On a Nov. 18 episode of the health-and-fitness podcast Austin AF, Shawn reflected on their past relationship, which began on season 11 of the ABC dating show in 2015. He also revealed the steps the former pair took to initially keep both their engagement and their 2018 breakup secret, which involved using Little Mermaid–inspired aliases.
Shawn, 34, said on the podcast that while filming The Bachelorette, he and Kaitlyn "got put through the ringer." "Any little thing to mess with me, mess with her, [the show] did," he said. "So I think that definitely grew our relationship, because they were trying to pull us apart the entire time. Because they needed a show. It's a business."
ABC and the show's production companies have not commented on Shawn's remarks or the series' practices.
When asked if the engagement felt real, Shawn said no, adding, "At that point, it was like, I am so, so worn down mentally, emotionally, physically. I knew we were gonna end up together for, like, a long time on that show. I never, never really had a doubt, like, ever. I was always like, 'Yep, she's gonna pick me.'"
He said, "And then that last night was just like, 'Let's just get this over with and get out of here.' I was asking [producers], like, 'What if I don't propose, like, I mean, this is kind of a big deal.' And they're basically like, 'If you don't propose, then everyone is gonna hate you.'"
In 2020, Kaitlyn, 36, wrote on Instagram, "I always question watching every season due to a little PTSD, overwhelming emotions, and knowing a little too much."
On the podcast, Shawn said he and Kaitlyn "were very good at having fun and showing the world that we had fun."
"Being in love, and doing the whole love thing, we weren't that good at behind closed doors," he said. "And I think there was some sense of, like, a trauma bond. I'll always be connected to her in that way. We'll always have that bond, like, we went through something that I mean, a handful of people in the world have gone through."
Shawn also recalled having to keep his and Kaitlyn's engagement a secret for about 14 weeks, until his on-air proposal aired.
"I couldn't even go back to work because I was flying out to L.A. every other weekend. We were doing these secret hideouts," he said. "It's fun and we were kind of crazy, too. We kind of like, definitely broke a lot of rules."
He continued. "You'd have to fly under an alias. Somebody would come and pick me up at my house and be like, 'Eric?' I'd be like, 'Yeah. I'm Eric.' Because she was Ariel. Like The Little Mermaid. And so then, we would travel under those names and then she would go to this house in one car. I would get taken to that house a few hours later, and the house would be like, in the middle of L.A., somewhere where it's completely secluded—trees, fence, like, you're not allowed to leave the property. Every counter has just booze and food and they're like, 'Alright, don't leave. Have fun.'"
Shawn added that a producer also stayed in the house. "It's just like, alright, so let's just get drunk, eat and do other things that newly in-love couples do," the reality star said.
Kaitlyn had already spoken about the incognito times with Shawn. In 2018, months before they announced their split, she told ET that the two had a "happy couple weekend" at a property after getting engaged, and also spoke about the two being given the aliases Ariel and Eric when being transported separately.
In addition, also in 2018, fellow Bachelor Nation alum Becca Kufrin referenced her own "happy couple weekend" with star Arie Luyendyk Jr., her now ex, on the season 22 finale of The Bachelor.
When podcast host Katie Austin referenced how Shawn and Kaitlyn "fell in love on a reality show," he said, "Yeah, I think 'love' is a loose term," adding, "Looking back at it, there was, like, a serious connection. I don't know if it was true, true love. I guess it wasn't because we'd still be together if it was."
He said that initially, "you're thinking it's love" because as a Bachelor Nation contestant, you're "completely secluded from the world" and "You're trying to, like, just figure out your emotions and your feelings and you have this person that you're kind of going through the process with."
He continued, "Did I have a love for her? Yeah, of course. We had this connection, like, right out the gate. It wasn't a forced thing. We connected and we had an awesome time. But, like, afterwards, the situation makes it pretty easy to fall in love. No distractions."
Shawn said that after he and Kaitlyn broke up, before the news was made public, they "would have to post stuff and just to make it seem like everything was still good and we’re still happy." He did not elaborate on who allegedly made them to do so. The two had sparked breakup rumors for months before they announced their split.
"Now I don't trust anything," Shawn said on the podcast. "It’s a whole different ball game with that. You do have brand deals. And that's why I look at relationships now from The Bachelor [and] I'm like, 'Are they actually happy?'"