"I went through a very painful breakup that left me hurting and confused and wondering if I just needed to take a break from dating for a while, maybe even forever," Ben wrote of his split with Lauren, adding their painful separation "didn't happen overnight."
Ben went on to reveal "mistrust" was the "first crack" in their relationship, "which had a lot to do with what happened on the show." Likely, that infamous decision to tell two women, Lauren and JoJo Fletcher, that he loved them.
"We didn't watch any of the episodes when they aired, but we didn't have to," Ben continued. "Everywhere we went people asked about what they'd watched on that week's episode. The questions were not healthy for us. Even without the questions, we wouldn't have made it."
After leaving the fantasy bubble the show provided, the couple "started to realize that this perfect fit wasn't nearly as perfect as we once believed," Ben wrote. "We had to work very hard at even the basics of our relationship. At times we had trouble talking."
While viewers were so enamored with Ben and Lauren after their fairy tale ending on The Bachelor that they landed their own Freeform spinoff, producers clearly could see the writing on the wall when it came time to name the shortlived series: Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?
"The producers added the question mark because they sensed there was trouble in paradise," Ben explained. "By the time Happily Ever After? came along, there wasn't a lot of joy left in our relationship. Tension and pain had taken its place. Neither of us was happy, but we were still doing our best to make the relationship work. We went to couple's therapy and counseling, yet, no matter how many steps forward we took, it seemed something would hit us and we'd be right back to confusion and doubt."
Ultimately, the decision to end their engagement wasn't made in person.
"By the end we were barely speaking. The breakup itself came over the phone," Ben shared. "If you wonder how you can end an engagement with a phone call, believe me when I say that both of us preferred it that way. Neither of us needed another tortured, face-to-face conversation about our relationship."
The decision to call it quits over the phone "felt far healthier" for both parties, Ben explained. "I was on my way to New York with my boss when Lauren and I had a brief conversation in which we agreed she would move while I was gone. It was the best possible solution for both of us. I think we were both so beat up emotionally that we were just glad the whole thing was done."
The end of Ben and Lauren's relationship was a big deal, not just within the franchise but in pop culture at-large. Their split was the most-Googled celebrity breakup of 2017 and fans were not shy about letting their allegiance be known, even if there really were no teams, just two heartbroken former reality TV stars.
"Complete strangers regularly came up to me and told me, 'I'm with you, I'm Team Ben. She had no right to treat you like that,'" Ben shared. "These people meant well, but frankly, they had no idea what had really happened. They blamed Lauren for everything and were angry with her, which upset me because I cared for Lauren even though we were no longer together. I still do. I only want the best for her and her husband and family. Team Lauren people also weren't shy about coming up to me. Some unloaded on me about all I'd done wrong. That felt pretty terrible and I felt terrible enough."
Years later, even though Ben is now engaged to Jessica Clarke and Lauren is expecting her first child with husband Chris Lane, "Strangers still ask me about her and why we broke up," Ben revealed.
While their split was mutual and amicable, Ben admitted to avoiding Lauren—literally—when he unexpectedly saw her on the street in NYC just days after their breakup.
"The moment I spotted her, I turned around and started sprinting down the street back the way my boss and I had come," he wrote. "I ran until I came to a cross street, then darted around the corner." While he's still not sure if Lauren ever saw him, Ben shared, "What I did know was that two days after ending an engagement with a woman I once thought I'd live happily ever after with, I was happier hiding behind a street corner in New York than making eye contact with her in a crosswalk. We'd made the right choice for both of us, but the fallout had yet to start."
After the news of their breakup was made public, Ben flew to Los Angeles and stayed with a friend for 10 days. "I barely moved. Every day I sat in sadness, in hurt, in confusion, wondering how and why everything had gotten to that point." And what he turned to for comfort also became public fodder.
"One of the enduring images from that period of my life came when a paparazzi happened to snap a photo of me walking out of a Los Angeles grocery store, a pint of ice cream in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other," he shared. "That photo is a pretty good picture of where I was in my life right then."
While his breakup with Lauren had a lasting impact on Ben, which fans saw firsthand when he broke down during The Bachelor: Winter Games, the Generous Coffee co-founder acknowledged it "played a huge role" in readying him for his relationship with Jessica.
