‘Bachelor’ Matt James: Seeing Rachael Kirkconnell ‘hit me like a ton of bricks’

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“Bachelor” Matt James said seeing ex Rachael Kirkconnell on Monday’s “After the Final Rose” special had “hit [him] like a ton of bricks.”

James, 29, the franchise’s first Black “Bachelor,” ended his historic season by giving the final rose to Kirkconnell, a 24-year-old graphic designer. James later ended the relationship after pictures of Kirkconnell attending a 2018 plantation-themed party surfaced online.

When asked Tuesday on “Good Morning America” what was going through his mind during “After the Final Rose,” James said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt the weight of everything that I was carrying throughout the season and with what we were dealing with as a country, and having to explain that, why it was problematic to me and our relationship, which was extremely difficult.”

Kirkconnell, who called James the “love of [her] life” following the breakup, appeared on “After the Final Rose” with James and host Emmanuel Acho, who replaced the embattled Chris Harrison.

“If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me that you won’t understand,” James said of the 3-year-old photos. “I stepped back and let her do the work she’s committed to doing.”

Although James, a commercial real estate broker, didn’t propose to Kirkconnell, he thought about their future, which crumbled in the wake of the images coming to light.

“I think when you’re dating somebody, that’s what you’re hoping for, so, anytime I’m in a relationship with somebody, it’s because marriage is the ultimate goal, and when you find out things like I did, that deters you from the ultimate goal because, like I stated during ‘After the Final Rose,’ there’s just things that you might not understand what it means to be with someone like me,” James said Tuesday.

As for missing the opportunity to explore other relationships on the show, James stated, “The conversations that have come from everything that’s taken place are more important than anything I could’ve left with. And if that means that if I leave under the circumstances that I left with, then so be it.”

On Monday’s “Bachelor” finale, James said goodbye to fan-favorite Michelle Young, who has been tapped as “The Bachelorette” of Season 18. Katie Thurston, who also appeared on James’ season, will star in Season 17.

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