After Ben Higgins made viewers swoon as a fan favorite on Kaitlyn Bristowe's season of The Bachelorette, he's now on his own journey to love on The Bachelor. He blogged exclusively about each and every rose ceremony for PEOPLE – follow him on Twitter at @benhiggi!
I can't believe that it's actually done. It seems like so long ago now, but also like it was just yesterday. It has been the single most tumultuous, emotional, gut-wrenching, wild, yet amazing ride of my life. And as I look back at it now, and you all know how it ended, I don't think I could ever go through it again. But I'm also so happy that I did. Because I stand here now the happiest man in the world because I have found my person. And I can't wait to start my life with her.
But before we get there I suppose we should start at the beginning. After what happened last week, and telling both women that I was in love with them, I knew that this week was going to be the single hardest week of my life. But even knowing that didn't make it any easier.
For much more from Ben and Lauren's new life together, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
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But I really hoped that my parents meeting both JoJo and Lauren might help shed some light on the situation for me. That maybe they would see something in me or my relationship with one of them that would really stand out and open my eyes to make my decision clear.
That was my hope.
More than anything though, I was just really excited to introduce these two amazing women to my parents. Lauren was first and I found myself giddy to see her again. I hoped my parents would see the spark that she and I have both felt almost from the very beginning and when she got out of the car, all of that worry melted away and I just felt good again.
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I wasn't able to see Lauren's interactions with my mom and dad so watching this back was really new and interesting to me. I could tell how nervous Lauren was and almost related a lot of it to how she was with me when we first met. But talking to my parents afterwards I could see that they saw what I saw; I mean it's hard not to see what a catch she is. But mostly they saw how much I lit up being around her. Something I felt but not something I knew was that obvious to anyone other than me.
But at the end of the day I could tell that my parents were really reserving judgment until they met the other woman. They didn't want to get carried away even though I know that if I had just brought Lauren home to Indiana after meeting her on an airplane they would've been overjoyed. But it was not that simple.
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So the next day they got to see JoJo, and again, I could tell they saw what I saw. JoJo just relaxes me and she did the same thing to them. Even with her as nervous as she was. She is just endearing, and knowing how open she is with her feelings even when it is how nervous she is, just has a way of relaxing you and making you feel like it's ok to just be you. Plus what mom doesn't want to hear that this was a girl that was always there to support her son when he was going through hard times? I think every parent wants that for his or her child.
But even after that, nothing got clearer. I think at the time I was kind of hoping that both she and my dad would have a clear preference. That they would meet both women and tell me it was an obvious choice and that I had nothing to worry about. But looking at it now, I'm glad they didn't. I think they knew this was a decision that had to be entirely mine. That I needed to follow my own heart because no one can tell you whom to love. And deep down I knew that too. Even if they had told me their preferences that would've just tormented me more. My parents saw what I saw in both women. And that the idea that I was in love with both of them was not crazy at all. They are so wonderful that it would've been crazy NOT to have been in love with both of them. But I knew I could only be with one and before I made that final decision I was going to have a lot of soul searching to do.
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That night she just let me know that she was ready. She wanted to make sure I had zero doubts and that I knew that she was ready to marry me. For a guy who thought he couldn't be truly loved and to have a woman as amazing as Lauren sitting across from you saying that, I can't even put into words what that meant to me. As the night ended the finality of it all really hit me. That this could possibly be the last time I ever saw Lauren. The last time I kissed her or said goodnight to her. That scared me to death. I think now I know why that was so scary to me but in that moment all it did was add to the anguish I was feeling every minute of every day as my final decision grew nearer and nearer.
Where I think Lauren could feel my concern right away when she saw me, I don't think JoJo did. I think at first she was just basking in the glow of our last date and reminiscing about how far we had come. But when she asked me how I was feeling, that's when it became clear to her that despite me telling her that I loved her, I had not yet made up my mind. From that point on, I could feel the JoJo that I had seen at her hometown date when things had not gone great. She was instantly worried that something she had cared so much about might be taken away without her having any say. And if you guys didn't know already, JoJo is a worrier. Everything I said or in every kiss I could see her searching my face for some sort of sign or reassurance that it was all going to be okay. But I couldn't give her that.
That night on the floor in the bathroom of her suite might have been the most I have ever cried in my life. I wanted so badly to make her feel better and to stop her tears and just enjoy the rest of the night but I couldn't. And when she asked me if I loved Lauren too, I couldn't lie to her. I had promised her I would be honest and so as hard as it was to admit that to her, I had to. I could see that it crushed her. And that, in turn, crushed me. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her. The woman who had stood by my side every step of the way. But I couldn't keep my promise to her and always tell her the truth without hurting her in this moment. Part of me hoped that I would be able to erase all that pain in a day when I was on one knee, but at that point, hard as it may be to believe, I still didn't know what I was going to do.
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When I started this journey I was really excited about meeting Neil Lane. I imagined it being an absolute celebration picking out the ring for the woman I was going to marry. But when he got there, I was still torn. That's when Neil started asking me about what she was like and how I felt about her. Neil is so passionate about his rings and about love that he wants to hear my take on my future bride and what emotions she makes me feel because that helps him know what type of ring is best for her. And at first, I really couldn't answer him. But the more he probed, the more he asked about how she made me feel and what our future looked like, without knowing any of the specifics of my situation, I just knew. There was one girl and one relationship that kept popping up in my mind first. I couldn't ignore that. In that moment, I knew.
