Bachelor Nation is in mourning.
Fans of the ABC hit franchise were left devastated when Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth announced they were ending their engagement after nearly three years together, which is basically 20 years in the Bachelor bubble where many couples split after less than one year of dating. Their statement, of course, contained the usual friendly jargon we've come to expect from celeb break-ups.
"This difficult decision comes after thoughtful, respectful consideration. Even though we are parting as a couple, we're very much committed to remaining friends. We have both evolved as people, which is taking us in different directions, but with the hope that we will continue to support each other in new ways," the pair said in a statement to People. "Due to the nature of how we met, our relationship has always been very public, and we have enjoyed sharing it with all of you, but we ask that you respect our decision and our privacy at this time."
For fans who fell in love with the couple when Shawn signed up for The Bachelorette's 11th season specifically to meet Kaitlyn (remember when there were two Bachelorettes, with the men choosing between Kaitlyn and Britt Nilsson? LOL, good times!) and continued to watch as their relationship grew on their social media platforms, the statement was missing all of the eccentricities and quirkiness that made them one of Bachelor Nation's most beloved couples ever.
Where was the couple that made hilarious Snapchat alter-egos, Rick and Donna? Where was the couple that would lovingly make fun of each other for forgetting the other's age? Their "otherness" from other couples in the franchise is what made them stand out. And now they were releasing the same statement many of the other franchise's failed pairs had sent out before them.
From the very start of their relationship, Kaitlyn and Shawn were far from conventional, often breaking the "rules" of the show--including secret, unsupervised meet-ups during filming--and then committing the ultimate sin: accidentally spoiling the end of their season with that infamous Snapchat scandal.
Looking back, it didn't impact the ratings or franchise at all—it's almost laughable now considering how directly tied to Instagram the contestants who go on the show often are. But Kaitlyn felt some of the producers never totally forgave her for the mistake and ostracized her post-show, even admitting to Chris Harrison that she is the "black sheep" of the franchise's Bachelorettes.
"Maybe I screwed up a few times and that's why they don't like me...because I did," she said. (Harrison assured her that he and the franchise loved her, BTW.)
Still, Bachelor Nation black sheep or not, people couldn't help but love Kaitlyn and Shawn. They made it look easy and fun and a little messy and seemed to actually enjoy being engaged...and each other. They were the Boothstowes, and people couldn't get enough, with the couple always striking the perfect tone of sarcasm and sweetness.
"Cheers to the longest engagement ever," she wrote in an Instagram caption for the two year anniversary. "I like that we don't feel pressure, I like that we have taken our time, I like that we still don't have a date set, and I kind of like you."
Jared Haibon, now engaged to fellow Bachelor alum Ashley Iaconetti, told E! News that they were the couple "everybody really aspired to be like" in Bachelor Nation. "I think it might be the most heart-wrenching break-up," he continued.
"We're just so sad, we always looked at them as such an ideal couple," Ashley added. "We always strived to have their playfulness, it's just really sad."
On the Almost Famous podcast, Ben Higgins, who made it to the final three of Kaitlyn's season and was roommates with Shawn in the mansion, said, "I truly thought they were meant to be."
Even when there was major speculation last spring that the couple had split or were this close to doing so, Kaitlyn addressed the rumors directly on her Off the Vine podcast, and, in classic Kaitlyn fashion, she didn't sugarcoat the truth. They were having issues, just like any couple does.
"We are both so busy and unfortunately that means that we are spending all of this time apart," Bristowe explained. "If you've ever been a person who is running a successful brand or business and with someone who is doing the same, but in a different career path, you know that times can be tough. You're both always away. You're exhausted at the end of the day. Sometimes the relationship isn't being put first, but does that mean, 'Oh, you call it quits?' No."
And in June 2018, Shawn admitted in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that he can "understand" why so many couples that meet on the show ultimately split.
"It's tough," she said. "If you're not strong enough to handle a lot of the outside noise and just the concept in general, it's very easy to call it quits. We've obviously had a lot of bad times, but a lot of good times. We've just stayed humble through it all, and just put each other first and worked on our relationship. But it's not easy."
Still, Kaitlyn and Shawn were committed to each other, continuing to offer support as they really dug into their professional endeavors.
Kaitlyn hosts a successful podcast Off the Vine that features new episodes every Tuesday with Podcast One, while Shawn has been super busy launching a new gym in Nashville, Booth Camp, which also has its own app.
