Michael received a one-on-one date with Katie on Monday night's episode of The Bachelorette, and he tugged at viewers' heartstrings by sharing the story of how his late wife, Laura Ritter-Allio, died from breast cancer in January 2019 when their son James, now four, was very young.
During Tuesday's episode of the Bachelor Happy Hour podcast hosted by Season 14 The Bachelorette star Becca Kufrin -- who said "the world needs more men like Michael" -- Michael opened up about his decision to compete for Katie's heart on Season 17.
"I never applied for this. It was never something I had in my plan whatsoever, and producers reached out to me," Michael explained to Becca and her guest co-host, The Bachelor alum Catherine Giudici.
"At first, all I really saw was downside risk, that's kind of how I think. But it was one of those things where 2019 was really difficult and 2020 was really difficult and it felt like the perfect time to bet on myself, take a risk, get outside of my box, and try to find some ways to grow and find love and that missing piece in my life that is really so vital."
Producers apparently reached out to Michael via Instagram in attempt to cast him on The Bachelorette.
"Crazy enough, I actually said 'no' to [the show] twice, not because I didn't believe in it. It was just, 'Is this how I want to go about finding that missing piece?' It's such an absurd idea, but it's sort of a really beautiful thing too," Michael said.
Michael recalled his journey to getting on the show being a bit "unorthodox" because he wanted a blessing from both his own parents as well as his in-laws.
After all, Laura -- whom Michael met in college and married in 2012 -- was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and died only two years later after a fierce battle in which the couple had traveled the country in search of a cure.
"We all really leaned on each other and have kind of grown over the past three years. When producers reached out to me to be on this show with Katie and everything, I wanted to ask [my in-laws] first about their opinion. And so after going back and forth and trying to figure out the pros and cons and all of that, I went to my parents [for advice]," Michael recalled.
"I asked, 'Is this something I should do?' And we went back and forth a bunch. My parents have always been so incredibly supportive, they're really good people, and my mom and sister, I believe, they said, 'I hear everything you're saying, but every time you're talking about this, you're smiling.'"
"There's a lot of people who are affected with it in my world -- people that I really love and cherish, and so I did say that before I decided to go on the show, I wouldn't go on unless my in-laws have given me full approval," Michael shared.
"Basically, like, this is my out to do something that may make me feel uncomfortable but they were supportive, too. They understand that we've all been through some very crazy moments together."
Michael said his in-laws know how much he supported them and loved their daughter, Laura.
"They're amazing because they wanted to see me, you know, find happiness again and I think everybody needs somebody to help them navigate life," Michael added.
Michael went on to reveal how he knew he was ready to open his heart again and give love another shot after his wife's tragic death.
"For anybody that's ever lost somebody, their process is all very, very different. For me, I am very proactive in trying to, you know, get better. A lot of that has to do with putting yourself in awkward situations and kind of forcing you to grow," Michael told Becca and Catherine.
"Maybe, you know, five months after Laura passed, I actually went on my first date -- not because I wanted to find somebody but because I wanted to feel that experience," Michael continued.
"When you've been with the same person for 16 years, you know, everything's different. You don't have the same inside jokes when someone touches you on the shoulder, they smell different."
Michael admitted going through these different experiences and sensations for the first time is "really shocking" and "scary."
Michael therefore said he spent a lot of 2019 putting himself in similar situations and they turned out to be not as bad as he had thought.
Michael pointed out it's "totally valid" for people to question whether he's had enough time to heal from his wife's passing, but he believes, "Time itself doesn't heal."
"I mean, sometimes you just have to acknowledge the fact that you're not whole but it doesn't mean you can't be happy or you can't grow. And I would really say that I'm thankful that I spent that time to find a way to progress," Michael shared.
"I put that kind of work in when it was most uncomfortable and most awkward... early on so that it would make me ready to go through this journey. And once I got there, I felt like I was ready and I was prepared, and I wasn't wasting anybody's time."
Katie gave a rose to the 36-year-old business owner from Akron, OH, towards the end of their one-on-one date, and Michael told Katie that their love story could be totally "unique" and "special."
Michael expressed how it would be a gift to be able to love twice, and Katie was absolutely taken with Michael's words and outlook on life.
Michael called The Bachelorette star "extraordinary" and pictured himself being able to love her, and Katie in turn gushed in a confessional, "I think this could be the start of me falling in love with Michael, and it's so unexpected!"
Click here to learn more about Michael, and also click here to read spoilers on Katie's The Bachelorette season and find out who finished as her winner and whether the pair got engaged.