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In all honesty, I think I knew the moment I saw Lauren that it was her. Our spark and our chemistry was just unlike anything I had ever felt in my whole life. When I met Lauren, I finally understood what all those songs and movies about true love were talking about. There is no other feeling like that. But I didn't want to get carried away in that or to mistake chemistry for love. I owed it to myself and to all of the women that had been there to see it all through. To explore every possibility and every feeling before I made a decision that would be for the rest of my life. And I had to continue exploring with Lauren too to make sure that the feeling that I was feeling was real and could last forever. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and I needed to make sure that that is not what this was. But in that moment, holding that ring, I knew this was it. Lauren was my person and the one I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
At first, knowing felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. I was relieved. I was happy. I actually started imagining sliding the ring on her finger and the look on her face when she saw it. I imagined seeing that ring on her finger 30 years from now as we held hands and watched our kids graduate high school or college. I felt peace and pure joy. I couldn't wait to tell her. To hold her in my arms and say that this is forever.
But the second Neil left, and the euphoria wore off, the reality of what I had to do first hit me. I had to tell JoJo.
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I'll spare you all my feelings standing across from JoJo as she arrived and I told her that I was going to choose Lauren because words aren't enough to give you even a tiny taste of what that was like. It was excruciating. Multiply what you think that word means by a billion and you might get close to what that was like for both of us. I knew what I was doing. And I knew how badly that would hurt JoJo after what she had told me about her past and how far we had come together. Had I known back when this all started what I felt in that moment, I would've spared her all of that. But I didn't. I needed every bit of this journey, the good and the bad, to know. I wish that I didn't but I did. And it killed me because even in that moment I loved her. I saw a wonderful future with her. And in any other world than one where I'd met Lauren Bushnell on the same day in the same place, JoJo and I would've been happy together forever. But there was no way she could really know that. And nothing I could say to make her feel better at all. I simply had to say goodbye and it was the hardest thing I have done or probably ever will do in my life.
It took me a lot longer than you think to come down from that. On TV you see one happen right after the other, but I needed some time. Time to recover. Time to refocus. Time to remember that the moment that was about to happen was the moment that I had hoped for when I started all of this. The moment I had prayed for and dreamed about for even years prior to even knowing what The Bachelor even was. As hard as it was to put JoJo behind me, I needed to in that moment.
But first, I needed to make a phone call. At the time of Lauren's hometown I wasn't ready or able to truly ask her father if I had his blessing in asking his daughter to marry me. In a perfect world, I would've been able to fly back to Portland, knock on his door and ask him man-to-man. But I didn't have that luxury here, so I picked up the phone.
I know it may seem silly to you guys, because you hear that question on seasons past of this show all the time and most dads say yes, but I was extremely nervous calling Dave. I knew that Lauren was in love with me, but I didn't know what her father really thought of me or of this or of his daughter getting engaged only a few months after meeting a guy. So my heart was beating through my chest. When he said yes and that he couldn't wait to hug us both when we got back, I was overjoyed. You saw that with my little "whoooo!" of excitement but it was more than that. I couldn't contain myself and Lauren couldn't get there soon enough for me.
When she walked up, I tried to play it cool but it was almost impossible. I wanted her to be surprised and excited. And I wanted us both to be able to say what we came there to say. But I think I left out over half of what I had planned on telling her. I just couldn't wait. But I loved that about that moment. It was so perfectly imperfect because I couldn't contain myself and I needed this woman to know right then and there that I wanted to spend the rest of my forever with her. And I hoped that she did too.
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Again, words will pale in comparison to what that moment felt like. After all the anguish and heartbreak; all the sleepless nights and tears; after the weeks and weeks of praying and soul searching and worrying that this might not work out after all; and that my fear of being unlovable might be a real thing; all of that disappeared in that moment. And it was replaced by more joy than I thought a man could ever feel. I had found her. And she loved me back. It was perfect in every way.
So there you have it Bachelor Nation! There's nothing you don't know and Lauren and I could not be happier today. Though I guess it will be nice now that we can actually be seen in public together and I can walk down the street with her, holding her hand in plain sight of everyone. But I meant what I said at the Women Tell All. I would marry her tomorrow if I could. She is everything I have ever dreamed of in a partner and I can't wait for a lifetime with her by my side. She's my person.
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And that is it for me. It's time for me to stop being "Ben The Bachelor" and start being Ben, Lauren's fiancé. I am sure you'll hear about it when our wedding date arrives but until then, there is another woman that deserves to find the love that Lauren and I have. I could not be more excited for JoJo and obviously I wish her the very best on the journey that she is about to go on. She has no idea what is in store for her just as I didn't, but I sincerely hope it ends with a ring on her finger and a smile on her face. Those are some very lucky guys and I for one, can't wait to watch.
Thanks for reading and hopefully we can talk again soon!
Love you Bachelor Nation!