The Year Bachelor Nation Was In For the Right Reasons: Why So Many Pairs Found Love

In 2018 we mourned the end of Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth and barely got to know Jenna Cooper and Jordan Kimball, but many other reality stars left us believing in love.

By Sarah Grossbart 22 Dec, 2018 11:00 AMTags
The Year the Bachelor Stars Were In It For the Right ReasonsABC/Getty Images/E! Illustration

At this point, viewers don't really expect the Neil Lane diamonds—and the Bachelor Nation love stories they represent—to be long for this world. 

With only one Bachelor couple still looking rosy today (we see you, Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici!) and another six from spin-off The Bachelorette, the franchise has earned its reputation for not exactly being conducive to lasting love. For some of the more cynical viewers of ABC's love hunts it's become almost sport to start betting on just how many months it will take for the final couple to release a carefully parsed breakup statement and relinquish their multi-carat jewels. (The record goes to Jason Mesnick and Melissa Rycroft who enjoyed their betrothal for about a month before he realized he still had feelings for his second choice.) 

But in 2018, dare we say most of these pairs seemed as if they were in it for the right reasons. Sure, Arie Luyendyk Jr. flip-flopped, reverting to his runner up before the show even made it to air in a move that has become known as pulling a Mesnick.

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But we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that Jason and his wife Molly Mesnick marked their eighth anniversary this year. And Luyendyk Jr. is on track to follow fully in the account exec's footsteps. This January he will make Lauren Burnham his bride and the newlyweds are set to welcome their first child together five months later. 

And in the great Bachelorette tradition of girls making better choices than the boys, Luyendyk Jr.'s former fiancée Becca Kufrin is still doing the damn thing with final rose recipient Garrett Yrigoyen.

So while this was the year one of Bachelor Nation's most beloved pairings, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth, bit the dust and Bachelor in Paradise's cutest couple winners Jenna Cooper and Jordan Kimball combusted before summer's close, other show alumni offered plenty of reasons to keep believing in love. As we close at 2018, we celebrate those couples that will continue on their amazing journeys together in the new year. 

Lauren Burnham & Arie Luyendyk Jr.

Okay, so the soon-to-be-newlyweds didn't have the most auspicious of beginnings. Shortly after season 22's Bachelor, 37, decided told Becca Kufrin he'd choose her "every day", he realized, as he put it in a recent Today op-ed, "I made the wrong decision in front of millions watching at home." His choice of ways to rectify it wasn't the best either. As viewers watched rapt, unable to pull away from the car wreck taking place on their television screens, Luyendyk Jr. dumped his then-fiancée during one of their planned happy couples weekends. Then, hours after their breakup aired, he proposed to runner-up Burnham, 27, thankfully springing for a new Neil Lane diamond for the occasion. 

The backlash they endured was every bit as bad as expected, but the pair forged ahead, first buying a house in his Scottsdale, Ariz. hometown, then methodically putting together their January vows in Hawaii. And if that weren't enough to prove they're in this for the long-haul, the real estate agents announced in November that they will welcome their first child next June. As the race car driver put it to Today, "It's so wild to think that just a year ago we were shooting a TV show and now we have this life together."

Becca Kufrin & Garrett Yrigoyen

All's well that ends well? Sure, Kufrin had to endure having her heart shattered on national television with Luyendyk Jr.'s cruel breakup, but keeping her head high through the whole ordeal earned her a return trip to Bachelor mansion and a chance to dole out her own roses. Her decision to commit to Yrigoyen, he of the abhorrent Instagram activity, over endearing sales rep Blake Horstmann wasn't exactly beloved, but the medical sales rep, 29, offered up a full mea culpa and the two have seemed happily coupled since the summer finale

Keeping to their plan of exploring her native Minneapolis followed by his home near Reno, Nev. and his parents' place in California before they settle down outside of San Diego in 2019, they have vowed to at least discuss wedding options next. "It's fun to just, like, dabble in things," Yrigoyen told E! News in August. Added the publicist, 28, "My sister's getting married, his brother's getting married. So we'll get some good ideas from them." 

Ashley Iaconetti & Jared Haibon

Mark down 2018 as the year Iaconetti became the poster child for ignoring all of the standard he's just not that into you signs. Nearly three years of lusting after her ideal man paid off this spring when the Rhode Island native realized that they were meant to be more than just friends. Naturally, it took the former nanny falling for another guy—Canada's hunky Bachelor Kevin Wendt—on The Bachelor Winter Games, but Haibon, 30, has pledged to make up for his years of indecisiveness and just generally being an idiot. 

His mid-season move on Bachelor in Paradise was a start. This June he brought the 30-year-old back to the same Mexico resort they first met to get down on bended knee with the Neil Lane diamond of her dreams. Now they're busy planning their August 2019 vows in his home state and the family that will follow. "It is the sweetest, coolest thing to hear people say that we inspire and give them hope for the love in the future," Iaconetti tells E! News. "A lot of the girls who watch me and us on this journey have always been in my position... Perpetually single, the guy they want never wants them back." Her advice: Hang in there. "The wait will be worth it!"