"If you've ever been a person who is running a successful brand or business and with someone who is doing the same, but in a different career path, you know that times can be tough," Kaitlyn said on her podcast earlier in the year. "You're both always away. You're exhausted at the end of the day. Sometimes the relationship isn't being put first, but does that mean, 'Oh, you call it quits?' No. You love the shit out of each other and you work through it and you work on yourselves to be better and you know that times aren't always going to be smooth sailing. You know that times aren't always going to be tough."
Unlike so many couples in the franchise, Kaitlyn and Shawn weren't afraid to take the filter off occasionally, showing the work that goes into making their relationship, you know, work.
"Do you really want to be there for anyone's hard times on social media?" Kaitlyn pointed out. "Do you follow myself and Shawn to see our hard times? No, absolutely not. You want to see us happy."
And on an earlier podcast, which featured her then-fiance, she said, "People are like, ‘Oh you guys are such a perfect couple'…Let's talk about the times we aren't? Let's talk about times when it's not relationship goals!"
From the very start of their romance, following their televised engagement in the season 11 finale, Shawn and Kaitlyn were inseparable, choosing to prioritize their relationship over opportunities. Shawn moved into Kaitlyn's home in Vancouver before the couple eventually bought a house together in Nashville.
"You get engaged...and then you start dating," Kaitlyn admitted of their time immediately following their proposal, even revealing he needed to ask for her phone number and didn't know her middle name.
Even though there was controversy during her season—she was—gasp!—the first Bachelorette to sleep with someone before the Fantasy Suites and it wasn't Shawn, it was eventual runner-up Nick Viall—there wasn't really a lot of doubts about their love for each other, especially compared to other couples coming out of the franchise. Remember Nick Viall and Vanessa Grimaldi's less-than-enthusiastic appearances? Or Rachel Lindsay and Bryan Abasolo having to deal with only being asked about Peter Kraus after her season?
Thanks to their openness on social media, including creating their face-swap alter-egos (Rick and Donna, RIP), Shawn and Kaitlyn were fans' favorite couple, even if Kaitlyn felt shafted by the show and its creator, Mike Fleiss. But that inviting presence on Instagram is a double-edge sword, as it's also what people used to fuel break-up rumors earlier in the year.
"I hate we have to base people's happiness on Instagram likes," Kaitlyn lamented on her podcast.
But in an era when most people are going on the show in order to gain fame and followers via social media, it's not exactly surprising that viewers base their opinion on the franchise's contestants and couples on Instagram.
People noticed Shawn and Kaitlyn weren't liking each other's photos. They weren't really posting about each other. Shawn went to a friend's wedding solo. The writing was on the feeds...even if we didn't want to see it.
"It was not a shock," a former Bachelor nation alum admitted to E! News. "No one in our circle is surprised by their decision to split."
The source continued that the impending breakup was thought to be an "unspoken thing for months," and went on to add, "Kaitlyn and Shawn are great people on their own but you could tell they weren't going to ever make it down the aisle together."
And it's true that the couple was relentlessly asked when they were going to get married during their three-year relationship, often using the hot topic as fodder on their social media. Shawn caused a bit of speculation in 2016 when he jokingly wrote "Wedding paperwork is tough" on a Snapchat he posted of Kaitlyn filling out a travel form. They often talked about possibly eloping. E! News got details on Kaitlyn's two wedding dresses straight from the bride herself.
And yet...a date has never been set.
"We don't even know where we see ourselves next week," Kaitlyn joked to E! News after the couple's three year anniversary. "We just hope we are healthy and happy. Maybe married. Maybe babies? OK, I'll calm down."
She went on to add they were thinking about having kids "in the next three years."
And Shawn was definitely on the same page, telling Kaitlyn on her podcast, "I can't wait to marry you, but the thought of having a baby seems more exciting than the thought of a wedding."
They also were self-aware, knowing how the public viewed their love story and chances of beating the odds.
"We know it's ridiculous to get engaged after 12 weeks of knowing someone on a TV show where everything's manipulated," Kaitlyn said during a podcast conversation with Shawn, who admitted he wasn't totally ready to get down on one knee, but knew he didn't want to lose her.
But over the course of three years, Shawn and Kaitlyn "evolved" as people, as they put it in their statement, which happens--in real life and in The Bachelor franchise. Still, this was a particularly tough one to take for fans and friends.
"Maybe time apart will bring them together," Ben Higgins said on his Almost Famous podcast. "I don't want to give up hope that this is still something that could work."
Now that would be the most dramatic happily ever after in Bachelor history.