By Kristen Baldwin
September 12, 2018 at 03:07 PM EDT
Credit: ABC

In one of the most romantic moments on Tuesday night’s Bachelor in Paradise finale, model Jordan Kimball got down on one knee and proposed to Jenna Cooper. Unfortunately for Kimball and his fans watching at home, the proposal was tarnished by a report on Reality Steve’s blog alleging that Cooper was in a relationship with another man even as she accepted Kimball’s ring. (Cooper denied the allegations in a statement to PEOPLE.) Though Kimball says he still doesn’t know whether or not the texts featured in the Reality Steve story — reportedly between Cooper and another man — are real or “fake,” he has made the decision to end his relationship with Cooper.

“I’m removing myself from the relationship with intentions to take care of myself and find my happiness,” says Kimball, who is quick to add that he wants to be respectful of Cooper and their relationship. “I will not lash out, I will not try to convince people that she is a bad person. You will not see me pursue any kind of vengeance on her. I care about Jenna. Everyone saw me fall at first sight for her and I will never deny that. Just because this has happened does not mean that I will discount how I felt for her. I will not try to play it off that it doesn’t hurt. I would be doing the love that I felt for her an injustice if I were to say that I didn’t feel strongly about this.”

Though Cooper has told him that the text messages are fake, Kimball says he does not want to remain “in limbo” by staying in the relationship. “I just can’t wait and hold on to see if this is fake. I allowed myself to be played, but I will not allow myself to be fooled by this. If this turns out to be fake, then hey, it’s a good thing that I didn’t lash out at her,” he says. “But I cannot take a chance with my heart.”

Kimball, whose rapid-fire monologues and confidence in gold-lamé underpants quickly made him a fan favorite on The Bachelorette, fell hard for Cooper the moment he saw her come down the stairs on Bachelor in Paradise, and he says he never had any reason to doubt her feelings while filming the show in Mexico. “There’s no denying it, between castmates and producers that this was the real deal,” he says. “I asked her a question, I said, ‘Do you really love me?’ and she said yes. I really thought that she was reciprocating that and I thought that I can see it. Sometimes your eyes tell yourself what the heart wants to hear. Maybe that’s what happened. I’m not sure. If this was proven fake, maybe I wasn’t lying to myself.”

He and Cooper have not seen each other for about two weeks, but Kimball says they are working on arranging a date to get together in person and talk through the situation. “She got my one and only engagement. I owe this the respect that it’s due. Seeing her, giving her that hug, giving her that kiss on the forehead and saying hey, you were a part of my life,” he says. “I think that it’s important for me to see her and to talk to her and just get closure to this whole thing.”

Even if the texts do turn out to be fake, Kimball says he’s not sure that a reconciliation is possible. For now, he just wants to take care of himself and his broken heart. “I’ve got to act on what my intuition tells me, I’ve got to act on what my emotions tell me,” he says. “And this right now is what’s right for me. I have to let this go.”

As for those fans hoping that Kimball might be a future candidate for The Bachelor, the model has no interest in discussing that possibility at the moment — but he is very grateful for the support. “Anyone that has love for me, I have love for them back,” he says. “I appreciate that people want to see me find love. I do appreciate that very much.”

Episode Recaps

Bachelor in Paradise

Chris Harrison goes international with a cast of former bachelors and bachelorettes looking for love… and a chance to extend their reality fame.

  • TV Show
  • 5
  • ABC