST Cubs fan ever. Warsaw isn't far from Chicago, and my dad and I really bonded over watching and talking about the Cubs when I was growing up. In fact, one thing that no one knows is that my dad actually snuck onto the field before I got there that day. The Cubs are really strict about who they give access to on a day like this so it was supposed to be me, JoJo and the crew only. No one else and they were very strict about it. But I had told my dad what the date was so before I even got there, my dad snuck in and pretended to be part of the crew. I guess with so many other people walking around no one noticed that it was my dad! So funny and so glad it happened even though it was a total mystery to me till several days later.
But anyway, I am a huge Cubs fan and being allowed to do this that day was a memory I will have forever. Being able to share it with JoJo, I can't even begin to describe how special that was. I said it to my parents earlier that week, but I don't think I am as much myself with anyone as I am with JoJo. She just allows me to have this comfort and feel like I don't have to hold anything back. For a guy like me who hasn't always felt cool or comfortable in his own skin, that is really something I value. So being able to share that day with JoJo meant everything to me. She is such a fun girl and, despite not knowing much about baseball, still enjoyed every moment and was appreciative of everything we got to do. You didn't see all of it but we actually went up and sang "Take Me out to the Ballgame," too, and going into the scoreboard is something they don't allow anyone to do. I am truly a blessed man.
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But unlike with Lauren earlier where I knew everything was fine by the end of the daytime date, I still needed to have a serious discussion with JoJo. As much as I felt I could be myself with her, I knew there was still something holding her back from truly letting go. I'd been feeling that for a while now and at this point, I was actually starting to get a little frustrated because I didn't know what else I could possibly do to make her feel safe enough to do that with me. That scared me that by the end of this, if I fell in love with her and wanted to get down on one knee, she might still not be ready. For a guy with an insecurity about being unlovable, that's a pretty big deal.
Hearing her tell me not to worry and that she was still on my side and still trying to let those walls come down really did help me. I won't say it removed every bit of the insecurities that I had, but I know what I kind and honest heart JoJo has and I trusted her. All I could do was believe what she was saying is true and hope that maybe very soon her feelings would catch up with mine.
Waking up the next day I was more worried about this three-on-one date than I had been the two-on-date last week. By far. Last week I knew I was going to have to send someone home at the end of the day, and, as hard a decision as that was, I was prepared for it. I went into this date honestly wanting to meet the families of each one of these women. I knew that tensions were high after the past week in the Bahamas, and the pressure had only increased since we arrived in Indiana. From the second we sat down in the barn, you could cut the tension with a knife. Normally I would want to have some activity to lighten the mood but the boats just showed me that nothing was going to help today and I just needed to get to it.
To be honest, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to give Caila the rose that day. Mostly because while I was still extremely interested in her, I knew I needed more time with Becca and Amanda, and I had just had a one-on-one with Caila last week. So it came down to Becca and Amanda. I hadn't had a one-on-one with Becca since Las Vegas, and I knew that she needed some validation in a bad way after our talk. But Amanda being a mom and knowing the depth of what a hometown date meant to her was not lost on me.
I really wasn't sure what I was going to do going into the date but after talking to all three women, I really felt like I needed Amanda to know I was ready to meet her children. I felt that if I was really going to be able to see if Amanda and I had a future, I needed to see her as a mom. I don't really feel like I could accurately know who Amanda really is without that. And on top of that, I just really liked her.
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The rest of the date with her just confirmed that I had made the right decision. She had such a joy doing something as simple as handing out food at McDonald's and all I could think about during the carnival was how fun that would be with her daughters there. I could not wait for next week.
What was really tough was watching this back and seeing how hard it was on Becca. I have such respect for Becca and I care about her so much that knowing I hurt her and was putting her through that was really tough. Sometimes watching this back I just cringe because it hurts seeing the hurt I cause women that I truly care about. This was definitely one of those times.
The next day with Emily is something I really needed. I had been so impressed with how far she had come just as a woman in the past few weeks, but I would be lying if I said I didn't have questions about whether or not she could really be my wife. Sometimes it can be hard balancing my admiration and appreciation for someone as a person with whether or not we are actually a match, and that is where I was with Emily.
Obviously, there is no one whose opinions I respect more than my parents, and I knew that if anyone could give me perspective and help me make that decision, it was them. Besides, I had already been to Emily's home and met her mom, it seemed only fair that she got to see my home and meet my parents too.
Talking to my parents as the day went, I knew what I had to do. I could tell that as I was talking to my mom and dad I was really not only trying to convince them of how great Emily was, I was also trying to convince myself. Not that I don't think she is amazing, but I was trying to convince myself that I really could see myself with her long term. I knew what I had to do.
The hardest part of that was the boat ride back to the girls' house. It was not far but it felt like forever to me because I knew I was about to let go of a really wonderful woman. And as she realized we were headed back to the house and not on to the next part of the date, it got really, really awkward.
But if Emily's reaction while we were breaking up wasn't a sign of the maturity that people don't often give her credit for, I don't know what will. I was so impressed and as much easier as that made it for me, it also made it harder because she was showing the maturity that I was questioning that she had with my parents. Life decisions can be hard sometimes.
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After that, I knew I had a rose ceremony and I seriously had no idea what I was going to do. I could only visit four hometowns, and I had five amazing women before me. How was I supposed to send any one of these women home?!
But Chris Harrison really brought it all back around to me. I really needed to be honest with myself about whether or not I could really see myself marrying each one of these women. When I did that, I knew that I had to say goodbye to Becca.
Unfortunately, I also knew that by doing that I was doing to her the one thing I had told her I wouldn't do. It was going to come out of nowhere. So when she pulled her hand away from me and I saw the anger mixed with pain in her eyes, I completely understood. I hated doing that to her but I really didn't know any other way.
Becca is seriously one of the most wonderful women I have ever met. There is nothing she doesn't have. Nothing. Even I couldn't believe was saying goodbye to her. But I know she is going to be fine because I'm not sure I have met a more well-rounded, impressive woman.
But as difficult as that was, even that didn't prepare me for the goodbye I had to say next week after hometowns. There is no doubt in my mind that that is the hardest goodbye I said this entire time aside from the last one. But even before we get there, you are about to see a hometown week unlike anything you've ever seen before. And I can promise you I was far from ready for what was about to happen. There were definitely times where it was just as I hoped, and meeting these women's family was far beyond my expectations … but what happens on one hometown in particular changed everything.
So get ready Bachelor Nation, because when protective families get involved, things get real really fast. See you next week!
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.