“I bet Jess has asked me about the show less than five times in our four years together,” the “Almost Famous” podcast cohost, 33, tells Us Weekly exclusively while sharing Clarke’s thoughts on the franchise. “Like, [she’s] never watched [it].”
Her mother, however, was a fan of The Bachelor and the esthetician actually got her first look at her future husband when his season aired in 2016. “She watched one episode [of] my season when she was in college, and her mom claims that Jessica walked in the room and [said], ‘I could date that guy,'” Higgins recounted. “Her mom said that was shocking, because Jessica never spoke like that. Like, [she] never spoke openly about who she was into or what she’s into.”
The comment made such an impact on Clarke’s mother that when Higgins slid into her DMs years later, she encouraged her daughter to respond. “Her mom was like, ‘Whoa, that’s … a weird [full] circle moment,'” the TV personality continued. “[She said], ‘You should message him back. See what happens.’ And then we’re married.”
Just over one year after the Indiana native reached out to Clarke via Instagram, Us confirmed in March 2020 that the pair were engaged. “Every Thanksgiving from now on, I’ll remember the first message you sent me!” she wrote via Instagram in November of that year, while reflecting on their online introduction. “Waking up 2 years ago and seeing a DM from a random stranger, I never imagined I’d be marrying him.”
“Thank you for supporting me in following my dreams, loving me on my most tired days, making me a better person, and always making me feel like I am good enough just as I am,” Clarke continued. “This photo is from last year when we were traveling all of the time. I remember being so worried that one day life would slow down and we wouldn’t know what to do with one another, but this year I’ve learned that those slow days are my favorite.”
The couple tied the knot in Nashville in November 2021, with many members of Bachelor Nation in attendance. Despite their friendship with many other couples involved with the franchise, Higgins has previously stated that Clarke has no plans to watch his season — or any season — of The Bachelor.
“It’s not hard for me to watch back because I know what to expect. But Jess will not be watching it, she doesn’t have a desire to watch it,” the Alone in Plain Sight author told Us in June 2020. “She is my partner, and I want her to know that, I don’t want her to feel any sort of heartbreak or sadness from that. So … she will not be watching it. I think she’s decided … And if she wanted to, I’d let her. I mean, I don’t really want to tell her what to do.”
Higgins proposed to Lauren Bushnell on the March 2016 finale of The Bachelor, but the pair called it quits just over one year later. “I would say the joy that we felt toward our relationship at the beginning was — for some reason — slipping away,” Higgins revealed his podcast at the time. “And we were both working very hard to bring that joy back. And it just never seemed to get there.”
Though it didn’t work out with Bushnell, 32, the Bachelor: Winter Games alum doesn’t regret his time as the Bachelor as the experience eventually led him to find love. “It was all on my way to Jess,” he said. “And I’ll see it that way. I believe it’s that way. I believe everything led me to this point in my life.”
Being part of the show also introduced him to friend Nick Viall, who he will compete with on the new E! Show, Celebrity Beef. Hosted by Joel McHale, the series will see two celebrity contestants face off each week as they go head-to-head in a cook-off to settle their beef once and for all, in the most delicious way possible. During the competition the pair will give insight into their rivalry, although Higgins confessed that he and the “Viall Files” host, 41, have a friendlier feud than most.
“I don’t know if this helps or hurts the show, but Nick politely asked me to join him,” the Indiana University alum joked. “We’re friends with a rivalry that is healthy.”
Viall, however, teased that Higgins was willing to play dirty when it came time to compete: “I know Ben and I know that he likes to be like a really sweet person and everyone thinks he’s all sweet, [but] I know he’s got a dark vindictive side. Part of me was like proud of him, but also it really, it really, really messed with my mojo.”
Celebrity Beef airs on E! Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi