Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Lauren Burnham's strange relationship

When ABC promised that the finale of The Bachelor season 22 was going to be "the most dramatic" ever, they really weren't kidding! Viewers were left absolutely gobsmacked after Arie Luyendyk Jr. proposed to his chosen winner Becca Kufrin — only to then have a change of heart, callously dump her in front of the cameras and ask runner-up Lauren Burnham to marry him instead. Ouch!

The smooth-talking race car driver has been catching some major heat for allowing producers to film him breaking Kufrin's heart in front of the entire nation. Fans of the show have been making their feelings known: billboards criticizing the flip-flopping former Bachelor popped up in Kufrin's native Minnesota, plus Los Angeles and New York. Needless to say, Luyendyk's relationship with Burnham has been under intense scrutiny from Bachelor Nation ever since.

He and his second bride-to-be in as many months jetted off to Europe to escape the media spotlight, ramping up the PDA as they toured snowy Iceland and beautiful Barcelona. But are they really as happy as they're making out on Instagram? Let's take a look inside their unexpected and unconventional love story.

Their dates were really boring

The way that Arie Luyendyk Jr. came crawling back to Lauren Burnham was particularly shocking to viewers because the pair didn't exactly seem to hit it off. The blonde from Virginia failed to make much of an impression during her time on the show — in fact, according to Vulture, she only had 94 lines of speech in total from start to finish! She became known for her lack of conversation during what were, quite frankly, some pretty boring dates with Luyendyk. To make matters worse, the few times she did manage to string more than a few sentences together, she was something of a downer.

"My parents have been together for over 30 years now, but they haven't had an easy marriage and I've been put between them throughout their struggles and that warped my view of men in general and relationships," she told the man she apparently wanted to marry according to Vulture's list. Quite the sales pitch! While he did admit that there were some "awkward" moments during their dates, Luyendyk was quick to come to his fiancée's defense while speaking with Glamour, revealing that some of their best moments wound up on the cutting room floor.

"On some of the dates, there were some really cute moments that I'll always remember that weren't on TV," Luyendyk said. "That's normal because they have to edit it and make it entertaining, so a lot of the time the drama wins over the romance… The way the Bachelor dates are shown, it is really a summary of the date."

Luyendyk 'forgot' that he'd already met her

Curiously, it wasn't mentioned at all during the run-up to the big season finale, but thanks to a slip of the tongue from Lauren Burnham and some grade-A digging from one dedicated Redditor (via Bustle), we found out that Ari Luyendyk Jr. and Burnham had actually met before — and the bachelor apparently forgot all about it! Love at first sight, it was not.

During the first part of the unforgettable two-night finale, a conversation between the pair seemed to indicate that they became acquainted somewhere in Texas before coming face to face on the show. "It feel like it's been forever since I saw you step out of the limo," Luyendyk said, to which Burnham replied: "I can still picture the first day… me walking up to you and you forgetting that you met me in Dallas."

Burnham's limo entrance was over in a heartbeat, and now we know why: she turned up with a framed photograph of her and Luyendyk together, taken at a race they both attended in Texas. Showrunners decided to cut this moment out, but after Burnham mentioned it and the Bachelor Twitter hashtag exploded with questions, producer Robert Mills was forced to confirm that it was true. "Lauren went to a race in Dallas and met Arie there," he said.

He was in love with two other women

Arie Luyendyk Jr. told Lauren Burnham that he loved her on the show, but he sent her home and proposed to another woman anyway. It wasn't just Burnham's final-two rival Becca Kufrin that he professed his love to, either — Luyendyk also told third place finisher Kendall Long that he was falling in love with her during their dune-buggy date. You'd think that all of this would have been enough to burn bridges with Burnham for good, but despite her initial "reservations" about taking him back, the not-quite-bubbly blonde didn't seem to have any trouble forgiving him.

"I had some reservations at first," she told Michael Strahan during their joint interview on Good Morning America. But, she added, he told her "he thought about me all day, every day and thought he'd made a mistake." The American public haven't been quite as forgiving as Burnham, however. "How much are these girls getting paid for agreeing that this was an okay thing to do on national television?" one disgusted Twitter user asked, and this person's anger has even been echoed by members of the media.

"'I FORGIVE YOU' is what you say when your boyfriend is late to dinner," US Weekly editor Emily Longeretta tweeted. "Not when a guy dumps you on TV, proposes to SOMEONE ELSE, dates them for a MONTH… then comes back." Former Bustle staffer Kerensa Cadenas also chimed in, joking that The Bachelor was turning into an episode of Netflix sci-fi series Black Mirror.

She 'respects' Luyendyk for dumping Kufrin

Lauren Burnham claims that she hasn't actually watched the heart-wrenching footage of Arie Luyendyk Jr. blindsiding Becca Kufrin with the news that he had changed his mind about his proposal, which is pretty understandable given how difficult it is to watch. What isn't understandable is that she actually "respects" Luyendyk for what he did. 

"I totally respect his decision to follow his heart," she told People. "I don't blame him for it, and I think it's made us stronger in the end… I was just like, 'We need to do it, you need to take the risk if this means a lot to you and you need to follow your heart.'"

The trouble is, Luyendyk's heart doesn't always seem to know what it wants, so what's to stop him changing his mind again in the future? Well, according to Burnham, the pair have had conversations about that possibility, and she's convinced that it won't happen because of the way it all went down. 

"It makes things easier for me knowing that he was able to be with Becca outside of this experience and he still knew that wasn't what he wanted," she told the mag. "It gives me confidence in our relationship knowing that he truly wants to be with me and he took this huge risk to make it happen."

