“I was very thick-skinned and hard-shelled when I got to Paradise,” Randone, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I was not myself. I was trying to act like this tough guy, that I had an ego.”
All that changed when, after the second rose ceremony, Nielson set him straight.
“She knew, based on conversations we had had, that I was a genuine guy with a good heart,” says Randone. “So she pulled me aside and said, you need to be more self-aware or you’re going to lose friendships here and you’re going to lose me.”
Continues Randone: “I realized that this woman came out of nowhere to give me direction. I felt it from her heart and I realized that if I don’t change now and be vulnerable, I’m going to lose this incredible woman.”
For her part, Nielson says she could sympathize with Randone, despite his tough exterior.
“We were both hard-skinned because we went through tough times,” says Nielson, 30, who, like Randone, grew up without a father and was raised by a single mom. “We bonded over that. I could understand him.”
Now, the engaged couple is moving in together (San Diego or Orange County are possibilities) and grateful for the show that brought them together.
“I truly believe everything happens for a reason,” says Nielson. “Everything I went through on The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise led me to develop and grow into my own as a person and eventually, it led me to Chris.”
When it comes to the Big Day, there isn’t a date set yet, but Nielson is already making some plans.
“I see a beach and bare feet,” she says. “And lots of crystals!”