The Bachelor alum Ben Higgins says he and Lauren Bushnell were just "looking for an out" before calling it quits and his new relationship with fiancee Jessica Clarke is "stronger."

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ABC just recapped Ben's The Bachelor season, which aired as Season 20 in 2016, into a three-hour episode of The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons -- Ever! on Monday night.

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Ben was forced to relive getting engaged to Lauren during the finale, which probably also brought up hurtful memories about their split in May 2017.

"I do think Lauren and I very early on were just trying so hard to make it work that it was just pulling pieces of us all the time," Ben told Entertainment Tonight in a Monday interview.

It was widely believed Ben and Lauren were truly in love, especially considering Lauren had moved from the home she loved in California to be with Ben in Denver, CO, and they were in the beginning stages of planning a wedding.

But reports swirled before their split that Ben and Lauren were constantly fighting and Lauren was unhappy with her lack of career, life in Denver in general, and the fact Ben had also professed his love to JoJo Fletcher on his The Bachelor season.

"I don't think we wanted to make it work, because I think internally we knew just how unhealthy it probably was to continue to go on," Ben explained.

"We were just looking for an out, but trying our best to make it last as long as we could to see if maybe we found the secret sauce. At some point, we never did."

Not only did Ben tell JoJo that he loved her on The Bachelor shortly before popping the question to Lauren, but Lauren couldn't escape the past given JoJo went on to star on The Bachelorette's twelfth season and often discussed her heartbreak.

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"I do remember those moments of trying to explain myself or thinking, 'Hey, this is all good. We're gonna watch this back because you know I chose you, and this is going to be fine.' It wasn't. It wasn't at all," Ben admitted. "It hurt deeply and I know it did."

Ben and Lauren were even asked to make a clearly-uncomfortable appearance on the finale of JoJo's season, and the scene aired on Ben and Lauren's Freeform spinoff titled Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?, which aired for only one season and featured a lot of ups and downs in their relationship.
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"The decision I made to overcommunicate ended up hurting the relationship I was in," Ben noted of telling both Lauren and JoJo that he loved them. "And I would not even want to risk doing that again right now."

Jess therefore opted out of watching the recap of Ben's The Bachelor season on Monday night, and Ben said his fiancee never watched his full season because she's never been a big fan of the franchise.

"I don't see the benefit [of her watching] and I don't think she does either. I think the cons far outweigh the pros," Ben said.

"I think there would be a chance where even though I have no fear that it would end our relationship, I think that the small moments of watching me pursue and encourage and kiss other people might be the closest thing to, like, heartbreak that she's felt romantically and I don't want be a part of that and she doesn't want to be a part of that."

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Ben added, "So, no, she's not watching. She doesn't plan on watching ever, and I'm pretty okay with it."

Ben even confessed watching his proposal to Lauren was tough for him to watch -- and he actually lived it!

"I don't think it would have been that hard two years ago to watch -- I think I could have done it. But watching it back now, it's just uncomfortable. It's not healthy for me to see, it's not healthy for me to relive," Ben told ET.

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"I think I've given my focus and my heart and my attention to one woman now, and I'm setting up boundaries in my life to keep that healthy and good."

"Seeing myself propose to somebody else isn't a part of that healthy boundary, but I did it," Ben elaborated. "So that was really hard for me to see, especially the place I am now in life and just how happy I am."

When comparing his relationships with Lauren and Jess, Ben shared, "I do think the fundamentals to my relationship with Jessica are stronger."

"I can't speak for Lauren," Ben said. "I'm sure she feels the same way about [her husband Chris Lane], but I'm with Jessica and she just expands everything I do. She encourages me. She supports me."

Lauren married country singer Chris Lane in October 2019, and Ben proposed marriage to Jess in March 2020.

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Although Lauren and Ben's relationship didn't work out, Ben said he's so thankful to have appeared on the franchise because it "taught him a lot" and has been "really good" for him. (Ben first competed for Kaitlyn Bristowe's heart on The Bachelorette's eleventh season).

"It's almost scary for me to think of what my life would've been like. This show has been so good to me, and it's taught me so much about myself," Ben said.

"I don't think [I'd be] with my fiancee now if the show didn't happen, just because of random circumstances... [It's been] really fun to celebrate that from the show re-airing. I'm still trying to figure it out, but this was a part of that story and it's been really fun to see that."

In June 2018, Lauren explained her side of the story when it comes to why her romance with Ben failed after The Bachelor. She told Reality Steve spoiler blogger Steve Carbone on his podcast there was not "one main reason" for the fallout.

"It wasn't this bad blood situation or blow-up fight -- it's nothing I can really pinpoint. It just came down to compatibility... I don't necessarily think at the end of the day we were the most compatible," Lauren said at the time.

"Coming out of a show like The Bachelor is very stressful. Then having to rewatch everything adds a whole other level of stress. And then I think the second spinoff show was also a lot of stress."

Ben announced he was in a new relationship in January 2019 and then went Instagram official with Jess the following month.

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Jess just shared on The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons -- Ever! on Monday night that she and Ben are waiting out coronavirus and planning a 2021 wedding.

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