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Love is back in the air on The Bachelor, with possibly a little too much to go around.
Season 22 star Arie Luyendyk Jr., a professional race car driver-turned-realtor, told The Hollywood Reporter and reporters on a press call Thursday that he fell for more than one contestant. “I actually fell in love with two people,” he shared, adding that the end of the season was the “toughest” for him. “That’s the hardest decision of your life, really. It’s a forever decision, so it’s not taken lightly. That was probably the hardest thing for me.”
When ABC’s reality dating series returns Jan. 1, 29 women will be competing for Luyendyk Jr., 36, who placed runner-up on Emily Maynard’s 2012 season of The Bachelorette.
The only other time a Bachelor told two finalists he loved them was on Ben Higgins’ 2016 season, and the star took a lot of heat for his tough-to-watch finale. His runner-up, JoJo Fletcher, went on to mend her broken heart as the following season’s Bachelorette.
On the call, the Scottsdale resident detailed what life has been like in the five years between his Bachelor bows. “I was the same person before the show and after. I just went back to my regular life and tried to date,” he said. “When I got approached [to be the Bachelor], I realized the last time I was really in love and ready to get engaged was on the show.”
Luyendyk Jr. has been in talks with producers about becoming the network’s leading man since departing Maynard’s season. Yet his announcement was met with mixed reviews, highlighting the short-term memory of the Bachelor audience. “It was something that I was always open to,” he explained. At the time of prior discussions, he was either in a relationship or ABC ultimately went a different direction, he says. This year, it was a “perfect fit.” Just a few days after a renewed discussion about taking on the gig, ABC announced Luyendyk Jr. as their star. “Where I was in the timing of my life really worked out,” he said. “I’m in a place of my life where I am really ready for marriage. I want nothing more than to start a family and settle down.”
The reality star also addressed rumors of a party lifestyle since exiting Bachelorette. “I think everyone has a past, especially someone who’s 36. After The Bachelorette, I think it took a lot more time than I thought to heal. So I dated a lot,” he shared with reporters. “It’s taken some time to recover from that relationship [with Emily Maynard]. I haven’t really been in love since going on The Bachelorette. Ex-girlfriends — they come out of the woodwork and they talk, but everyone has a past.”
To help prepare him for this new chapter, Luyendyk Jr. has sought support from two of his closest friends in the franchise, Sean and Catherine Lowe, star and winner of Bachelor season 17, respectively. The reality TV couple are now married with a child together, and he cites them as a goal relationship.
With Luyendyk Jr. as ABC’s pick, the franchise appears to be circling back to a nostalgic time in the franchise. Last season was met with criticism, including from ex-contestants, that the current crop were more interested in fame than love. Another element that made this season more sober than usual is the alcohol restrictions put in place after this summer’s Bachelor in Paradise controversy, when two contestants were at the center of an alcohol-related hookup probe. Despite the collectively younger age range of contestants (the oldest woman is 33), the Bachelor describes a potentially more reserved experience this time around. “There was a little bit less alcohol involved. That’s great because with that comes some ramifications,” he added.
Now that filming has wrapped, Luyendyk Jr. admits it feels “totally different” than his experience five years ago on The Bachelorette: “You just really realize the enormity of the production.” His lips are sealed about the outcome of his quest to find love, but the star teased that it was a “great experience” with “a lot of great memories.” If he, in fact, did put a ring on one of his contestant’s fingers, Luyendyk Jr. said he is open to relocating.
What Bachelor Nation can expect is some grand romantic gestures. Luyendyk Jr. describes himself as a hopeless romantic, defining love as, “Feeling like you can’t see yourself without that person. The feeling of having a best friend. A life partner. Not wanting to be a part from them. Thinking about them when you go to bed and the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. That’s love.”
Ahead of the Jan. 1 premiere on ABC, bookmark Live Feed for ongoing coverage as the season airs Mondays at 8 p.m.
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