Ben Higgins wants to find love again following his split from Lauren Bushnell — but members of Bachelor Nation are questioning if he’s ready to take the leap.
Since splitting from his ex-fiancée last May following more than a yearlong relationship after season 20 of The Bachelor ended — which included Lauren moving into Ben’s Denver home and the former couple participating in couples counseling — he is dipping his toes back into the dating pool — this time on Bachelor Winter Games.
“The Bachelor worked for me. I fell in love. By the end of the show, I knew I was in love with Lauren and I proposed to her. That was the happiest day of my life. But, Lauren and I faded apart. We broke up in May of 2017,” Ben, 28, said about his May 2017 split from Lauren on Monday night’s premiere episode of the Bachelor spin-off series.
Although Ben admitted that “the breakup still hurts. I still feel it,” he said he’s “ready to turn the page — to find myself again with somebody.”
“The Bachelor helped me fall in love in a way that I never felt before. If there is any place that could help me move on, it’s the Winter Games. The Bachelor and Bachelorette are not just an American thing — there are people coming here from literally all over the world,” he said. “I’m hoping for that spark, for something to ignite within me. I want to be in love again.”
During the Winter Games introduction parade, when each of the contestants from around the globe walked and waved through the downtown area, Ben was asked which ladies he was excited to see. “All of them! Really, it’s great. The Bachelor brings out so many beautiful people,” he said. “They always have and now we have people from all over the world coming together for the first time. It’s gonna be great to hear their stories.”
Host Chris Harrison, who previously spoke out about Ben’s split from Lauren, also felt confident that the former Bachelor could find love in the wintry wonderland: “I think he’ll always have spot in his heart for [Lauren], but he knows it’s time to move on. Hopefully Bachelor Winter Games will help him do just that.”
But unfortunately for Ben, he didn’t click romantically with any members of Bachelor Nation (or … Universe?) in his first few days in the house.
Ahead of the first rose ceremony, when five contestants were sent home in an intense vote-off, some of the women questioned if Ben was indeed ready for romance following his painful split.
“I don’t know what the others girls are voting on, but I look at guys like, gosh, Ben. He has this great presence of him, but I have concerns because he was recently heartbroken,” Bibiana, who quickly hit it off with Kevin, said of Ben. “Is he really at the state where he can talk to anyone? Or even just emotionally available?”
During the cocktail hour, Ben chatted it up with The Bachelor Sweden‘s Rebecca, who directly asked him, “Are you here for love? I just feel like you’ve been a little distant. You’re like hanging out with everybody.”
Ben admitted, “I’ve gotten that from every single person tonight”
“There is a lot of things about this that make me nervous. I mean, I think I’m in jeopardy of going home tonight,” Ben said. “I haven’t connected. I’ve taken a step back at times. I know that there’s some relationships here that are blossoming while I’m just still here.”
Though Ben signed up for Bachelor Winter Games hopeful to find love, he previously admitted to PEOPLE that his relationship with Lauren still impacts how he takes action romantically now.
“It did affect the way I interacted with women [on the show] and it does that in real life,” he said. “Coming off of a breakup, it’s smart to take time to process through things but also to make sure you do know what you’re looking for. I knew that what I was looking for was somebody very similar to what I had before and just a partner, somebody who was patient and kind and willing to go out there and tackle the world side-by-side.”
Looking ahead to future episodes of Bachelor Winter Games, audiences can expect Ben to open up about the breakup.
“I still find myself defending Lauren and our relationship,” a tearful Ben said in a promo teasing future episodes. “As much as I’ve moved on, and I have — I promise that — but for me, it breaks you every day.”
The Bachelor Winter Games airs Tuesdays and Thursdays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.