Fans can thank Emily Maynard for encouraging Arie Luyendyk Jr. to become the Bachelor.
Though Maynard chose Jef Holm over him on her season of The Bachelorette in 2012 (she later married Tyler Johnson and recently gave birth to their third child together), according to Luyendyk, five years without the love he shared with Maynard inspired him to return to the Bachelor franchise.
"I haven't felt that same feeling that I had when I was on The Bachelorette. It really drove me to do this," he confessed exclusively to ET's Lauren Zima during his first official Bachelor photo shoot in September, right before filming began. "[The show] gave me the time to really put myself in front of somebody and shut everything [out] and not worry about work and all the other pressures of life."
"That's what makes it so amazing," Luyendyk continued. "You can really solely concentrate on finding somebody."
As for whether the 36-year-old race car driver has actually spoken with Maynard in recent years, that's another story.
"If she calls, I'll answer, but no, I haven't talked to her," he admitted. "We sort of went our separate ways after the show, and that's fine. She has a beautiful life, and I kind of kept up on social media a little bit... I really am close to John Wolfner and then Sean Lowe [from his season]. I've been leaning on Sean and John for a little bit of advice."
While Luyendyk says he hasn't been in love since his romance with Maynard, he found himself under fire following his Bachelor announcement, when rumors swirled that he'd dumped his girlfriend, Sydney Stempfley, just to be on the show. Stempfley later told ET that the pair had split weeks before the big news.
"Break ups are always hard. There's always one person that cared for the other person more," Luyendyk reflected. "I'd been single for more than a month and a half, and from the time they first called me to the time I was announced was less than a week. My life just changed so quickly."
"It's frustrating to read some things, but that's going to happen," he conceded.
Looking forward to his season of The Bachelor, Luyendyk -- who was known as "The Kissing Bandit" on The Bachelorette -- dished that "chemistry is big for me," and that we might even see him say "I love you" to more than one woman!
"I think it's possible," he shared. "I wouldn't typically, in a normal situation, but I guess it's possible."
Luyendyk is keeping his fantasy suite cards closer to his chest. "Maybe none," he said of how many women he'll get intimate with in the fantasy suites. But one thing's for sure, he's looking to end his season with an engagement.
"I hope so," he gushed. "I hope so!"
The Bachelor returns Monday, Jan. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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