Burnham even took some of the blame

In an attempt to deflect the torrent of criticism coming his way, Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. pointed the finger at his new fiancée, blaming her inability to "open up" to him for his controversial flip-flopping. During the couple's joint appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan, a visibly riled Kelly Ripa went in hard on Luyendyk right from the get-go, demanding that he explain his actions to her and the rest of the nation. "I want to understand everything," she said. "What are you thinking? How did this happen? Were you as shady as I think you are now?"

After laughing off her accusations that he had acted shady on the show, Luyendyk suggested that they were both at fault for what happened. "Lauren had trouble opening up on the show a little bit and our relationship developed late," Luyendyk said. "I was always sort of vying for her affection, and I felt like my feelings were always ahead of her feelings." Amazingly, Burnham backed him up, holding her hands up and accepting some of the responsibility. "I had a hard time expressing myself to him," she added, presenting a united front. "I feel like I take some of the credit for that too."

He was 'pressured' into proposing to somebody

If Arie Luyendyk Jr. wasn't 100 percent certain that he wanted to marry Becca Kufrin, then why did he bother proposing to her? Couldn't he just have been honest and asked to date for a while to see how it developed? It's a question Luyendyk  has faced multiple times since season 22 of the show came to an end, and his answer is simple — producer pressure. Luyendyk claims that he felt forced into making a proposal to one of the finalists, when in truth he wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to.

"This is such a crazy experience; to go from this heartbreak, this big breakup, to do a proposal on the same day," he said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "I feel like, for me, that wasn't very natural." Former Bachelor Nick Viall is one of the few people who has come out in support of Luyendyk's actions, backing up his claims that you feel obliged to get down on one knee, not just because of the producers, but for the fans too.

"There's no denying that every lead feels the pressure to get engaged, and that doesn't necessarily come from producers," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I think every lead is aware of the fact that the only two people who didn't get engaged — Brad Womack and Juan Pablo [Galavis] — weren't well-received. Bachelor Nation is opinionated, and they weirdly kind of demand an engagement so they feel like they didn't waste their time."

They want a TV wedding

In years gone by, numerous stars of The Bachelor have gone on to feature on Dancing With The Stars after their quest for love ended, giving them the opportunity to further their fame. Seeing as Arie Luyendyk Jr. was public enemy number one after his season, many expected him to use a stint on Dancing With The Stars as a platform to show America that he wasn't actually a bad guy after all — but the Arizona resident decided to turn them down.

"I think I made it pretty clear that I'm not going to do Dancing With The Stars," he told Extra at the Firestone Grand Prix, INDYCAR's season opener. "I'm pretty confident that my TV career is probably coming to an end, just because we want to settle down… I want to focus on [Burnham] and our relationship." Sensible move, right? Luyendyk revealed that the couple were moving in together and were happy to be doing so away from the cameras. But his claims that they were done with TV have been contradicted by an E! News source.

According to one insider, the happy couple are "heavily pushing" for a televised wedding ceremony and have already started looking for a suitable venue. "It's going to happen before the end of [2018], if not sooner," the whistle-blower revealed in April of that year. "They are still waiting to get confirmation from ABC for the TV special." A second source added that they want the whole thing beamed out to viewers so they can "show the world how real their love is."

The April Fools pregnancy prank

Just when it looks like Arie Luyendyk Jr. couldn't possibly be hated anymore than he already is, he goes and proves everyone wrong! In what turned out to be a serious lack of good judgement, Luyendyk played an April Fools prank on social media, claiming that he and Lauren Burnham were already expecting their first child together. "Secrets finally out," he tweeted alongside a picture of a blonde woman cradling a baby bump, "we have a bunny in the oven!" He came clean within a matter of hours, but by then the damage had already been done.

"You both are disgusting," one outraged Twitter user replied. "As someone who struggles with fertility and would love nothing more than to have a baby this is so offensive." She wasn't alone in her disgust, either. "That is THE worst thing to joke about when so many people are unable to conceive or have miscarried," another user posted. Others were quick to see through the ruse, but let Luyendyk have it anyway: "We knew you were lying… just like you lied to Becca about being in love with her." Oof.

As the negative comments continued to pile up, Luyendyk tried to draw a line under the whole thing and make amends, apologizing to anyone who was personally offended by his post. "I do have sympathy for women struggling from infertility," he said. "My April Fools prank was in no way meant to offend women who struggle with that."

Will they last?

Given the circumstances, the strangest thing about Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Lauren Burnham's relationship is that it could actually last. According to body language expert Blanca Cobb, Luyendyk's interactions with Burnham were far more genuine than they were with jilted publicist Becca Kufrin. "You do not need to put your hand on a person's hip to show them how to bowl," Cobb said of one of their dates (via Cosmopolitan). "You only touch this area — which I call the pleasure zone — when you're attracted to someone… Only time will tell whether any couple will last, but Lauren and Arie look like they're off to a good start."

Not everybody agrees with Cobb's expert opinion, however. Kelly Ripa doesn't think the couple will last any longer than 100 days, and Luyendyk's ex-girlfriend Giustina Lee agrees. "Arie has a little bit of Peter Pan syndrome in him, he never wants to grow up," Lee (who was dumped by Luyendyk four times between 2013 and 2017) told The Daily Mail in a candid interview. "He thinks of himself as a perpetual bachelor like George Clooney was known as before he married, [but] he is no George Clooney."

Surprisingly, the couple have received blessings from the last person you'd expect — the rejected Becca Kufrin. "If they want to make it work, then they will, and I hope they're strong enough to get through it all," Kufrin told People. "They're going to be together and do their thing… At the end of the day, I do forgive him."