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's been blogging exclusively about each and every rose ceremony for PEOPLE – check back each week and follow him on Twitter at @benhiggi!
What a week, right? Definitely some things I wasn't expecting but I guess I really didn't know what to expect since I never had a hometown with Kaitlyn even though I was one of her final three.
But before we get into everything I just want to start this off this week by saying a huge thank you to all of the families, their friends and everyone who helped make this week happen. I know this experience is filled with things that you aren't used to in your day-to-day life but this week goes far beyond this.
I hear people constantly harp on men and women that are on this show when things are hard that, "Well, you signed up for this." And that is true. I won't deny that. But these families didn't. Many of them have no interest in any of this, yet they still open their homes to a bunch of strangers, myself included, on almost no notice and make this all happen just because they want to support their daughter or sister or friend. And there's so much else that is behind what everyone sees with them taking off work or finding babysitters or countless other inconveniences that I am sure we can't even begin to imagine. So from the bottom of my heart to any of you that may read or hear about this, thank you. I can't say that enough.
I think this was the week I was most excited for in this entire journey honestly. Like I said, I never got a hometown with Kaitlyn, and I really felt like it would've helped her get to know the real me so much better. So knowing that, I could not wait to see these women in their own environments, away from all the crazy spectacularness (is that a word? I think I just made it one!) that The Bachelor provides and really get a feel not only for who they are, but what our lives together might be like. I know I have said that I love living in Denver, and I do, but I am very open to moving if that is what my future wife and I decide. So I wanted to go into each one of these dates with my eyes wide open.
I could not WAIT for Amanda's hometown date! I know all of these dates are important, but Amanda's took on a very special importance to me knowing that I would be meeting her children – especially since she had never introduced a man to her children before. I definitely had some nerves, but more than anything I was just excited. Not only to meet them and see if they were open to having me in their lives, but also to see Amanda as a MOM! I had met and gotten to know Amanda simply as a woman, but every time she talked about being a mom I could see a sparkle in her eye and her entire face light up. I knew this was going to be a whole different side of her that I hadn't seen yet, and I couldn't have been more excited to see that.
That moment that Amanda saw her kids for the first time is indescribable to me. It's the look on her face and the feelings I know she was likely having inside that are what makes me so excited to be a dad myself. I know I've never felt anything like that, and I really am excited for the day that I do.
And can we talk about how unbelievably cute Amanda's daughters are?! I mean my heart just melted seeing them in their matching outfits there on the beach and then watching them run around and chase birds and play in the sand. I was a little concerned that the girls wouldn't take to me or be super shy, but I cannot tell you how much fun I had just playing with them. And seeing that side of Amanda â€¦ so incredibly attractive I don't even have the words.
That said, it was a long day out there in the sun, so when we got in the car to drive to meet Amanda's family, I got a real taste that being a parent isn't all just sandcastles and flying kites. The girls were just exhausted and it was tears almost the entire way there. I could see the stress on Amanda's face because I know she wanted the day to be easy and perfect, but I was really glad that I got to see that side of it too. If I really was going to consider marrying Amanda and becoming a father instantly, I needed to know what I was getting into, the fun times and the hard days. So that was really good for me to see, and it didn't scare me away in the least.
And that was probably the biggest thing I took away from meeting Amanda's family, too – that being a parent isn't always easy. And if I was going to end up with Amanda, I needed to be ready for that. And I didn't want to sit there and say that I knew I was, because I wasn't. I am sure there are a million things that I would have no idea to expect, but I loved seeing how much they cared for Amanda and how badly they wanted to find someone that could be there for her. And all of that, combined with what a wonderful woman Amanda really is, made me excited about that possibility.
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As much as I had gotten used to (only temporarily) dating multiple women at once, it still felt weird to go from meeting Amanda's family one day to meeting Lauren's the next. I'll never really get used to this, and I don't want to honestly. But once I saw Lauren (I can drop the last initial now right?) in Portland all the awkwardness just melted away. She was so excited, and after getting past last week and putting all the weirdness behind us, I felt like there was noting holding either of us back anymore.
That was also my first time in Portland, and it was such a cool city! I could see myself living there for sure. Now that I mention it, Orange County with Amanda was awesome too. I'm a lucky man in more ways than one.
But really I just loved how natural and easy it felt walking the city with Lauren. You guys didn't get to see was when stopped by the craziest and best donut shop I've ever been to. I had heard Portland was the place for amazing donuts, but theses guys went all out and even made us some giant donuts that represented our dates â€¦ a pig, a biplane, all kinds of things. Anyway, by the time we got to her parents' house, I really wasn't that nervous at all anymore. Any nerves I had immediately went away once I met her family too. It's like they are out of a Christmas movie on television or something! They were so warm and inviting, and I immediately felt at home.
What surprised even me was how emotional I got talking to her family though! I know this has been the biggest emotional roller coaster that I have ever been on in my life, but I can usually hold it together! I don't know what it was that day but when her sister asked me about what was so special about her, I just couldn't hold it back anymore. These women have become so special to me in so many ways, and I am so grateful for them that I just got overcome. But you know what they say, real men cry. And I was really happy that Lauren's family was able to see how seriously I am taking this and how much Lauren means to me as well.
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I had never even heard of Hudson, Ohio, before Caila told me about it, but it really is a hidden gem. Its history is rooted in the Underground Railroad and the abolition of slavery, and if you're ever nearby it is definitely worth a visit.
