When Lauren Bushnell and Ben Higgins returned to the small screen for yet another reality show just a few months after getting engaged on TV, she had her reservations.
“I didn’t really want to do it, to be honest,” Bushnell, 27, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue of the former couple’s Freeform reality show, Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After?, which premiered last October — just a little more than six months after the season finale of The Bachelor.
“I wanted to move on with our life and just have a moment that was just about us,” she adds.
“I was like, ‘I can still do it. There’s so much love there for one another. If I can get through The Bachelor, I can get through this no problem — at least we get to spend time together,’ ” she recalls. “But that was a really high-stress situation. I didn’t feel like I got the support that I needed when we were filming that — just from everyone.”
“That was rehashed again,” says Bushnell. “I felt like we were stuck in this place that happened seven months ago that I was trying to move forward from.”
“There were certain situations I didn’t want to continue talking about,” she adds. “I understand people want to know these answers, but at the same time I really wanted to make this relationship work.”
For more from Lauren Bushnell, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
At the time, the show provided a platform for Higgins, who made moves to run for the Colorado state legislature as a Republican before ultimately backing out. But according to Bushnell, neither she nor Higgins were ready to be surrounded by cameras again.
“I don’t think either of us were craving another reality show or having cameras around us at all times,” she says. “[Running for local office] was something that he did really want to do, and I wanted to be supportive of that aspect … I was trying to be supportive of his goals and dreams, and if that meant having to do a reality show for four months [I told myself], ‘It’s not ideal, but I can do it.’ “
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Ultimately, however, it wasn’t as easy as she had hoped, and Bushnell admits she experienced a sense of isolation while filming the Freeform spin-off.
“I felt very alone,” she says. “It was the weirdest thing. Looking back, I wish I could be like, ‘That’s why it didn’t work out’ — but I think it was just a very abnormal situation and one that unfortunately [didn’t work out]. I mean, we tried. We went to couples counseling. We continued that after the show and I went to personal counseling. I feel like we gave it everything we could, just at the end of the day, it didn’t feel right anymore.”
—With AURELIE CORINTHIOS