Arie Luyendyk Jr. vied for Emily Maynard‘s heart on season 8 of The Bachelorette. Now, he’s on his own journey to find love on the latest season of The Bachelor — and he’s blogging about it exclusively for PEOPLE! Follow Arie on Twitter at @ariejr.
My first week of dates left me eager and excited. It all felt like a crazy dream. Did we really just meet Rachel Zoe? Did I actually introduce someone to my parents? Did 15 beautiful women that I am currently dating really crash cars into me? The dates were mind-blowing in terms of grandeur but, more importantly, they were where I started making strong connections. Going into the next week, I couldn’t wait to see which relationships grew, as I was feeling more confident than ever that one of these women could be my future wife.
As I got to know some of the women faster than others, I realized just how different being the Bachelor was from being one of the guys on The Bachelorette. Trust me, being on The Bachelorette wasn’t easy (it was very hard going so long without seeing Emily), but back then I only had to focus on one relationship. Here, with so many amazing women, I had to compartmentalize my feelings and go into each date with an open mind and open heart. I promised myself at the beginning of this journey to give relationships a chance to develop at different speeds.
The women’s wrestling matches were everything from weird, to hilarious, to — dare I say it? — arousing. Marikh and Lauren B.’s wrestling looked more like a sexy slow dance than a fight, but I wasn’t complaining. All the women really hammed it up for the crowd and after all the drama earlier, I was so happy to see Bibiana and Tia really embrace the day. But before we move on, I have to point out one more thing you missed… Chris Harrison breaking a chair over Kenny’s head, GLOW style! Sad you guys missed it, but the story shall now live on in infamy.
The after party that night was at the Caravan Outpost in Ojai. I LOVED this place. Seeing it on screen really doesn’t do it justice. I was floored by how beautiful and rustic it was, and I’ve already cleared my calendar to bring friends back sometime this summer.
Emotionally, this evening was really wonderful — I remember this being the first night that I really built on the relationships I was starting. The first week of dates, especially the group dates, was mostly about introductions and learning the basics. Now that we had that out of the way, I was getting to know the women on a deeper level and was starting to see if our relationships could last. I was feeling comfortable now, and was so excited to see where the next few weeks were going to take me.
I love that Bibiana felt like she could come to me with her frustrations about Krystal and the other women — I just also wish that we had been able to use our time to get to know each other better. Group dates can be really intense, but my hope was always that the girls would be able to ignore the weirdness of all dating me at the same time and focus on OUR relationship. Tia did a really amazing job of putting that all aside and really opening up to me about her feelings about us.
With each and every date, Bekah M. continued to impress me. She’s able to be vulnerable and open and sexy. Our chemistry was truly off the charts and, on top of that, our conversation was phenomenal. Every time we talked, I learned so much about her, about our potential as partners and about myself. This is why I gave her the group date rose.
My first really hard goodbye came on my only one-on-one of the week. After the intensity of the wrestling, I was so excited a relaxing, intimate date. This date was so much more my speed. I’ve only wrestled once, but I drink wine often, and really appreciate a good cabernet. Besides racing and real estate, wine is probably the thing I know the most about.
Going into the date, I didn’t really know Lauren S. very well, but I knew she was attractive, mature, and kind. Taking her to Hall Wines felt like the perfect date because we’d be alone in a beautiful location, and would have plenty of time to really get to know one another. Lauren S. is a great woman with so much to offer, but as the day went on, I realized that the connection and chemistry were missing. I really felt like she just didn’t let me in. Even though I knew saying goodbye was for the best, this one felt very personal. I really wanted it to work, but I knew even with time, I could feel she wasn’t the one for me and that being decisive was best for us both. After Lauren left, I listened, alone, to a beautiful orchestra, reflecting on how many hard goodbyes laid ahead.
This really was a week of showing the women things that I love. First it was wine, and now it was Bastian! After Krystal and I brought Bastian back from Scottsdale, I knew we had to incorporate him into at least one date. He’s such a big part of my life and such a good judge of character. Not only was he great with the women, but he was also amazing in the dog show. I know we didn’t see him perform in the episode, but he was the only dog that nailed all his tricks. I always knew Bastian could be a show dog!
It was a bummer that Annaliese had a difficult time with dogs, just like she had with bumper cars. I was hoping she’d finally get to enjoy herself on a date. I get it, though — some people have fears surrounding animals. I was just happy to see she could embrace her crappy role (of the pooper scooper) and enjoy the day without getting too scared.
Here’s a fun easter egg from the dog show: You can see Brittany in the background playing various props in the scenes, like her excellent work in the role of lamp. Also, can we talk about how cool it was to have Fred Willard from Best in Show to commentate on our little dog show? He was so funny and kind, and once again I was totally starstruck.
As much and I loved hanging with Bastian, I was really excited to get to the Reserve to spend more quality time with the women. Someone who you haven’t seen much of thus far is Jenna, but just know that she is fantastic. Have you ever met someone who could always make you laugh? She’s so funny, light-hearted, charismatic, quirky and sexy. I’ve never met anyone like Jenna before.
It was nice to see Becca K. again after our one-on-one. Like I said earlier, I know it can be hard to be on a group date after a one-on-one, but that evening proved we hadn’t lost our spark and were continuing to build on our already amazing foundation. And Chelsea was really amazing during the day portion of the date — her mama bear side really shined through with the dogs. That night, she really opened up to me and I started to see more of her than Chelsea, the super aggressive woman who pulls me aside first, or Chelsea, the mom. That night she reminded me why I find her so confident, kind and sexy.
I entered the cocktail party knowing by the end of the night I’d have to say a couple hard goodbyes. It was important to me to pull Seinne aside first because she didn’t have a date that week. Sometimes I don’t put women on dates because I already have so much confidence in them and I need to give other relationships a chance to grow. After last week, I knew how much I liked Seinne. She’s so beautiful, fun, smart and worldly. I missed her during the week and spending time with her was a great way to start the night. One thing you didn’t see was that she used part of that time to teach me some yoga. After a long week, I did my best to not just stay in child’s pose.
One of the most memorable conversations of the night was with Bekah M. At the cocktail party (on the infamous daybed) she really cut to my core. I was astonished how someone could know me so well so fast — and would be bold enough to call me out. As I said in the moment, she’s really… kinda nailin’ the… nailin’ the… nailed it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! All I can say is that when you push past my lack of verbal expression is that Bekah M. clearly blows me away.
There were lots of amazing moments that night. This was the first time sparks really started to fly with Lauren B. I had been interested in her since the first night, but hadn’t had much time to grow that relationship. I also really enjoyed my time with Tia. What better way to show her I was thinking about her than to bring the south to Southern California? I still prefer red wine to moonshine, but I loved getting to hang on the hay bales and talk about our feelings.
As up and down as the weeks can be, the most difficult evenings are always the rose ceremonies. It’s something you never really get used to. After a couple weeks of dates, saying goodbye is only getting harder. I’ve really started to get to know these women and, even if they’re not for me, they’re amazing and I don’t want to hurt them. Bibiana is so beautiful, strong, sassy and hilarious. I knew that she wasn’t my future wife, but that didn’t make it easy to see her go. I really wish her the best in finding the love that she deserves.
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.