About a week before the season finale aired, screenshots of texts Erich allegedly sent his ex before he appeared on The Bachelorette surfaced on social media. The purported messages appeared to suggest that Erich ended their relationship so he could go on the show and that he signed up for The Bachelorette to advance his career rather than to find love.
Erich and Gabby also addressed the texts during the Sept. 20 episode of The Bachelorette: After the Final Rose, with the season 19 winner reflecting on his actions.
"I met this girl about a month before this all started, and I had no idea I was going to come here," he told host Jesse Palmer. "And ultimately, I realized there was not a connection long-term, and it was about the same time the show had reached out."
Still, Erich acknowledged he didn't handle the situation with his ex as well as he could have.
"I handled it poorly 100 percent," he continued. "I led her on, and I wanna own that. I have no hard feelings toward this girl at all, and I fully understand her actions. I kinda took the easy way out in a sense where I didn't wanna have a hard conversation. But I've learned a lot from it, and I wanna own that 100 percent. And I do not have any hard feelings for this girl. It was a mistake that I made on my part."
Erich called his actions "cowardly," admitting he used the "show as an excuse to not confront her about our relationship" and that he wanted to "continue to have fun" instead of telling her he didn't see a future together.
And while he didn't expect to find love on reality TV—adding he'd only seen one episode of the series beforehand—everything changed when he met Gabby, with them getting engaged on the season finale.
"I love this girl with all my heart," he said. "It's 100 percent real. I never expected it. I want this to be forever."
Though Gabby doesn't defend Erich's actions—telling him "you were kind of an a--hole" to his ex—she forgives him.
"His honesty and willing to take accountability is all I can really ask for and is something that I want in a partner," she added on AFR. "So it's been hard but when you say yes to spending the rest of your life with someone it's not going to be easy, especially in the public eye. So we're just trying the best that we can to make it work."
- Reporting by Daniel Trainor