That said, I know Caila was really worried about taking me someplace even though she has no real roots there, but going to her school still felt really special to me. I loved hearing about what she dreamed about as a teenager and seeing all the places that meant something to her. But at the same time, I really wanted Caila to know that coming to her hometown was really not about the town itself at all. I know I am proud of Warsaw and all that it meant to me, but I was coming to Hudson because of Caila. And to meet her family. It wasn't about anything but our relationship. A relationship I held very dear to my heart.
But also, how cool was that toy factory?! I never expected anything like that at all. It was so fun there playing with all the toys and building our house. I also had no idea how industrial the factory would be! You think of little plastic cars and houses and you don't imagine two-ton machines and hardhats at all. But it was really sexy watching a woman as beautiful as Caila with power tools and working machines like that. Don't ask me why, it just was.
Caila's family was really sweet too. I loved hearing about her Filipino culture and how her dad talked about how welcoming the community was too. Not something I had ever thought about or expected, but it was cool to hear about.
I really felt like Caila's parents showed me a lot about the complex person that Caila is. Her dad is so impressive and analytical, it's no wonder that he has been the CEO of so many companies and also the reason Caila is a such a deep thinker and intelligent woman. Her mom on the other hand really feels everything and it's easy to see where Caila's passion comes from.
Overall, it was a great hometown date. I could not have asked for anything more. Except for one thing â€¦ more of that food! I was so excited to try all of that delicious Filipino food, but I got so caught up in talking to her family that I forgot to go back and try more of it! I'm still upset about that.
Then there was JoJo's hometown. Where to begin? Before I even got there the drama had started. JoJo and I had talked a lot about her ex-boyfriend so it was not a huge shock to hear that he had tried to win her back. But walking in there and seeing her crying and talking about him sending her roses and the letter and the phone conversation along with knowing all their history together, I was absolutely sure she was about to break up with me and get back with him.
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Watching it back, I think you can see that written all over my face when she is first talking to me. After talking to JoJo that day I know now that it was never even a consideration in her mind, but for someone who has a fear of being unlovable, I just thought that this was the beginning of the end and I was crushed.
So when she said that she was happy to put an end to her and Chad, it was an instant relief and I was able to breathe again. JoJo had really come to mean so much to me that the idea of her walking away in that moment really terrified me.
Once we got past that I thought it would be smooth sailing. I was starting to get the hang of this family thing! Although, JoJo had warned me about how protective her brothers can be, so I knew that I was going to have to answer some hard questions. And that may have been part of the problem too. I think going into those conversations I was trying to be so careful to be absolutely honest and not make any promises that I wasn't ready to make yet that I think I held back a little bit too much and maybe gave them the wrong impression. They thought that my answers were too careful I think, and I can see how they may have come off that way, but that's not what I meant by it at all.
Watching the show now, I hope they can see how incredibly serious I was about JoJo and that I just wasn't ready or in any position to tell them that I was definitely going to propose to their sister. If I was holding back on my answers or being too political that was the only reason why.
What confused me the most was that walking away from my talk with them I thought everything was totally fine. If they had concerns I wanted them to bring them up and ask me, so when I walked into the kitchen and Matt was talking about how I had been coached or had brainwashed JoJo I was really, really confused. But I am glad that he said something and I didn't walk out of there thinking everything was fine when it clearly wasn't. But I will say that I walked out of there with real questions about whether or not that family would accept me or even liked me at all. I knew that my relationship with JoJo was still really great, but I really had no clue with where I stood with her family when that night was over.
Aside from the final day, this was the hardest rose ceremony that I had had to face by far. All four of these women are absolutely wonderful. All four I have very strong feelings for. And all four I could legitimately see a wonderful future with. On top of that, I didn't want a single one of them thinking that I sent them home because of their families. I already expressed how hard this must be for the families involved so I never wanted my sending someone home to be viewed as a reflection on their family. They were all wonderful. I know JoJo's did not go particularly well, but I also absolutely understood where her brothers were coming from and I could respect that.
Ultimately, I had to just make the call based on whom I was furthest along with at this point. But when I did that, I knew I was furthest behind with Amanda, and I was not ready to send her home. At all. And more than anyone, I didn't want her thinking it was because of her kids or that I was afraid of being a father to them. I knew it was what I had to do, but I just felt awful about it. And I felt even worse knowing what a big step it was for her to introduce me to those two perfect little girls and knowing that this meant that I wasn't going to see them again â€¦ my heart was in pieces thinking about it.
And unfortunately Amanda's reaction was about what I feared and expected it would be. She was angry. And wondered why, if I was planning on sending her home, I would put her and her kids through any of this. And had I known then that I was going to be saying goodbye, I NEVER would have. But I just didn't. I went into this following my heart and hindsight is obviously 20/20, but I couldn't have known at the beginning of the week that I would be putting her in a limo at the end of the week. I don't think that made it hurt any less for either of us though. Definitely one of my hardest goodbyes ever.
But with that, I knew I had three women left that I felt absolutely amazing about. But Fantasy Suites presented even more pressure than before, and I can tell you now I never expected this week to unfold the way that it did. I had to say a goodbye in a way I never thought I would, to a girl I wasn't sure I ever would say goodbye to â€¦ and she did not take it very well at all. I don't think neither she nor I anticipated that kind of emotion overflowing when goodbye happened so unexpectedly. They say what happens in the Fantasy Suites stays in the Fantasy Suites, but next week's episode definitely puts that to the test.
See you then Bachelor Nation, and get ready for an ending that you'll never expect. I know I didn't â€¦
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.