Matt James Says He Didn't Experience Love Until 'The Bachelor': Why He's Ready for Marriage (Exclusive)

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The new Bachelor Matt James admits in a promo for his season that he's never been in love before. But as he told ET's Lauren Zima on Monday, he actually did find it on the show. (Whether he's in love now is something fans will have to tune in for.)

"Love to me looked different before I got to Nemacolin [where the show filmed] because of what I experienced up to that point," Matt said. "And yes, I guess I'd say I haven't experienced love until I got out there." 

Matt is new to the Bachelor franchise, having never previously appeared on The Bachelorette or another spinoff. Fans don't know much about the commercial real estate broker, but he does reveal in promos that he has had trouble opening up in the past due to the trauma over his parents' split when he was a young child. 

"That was huge," he said of how it has affected him. "That was kind of a crutch coming into this. Like, I don't want to force something. I don't want to put myself in a situation to hurt somebody or be hurt, and that was a realization I came to in quarantine. You're never going to be more so or less so ready to experience this. You just gotta go into it, and I'm glad I did."

In a recent interview with ET, host Chris Harrison likened Matt's journey to that of Ben Higgins in 2016, sharing that the new lead was "stripped naked emotionally." 

"There is a lot of depth and a lot of issues that we have to get over," Chris shared. "I was trying to think of another Bachelor, maybe like a Ben Higgins of a guy that went on this journey and all of a sudden kind of got stripped naked emotionally and realized, 'Wow, there are a lot of things I have to deal with in my life to get to where I want to be in a relationship.'" 

Matt agreed, confessing the process broke him down "1000 percent." 

"It really did break me down. There were a lot of conversations that I had, that I needed to have that I hadn't had and I wasn't planning on having," he explained. "But that's where this whole experience took me, and I'm so fortunate for it."

"I grew up as a man, and it allowed me to be vulnerable for these women and so I could experience what I experienced," Matt added. 

So, does that mean Matt's ready for marriage? Before The Bachelor, he was living it up in New York City with his best friend, Tyler Cameron. And then earlier this year, the pair made headlines with their Quarantine Crew high jinks on TikTok. 

"Absolutely [I'm ready for marriage]," Matt declared. "That's why I came out there. And I don't think that anyone is more so ready or not, it's something that you just know when you experience it."

The ABC Food Tours co-founder says he's a different man now than he was when he started his Bachelor journey, but it's not a "maturity thing." "I think it's more so me taking ownership of those experiences -- like, being OK with where I'm at." 

The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. 

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