During a surprising joint appearance following their breakup on Tuesday's episode of the "Off the Vine with Kaitlyn Bristowe" podcast, Clayton shared how his "shortcomings" and "weaknesses" came to light onThe Bachelor, such as his need to please people.
"I had no business being the Bachelor with the person that I was then... The person I [am] now would have handled things 100 times better," Clayton said, adding how he feels he packed 10 years of growth into the last year.
Clayton was criticized and slammed during his time as the Bachelor for telling all of his Final 3 women that he loved them and for sleeping with both Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia before his last Fantasy Suite date with Susie, whom he was supposedly the "most in love" with all along.
Clayton called the backlash "overwhelming" but said, "I wouldn't have been held accountable if I wasn't placed in a spotlight where everyone could see every single corner of who I was -- every piece of me."
"I do think it all happens for a reason," the mental health coach and former medical sales representative noted.
"I think I wouldn't have been able to get through what I got through with anybody other than Susie. She was the only person that was going to help me see what I saw. And she was the only person that was going to keep me from going off the rails and doing something extremely drastic."
Clayton acknowledged, "Because I had very dark thoughts from the show, moments where I said, you know, 'It'd be better off if I just ended things.'"
Clayton expressed how he was grateful for Susie's love and support over the last eight months or so, when he was questioning who he is "because of all the negativity."
Clayton shared, "I started to believe some of what was being said about me... The fact that I had her with me as I was thinking that, I'm like, 'What if I didn't have her?' You know, 'Where would I have been then?'"
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"There was so much pain and so much hatred towards both of us, individually and then together," Susie added. "And some people liked him and some people liked me. Very few people liked us together."
On The Bachelor's 26th season, Susie quit before her overnight Fantasy Suite date with Clayton, only to return to the show at the Final Rose Ceremony to reject his final rose.
Susie said at the time that Clayton wasn't her person and they didn't seem meant to be.
However, Susie reached out to Clayton post-filming seeking some answers, and the pair reconciled. They later put on a united front during the live March taping of After the Final Rose, and then Clayton moved to Virginia Beach to live with Susie.
Clayton pointed out on Kaitlyn's podcast how it was nearly impossible to please everyone around them once they were dating in the real world.
"[It was tough] to please everybody around you -- the show, the fans, your interpersonal relationships, like your loved ones and all that. You're trying to explain to everybody but you know you can only say so much, because there are some things we can't talk about," Clayton said, adding how he almost felt shackles weighing him down.
"I couldn't just breathe a sigh of relief because I was, like, 'There's always something that we're combating.'"
For instance, Clayton was accused of cheating on Susie early in their relationship. Susie appeared to have Clayton's back through the scandal, and he was ultimately able to disprove the allegation with some time and effort.
"The cheating scandal -- that was treacherous to our relationship. That really hurt us because it was just one more thing that piled on," Clayton explained.
"But it was just one thing after the next and then [The Bachelorette] came on. And then it was like, you know, 'Clayton sucks.'"
Clayton was referring to how Gabby and Rachel's Night 1 bachelors made fun of Clayton during their limo entrances. A children's choir even sang about how Clayton sucks.
"That hurts, those comments, because what that does is that then brings the focus back onto us. And then people online are like, 'Yeah, he does suck.' Even if it's all in good fun... no, that still has impact. Because people will take that comment... and tweet about it," Clayton noted.
Clayton said while a lot of people saw "happiness online" through the former couple's social media activity, he and Susie "had a lot of dark days."
"One of us was taking heat for something in our DMs [at any given time] and so we had to be there for each other. But while that was happening, we were also taking heat in our [own] DMs," he recalled.
Clayton said "all of the chatter and noise" was a lot for them, and while fans often say reality TV stars "know what they sign up for" by going on a dating show, Clayton argued, "No, we don't know what we signed up for."
He elaborated, "I could never have imagined that I was going to get thousands of death threats in my DMs. I couldn't have imagined that I was going to spend the vast majority of my relationship trying to convince Susie, like, 'Hey, I'm going to be better once I heal.'"
In July, Clayton told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper he was "disgusted" with how he was portrayed onThe Bachelor and "would never, ever" do the show again.
The Bachelor fans suspected there was trouble in paradise between Clayton and Susie in August, when Clayton revealed on an episode of Amanda Hirsch's "Not Skinny But Not Fat" podcast that he and Susie had decided to stop living together and were going to move to different states to pursue their passions.
Clayton moved to Scottsdale, AZ, and the wedding videographer relocated to Los Angeles, CA.
The couple hoped to come out stronger on the other end, but then they decided to split. Susie and Clayton went into detail on Kaitlyn's podcast about why they broke up.
But Susie concluded, "There are things private to us that we will probably never talk about... and I think that's healthy and protects our mental health and what we have struggled with... We want to respect each other's boundaries."