Matt James is working to address his demons before he gets down on one knee. On Monday's episode of The Bachelor, ahead of his Fantasy Suite dates with Michelle, Bri and Rachael, Matt had a difficult conversation with his father, Manny, who was absent throughout some of his childhood.
Before Manny showed up to chat with Matt, the Bachelor explained how seeing his parents' relationship growing up has previously affected his romantic life.
"I guard myself. When tough conversations came up, I ran from them," Matt said. "There’s still a lot of fear about what a long-term commitment looks like based on what I’ve seen in my family in the past. That’s not healthy. That’s not fair to me. It’s not fair to the women I’m pursuing."
"... That’s not something I want to carry with me. Harboring that negativity in my life hasn’t progressed any of my relationships. It’s hindered my growth," he added. "For me to move forward, I need to address those demons in my life. Hopefully today’s the first step in doing that."
While the conversation began with Manny expressing his pride in Matt and wanting to "celebrate" his son's journey, Matt quickly revealed the real reason he'd asked his dad to come.
"I want to have a family. I want to be a dad. I want to be a father. What that means to me is showing up, having tough conversations, being there," Matt said while getting emotional. "... When I needed you, you weren't there to have those conversations. You started other families. That affected me. I need to know where your head was at, so I don't make those same mistakes going forward."
Manny responded by saying he doesn't want Matt to make "that same mistake," before noting that his own dad was killed when he was five, that he didn't experience what it meant to have a dad, and that Matt's mom, Patty, left with the kids one day.
"For good reason! Who wants to be with someone who’s not going to be faithful to them?" Matt exclaimed. "... I thank God that she had the courage to stand up for herself and do something because of the situation you put her in."
Things turned heated from there, with Manny saying he's "not proud" of his past actions and Matt tearfully lamenting to the cameras that his comments don't "seem to be hitting home" with his dad.
"I remember growing up, he'd come around every now and then, drop off some shoes, pizza," Matt said while sobbing. "I didn't need shoes, man. I didn't need any shoes. I didn't need any pizza. I needed a dad."
Matt continued his conversation with his dad by saying that growing up without him "hardened my heart," adding that he doesn't want that feeling to "rear its head down the road" of his new relationship.
After a few seconds of tense silence, Manny emotionally said, "I agree with you, son... I tried, Matt. I tried. I'm sorry I hurt you, son... Whatever I can do to make it better, I'll work on it, because I want you to be happy for the rest of your life. I want you to have a relationship that's healthy and not like what I went through."
"I want you to be a part of any relationship I'm in going forward, and in my kids' lives going forward," Matt replied. "You're my dad. As much as I missed out on in our relationship, there's still a lot of life for both of us to live. I forgive you."
The men ended the conversation with a hug and playful jokes about who would beat whom at soccer.
"One conversation isn't going to change the way someone thinks or feels about something... This was a great starting point for my dad and I," Matt told the cameras. "Moving forward, it just confirms for me that I’m not the man that my dad is. Just because I’m his son, doesn’t mean I have to follow in his footsteps."
Shortly before Matt's conversation with his father, he took to Twitter to address the meeting, and add some context and perspective.
"Tonight’s convo with my dad was hard to experience, and it’s just as hard to watch all this time later, especially knowing the world is watching with me," Matt wrote on Monday evening. "I just wanted to say that too often, we see dangerous stereotypes and negative depictions of Black fathers in media. And they have consequences when presented without context."
"All I hope is that people watch that conversation with nuance, care, and also an understanding that there are real systemic issues at play," he added. "I’m so proud of myself for being vulnerable, and I’m so proud of my mother. I wouldn’t be who I am without my dad. That’s a fact."
Tonight’s convo with my dad was hard to experience, and it’s just as hard to watch all this time later, especially knowing the world is watching with me.
All I hope is that people watch that conversation with nuance, care, and also an understanding that there are real systemic issues at play. I’m so proud of myself for being vulnerable, and I’m so proud of my mother. I wouldn’t be who I am without my dad. That’s a fact.