Colton Underwood is not quite ready to say those three magic words, but he’s close.
The Bachelor season 23 lead, 27, raised eyebrows on social media after expressing his feelings to his final four women and their families during the Monday, February 25, hometowns episode of the ABC dating series.
Underwood told Caelynn Miller-Keyes’ and Hannah Godwin’s fathers that he was “falling in love” with their daughters. He then revealed to Tayshia Adams directly that he had the same feelings for her. All three women shared similar sentiments with Underwood, but things went awry later in the episode when frontrunner Cassie Randolph refused to tell him she was in love with him before she was “100 percent confident.”
The former NFL player took to Twitter on Monday to defend his decision to tell the ladies how he felt, writing: “PSA: ‘falling in love’ is much different than ‘I’m in love or I love you’ #TheBachelor.”
Kaitlyn Bristowe also stood up for Underwood by explaining how unique the Bachelor and Bachelorette process is. “There’s a difference between falling in love with 4 people and deeply loving one,” the 33-year-old, who served as the season 11 Bachelorette, explained on Twitter. “Have you ever been in a situation where you had the opportunity to exhaust 4 different relationships, meet families & continue to pursue that many women? When it’s the ‘format,’ it’s possible.”
Underwood also faced backlash during the episode for asking his contestants’ fathers for permission to propose to them. “STOP ASKING MALE PATERNAL FIGURES FOR ‘PERMISSION’ TO MARRY A WOMAN,” one fan tweeted. “(Yes, this is the hill I will die on.) #TheBachelor.”
But the Legacy Foundation creator didn’t stand down. “Those are my values and beliefs. These women are independent and can clearly make decisions on their own, however, it’s a respect thing,” he replied. “I can only pray that if I have a daughter the man that asks her to marry her has a conversation with men first.”
Another viewer wondered why Underwood didn’t get his final four’s mothers’ permission as well, to which he wrote back, “SPOILER ALEERT: I did.”
Being the bearer of red roses hasn’t been an easy journey for the athlete. Earlier this month, Underwood admitted exclusively to Us Weekly that “just because I have the title of Bachelor, doesn’t mean I’m invincible to having my heart broken.” He added: “Going through this has taught me that we aren’t invincible and it’s sort of been a humbling experience for me.”
The Bachelor airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.