Bekah Martinez & Grayston Leonard

Following a fan-earning run on The Bachelor, loyal viewers fully expected to see Martinez pop up in Mexico, but she had two good reasons for giving up a trip to Paradise: new boyfriend Leonard, 29, and the baby they'll welcome together this winter. (Their son or daughter—the pair have opted not to learn the gender—is due to arrive Jan. 29, but Martinez is convinced the little one will make their appearance closer to her 24th birthday Feb. 10.) "I just decided that the guy that I was with back home was the person that I wanted to be with right now," the former nanny explained to PureWow. "It was kinda this realization that if I have something right in front of me that's good, why am I going to go out of my way to look for something else?"

And though the couple of nearly a year are thrilled to be parents, they're holding off on any other relationship upgrades. "The last thing we need is to consider another commitment on top of what we're already going through," she told PureWow of a potential engagement. "Regardless, we're bound together by sharing this little life."

Krystal Nielson & Chris Randone

One of two engagements to emerge from Bachelor in Paradise (not counting Ashley and Jared), unlike their counterparts Randone and Nielson fully intend to walk down the aisle. (Jenna and Jordan, we hardly knew ye!) "We're 100 percent getting married, and we're 100 percent making it happen," 30-year-old sales trainer Randone insisted to E! News after the finale aired this fall. And they promise to let their fans in as they continue their amazing journey. "My life is shared publicly so [it's] definitely going to be on the Instagram Stories," the fitness coach, 29, said of their nuptials. "As far as being televised, we're not opposed to it."

True to their word, the future Mr. and Mrs. Goose have documented their move into a shared San Diego pad and their first Thanksgiving together. Next up: wedding venue shopping and then leaving the nitty-gritty parts of planning to the professionals. "We just care about wine, food and music," said the bride-to-be. "We don't want to worry about any details. I see so many of my friends who get married, and they're so stressed out as brides and they don't get to enjoy it. That certainly [is] not our plan." 

Astrid Loch & Kevin Wendt

Rather than enjoy the fruits of the Fantasy Suite, Toronto firefighter Wendt, 34, ended their Paradise romance, shook at the idea of possibly getting down on bended knee with so quickly. But even as Loch was hightailing it out of Mexico, she knew she wasn't bidding farewell to their already strong relationship. "On TV, it looks dramatic," she told People of their temporary split. "But as we were leaving, I'm like, 'Surely this isn't the last conversation I'm gonna have with him.' Like, this is not how we can end all of that."

Spoiler alert: It wasn't. The pair soon reunited and resumed their break-neck pace, no longer afraid to check off heady relationship milestones. They brought their families together for a Sick Kids Hospital Toronto benefit in November and just this month the Florida plastic surgery office manager, 28, made the move north. "This summer I took a chance, quit my job, and packed up my apartment," she wrote on Instagram Dec. 18. "6 months later this PODS storage box and I are getting shipped to Canada. Hope you're ready for me and all my stuff @kevin.c.wendt."

Kendall Long & Joe Amabile

After ending things with the Chicago grocery store owner on the penultimate episode of Bachelor in Paradise this summer, Long felt whatever the opposite of buyer's remorse is. A trip to the Windy City and many conversations later the L.A. taxidermist, 27, and the man of few words were on to round two. "I thought it was over," Amabile, 32, told Glamour, unsure if he could forgive how quick Long was to end things. "And I thought it was over because she was scared…and after that, that was it for me." 

Still, the self-described opposites have been fully in sync since revealing their re-coupling this September, with a spin on Dancing With the Stars keeping the beloved grocer in California for much of the fall. Not shy about sharing their love for each other or ridiculously cute selfies on Instagram they've already inspired those all-important cries of "relationship goals," and Long believes they've have their previous struggles to thank for that. "I feel like [the breakup] kind of happened for a reason, because we learned so much about each other," she told Glamour. "We had to almost be thrown in to everything in order to discover if this was actually something we wanted to work on."

Tia Booth & Cory Cooper

The Arkansas physical therapist meant it when she said she wouldn't be following ex Colton Underwood onto his Bachelor season. "NO I will NOT be a contestant," she tweeted. "Lord bless." After their troubled coupling finally broke down on this summer's edition of Bachelor in Paradise (quick recap: the former NFL pro connected with Booth online after watching her shine on Luyendyk Jr.'s season, they briefly dated before he would go on to romance her good pal Kufrin on The Bachelorette, then finally combusted in Mexico) he set off for the iconic Agoura Hills mansion and she found a suitor of her own. 

Right now Nashvillian Cooper, the Executive Vice President of his family's steel company, is receiving all the 27-year-old's roses, the pair easily traversing the 350 miles between them. "Tia really likes Corey, and they are enjoying getting to know each other right now," a source told E! News. "Distance hasn't been an issue and they have been making a huge effort in seeing each other."

Lauren Bushnell & Chris Lane

The country crooner found his literal take home girl in the Bachelor alum, 28. Recently coupled up following her August split from Devin Antin (she was previously engaged to Bachelor No. 20 Ben Higgins), the pair marked a major milestone this holiday season with the "Fix" singer, 34, bringing her to meet his parents in North Carolina. "I'm actually a little nervous because I know how my dad is—I've already given her the pre-warning," he told People ahead of the mid-December trip. "He's just a funny guy. He'll probably ask her some tough questions."

Not that the pair aren't used to getting past the harder relationship moments. Based 2,000 miles apart (she's in L.A.; he's in Nashville), "We have to plan ahead a little bit because she is busy doing her own thing," Lane said. "She's not used to dating an artist and the whole lifestyle that it brings — you're constantly on the road doing something — but we both decided we would do whatever to make it work."