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Ben Higgins squashes Ashley Iaconetti dating rumors, discusses the "shock" of his Lauren Bushnell split


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/23/2017 

Ben Higgins is trying to promote his new podcast with Ashley Iaconetti while dealing with his breakup from Lauren Bushnell -- and according to the Season 20 The Bachelor star, life is tough right now.

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"I'm trying. This is not easy, it hasn't been easy. I don't know how to do this well," Higgins admitted during a Monday interview with On Air with Ryan Seacrest. "This isn't the happiest time of my life, but Lauren and I both agree you just got to continue to move forward. What's the other option?"

During the interview with Ryan Seacrest, Higgins shot down rumors he's dating Iaconetti and also dished on life now that he no longer has a fiancee in the picture.

"Ashley is great. She's [just] a good friend and a great co-host, and your co-host can be a friend as well, can we all agree?" Higgins, 29, explained to Seacrest after he was spotted enjoying a Bryan Adams concert with Iaconetti, 29, this past weekend in Los Angeles.

In addition to a friendship that began thanks to their ties to Bachelor Nation, Higgins and Iaconetti -- who competed for Chris Soules on Season 19 -- now have a working relationship. They are co-hosting a podcast together on the iHeartRadio app called Ben and Ashley: Almost Famous.

Iaconetti also previously told Us Weekly that she and Higgins are "totally just friends."

Higgins insisted to Seacrest that the premiere of his podcast is just a coincidence with the timing of his split from Bushnell, which the couple had publicly announced on May 15 in a joint statement.

"[Ashley and I] started planning this podcast months ago, way before any of this [separation news] happened. Our podcast... it's not just going to be Bachelor and Bachelorette-focused. It's going to be a lot of things. It's going to kind of be a lifestyle podcast that just has a lot of fun, great interviews," Higgins revealed.

Higgins and Bushnell got engaged on The Bachelor's twentieth-season finale. They decided to call it quits on their romance after spending 18 months together, starring on a Freeform spinoff called Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?, and renovating Higgins' bachelor pad in Denver, CO, so Bushnell could also call it home.

"I don't know if I can say I broke up with Lauren, but we have separated. It's not the best and most joyful time in my life, or hers, but the beauty in this is that Lauren and I really care about each other a lot still and have a lot of respect for each other," Higgins told Seacrest.

As a result, Higgins said his separation from Bushnell, 27 is amicable.

"I don't want to speak for Lauren on any of this, but I think both of us for so long thought this was the right thing and thought this was going to be something that lasted," the former Bachelor explained on the radio show. "We both felt we were extremely lucky we met on this crazy show that brought us together. [We thought] we'd be spending life together, so yeah, it did come as a shock."

Higgins added, "You don't plan on ever breaking up, that's not why you enter a relationship. And unfortunately that's what happened."

The software salesman admitted the public's low expectations for his relationship didn't help either. Fans typically don't anticipate couples from this franchise will last and get married. (Sean Lowe is the only Bachelor married to his season's winner).

"I think there's a lot of pressure coming off this show. I've told any Bachelor/Bachelorette that came after me, 'Just try to stay yourself,' but it's really difficult," Higgins said.

"You have a lot of people looking over your shoulder. There's a ton of criticism and judgement no matter what you do -- good or bad -- or if you have the most pure heart or not. People are going to take it the wrong way and honestly, Lauren and I both agree, it does pull on you a lot and it isn't exactly healthy for a foundation for a relationship."

When asked who will be the first person to move on to another relationship, Higgins replied with a sigh, "I'm not anywhere close to that and I don't think she is either. I would say that whenever that happens, I don't think either of us will find it easy but I get it, you know, that's life."

As for Bushnell's massive Neil Lane diamond engagement ring, Higgins told Seacrest that his ex will probably have to give it back to ABC. He said returning the sparkler just "makes sense."


Ben Higgins/Instagram

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