"It made me a better man and better prepared me for someone as incredible as Jessica," he explained. "Only now am I starting to realize that my response to Jessica, my commitment to her, the way that I express love, and the way we work through difficult situations, all owe a debt to the lessons I learned before."
The most surprising revelation in Ben's book is when he revealed he found himself "addicted" to painkillers after injuring his knee in high school and undergoing two surgeries later on.
"I knew I needed to get off of them, but I found it hard to do when, after every surgery, I was prescribed them again," he shared. "In addition, a lot of the people I chose to hang out with at this stage of my life were also taking painkillers."
His addiction continued after three additional setbacks, including his father becoming sick again, being rejected from one of the top business schools and getting cheated on by his then-girlfriend. "I walked in on her making out with another guy. Then she dumped me," he detailed. "Looking back at where I was in life, I can't blame her, but at the time that was just one more confirmation of my loser status in life."
Ben continued to turn to the pills to numb his "shame and failure."
During the time he abused painkillers, Ben admitted he "started to treat people like objects that existed for my pleasure."
And for some time, he didn't feel guilty about doing so—"until I finally hurt one person too many."
"I don't want to go into too much detail, but suffice it to say I used a young woman as nothing more than an object for my pleasure," Ben revealed. "When it was over, I discarded her. I didn't care about her story or her desire for a relationship that wasn't just physical and lasted longer than one night. I didn't care that I'd hurt her. All I cared about was myself."
Then, one morning, everything came to a head for Ben—though he admitted to not remembering many mornings during that four-month period—when he looked in the bathroom mirror and didn't recognize himself.
"When I made eye contact with myself, I felt like the devil himself was staring back at me. 'Oh, God,' I said out loud. 'Who is this? This is not the man I ever wanted to be,'" he recalled, adding that he prayed for the first time in a long time and it was "maybe the most honest prayer" he'd ever said, asking, "If you are real, save me from myself.'"
Newly devoted, he was all in. "The drastic change from darkness to light made me, well, annoying," Ben admitted. "For the next few months I became the classic overly passionate, probably more than a little obnoxious, newborn believer."
Before sliding into now-fiancée Jessica's DMs in 2018, Ben admitted he was "really nervous about getting into another relationship" because his time spent n Bachelor shows "had created an unrealistic expectation within me of what romance' looks like."
No longer having access to the lavish lifestyle and the fantasy world that reality TV created, Ben was concerned he couldn't live up to the onscreen version of himself IRL.
"I felt like I'd set a certain standard on television, and I was sure she'd be disappointed if dating me outside of that world didn't live up to it," he explained.
With guidance from a friend, Ben was able to overcome that fear and asked Jessica out. Two years later, he proposed.
In the time between ending his engagement to Lauren and dating Jessica—whom he calls "the one I have chosen to love for a lifetime"—Ben revealed he didn't really date that much. And he held off on entering a relationship for a very specific reason.
"I was hesitant to give up the single life I had come to enjoy," he explained. "It's just that I had grown very comfortable in my own skin, and I didn't want to jeopardize that by falling back into old relationship patterns. I had a habit of becoming a relational chameleon, changing into whatever I thought the one whose heart I was trying to win wanted me to be. The more head-over-heels in love I was, the more I lost myself."
"If you go back and rewatch the early weeks of that season of The Bachelorette, you'll notice I'm rarely on camera," Ben wrote of his time on Kaitlyn Bristowe's season, admitting he never thought he'd make it past night one. "I took a lot of naps and hung back as much as I could. I tried to laugh at the right jokes told by the right people, and when I had one-on-one time, I tried to make a good enough impression not to stand out as a bad dude."
But his plan to coast until he was eliminated came to a halt when an unnamed producer pulled him aside and said, "'You know, Ben, I don't like you,'" he shared. "Before I could say anything, he said, 'And do you know why I don't like you? It's because I don't know you.'"
That prompted Ben to sit down with the producer—"big curly hair and beard, decked out in a tie-dye shirt," so hi, Elan Gale!—for four hours and "let everything out. I explained to him why I didn't feel worthy of being loved and how I didn't think anyone would really like me if they got to know the real me."
That admission changed everything for the eventual lead, who stated that the conversation set him free and, dare we say, onto his amazing journey to lasting love.