Rachael Kirkconnell received the final rose from Matt James on the 25th season of The Bachelor, but her relationship with him was exceedingly short-lived. Before the finale aired, James broke things off with Kirkconnell amid a firestorm of controversy surrounding actions in her past.
Both James and Kirkconnell spoke about the painful breakup during the show’s “After the Final Rose” special, but Kirkconnell continued the dialogue with a heartfelt post on Instagram just minutes after the special finished airing on the East Coast.
The lengthy caption on the post shared disappointment that controversy overshadowed other women on the show. Kirkconnell also expressed understanding for James’ decision to end the relationship, despite reiterating that she believes James is the “love of her life” — something she said during the “After the Final Rose” special too.
Her statement read in part:
“i knew from the first night i met matt that he was something special, and i was praying to share something exceptional between the two of us if that’s what was meant to be. while i never expected this outcome, i respect his decision completely. of course i wish circumstances were different, but i still feel blessed for the time we did have together and the memories we made. i got to fall in love, and i truly believe he was the love of my life. he will always hold a piece of my heart. i’ll always be hopeful and believe what’s meant to be will be.”
During the “After the Final Rose” special, James said the most disappointing part of his relationship with Kirkconnell came when he attempted to explain to her why he felt her actions were problematic and she didn’t understand.
Viewers Had Mixed Opinions of Kirkconnell’s On-Air Apology
Like just about everything surrounding the Kirkconnell controversy that eventually enveloped Chris Harrison as well, fans are far from unanimous in their thoughts on how the situation has been handled.
The “After the Final Rose” special sparked another wave of mixed opinions when Kirkconnell’s apology wasn’t reciprocated by James. While she called him the “love of her life,” James said that it’s not his responsibility to help her educate herself.
Many felt that was a cold and heartless reaction from James, who should’ve been more forgiving of Kirkconnell’s previous mistakes. But others felt Kirkconnell was attempting to be emotionally manipulative during the conversation, particularly when she put her hand on his shoulder to comfort him.
With Harrison stepping aside from his role as host indefinitely, ABC is set to replace him with Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe as co-hosts of the upcoming season of The Bachelorette.
Harrison expressed a desire to return to his hosting duties during an appearance on Good Morning America, and until he does (if ever) it means conversations surrounding the controversy will prevail beyond the 25th season of The Bachelor. And fans will likely continue to have vastly different opinions about how ABC, Harrison, James, and Kirkconnell should’ve handled the situation.