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Clayton Echard: Why I Didn’t End Things With Gabby and Rachel Sooner — and How Susie Felt Watching (Exclusive)

For Clayton Echard, hindsight is 20/20 is an understatement. The season 26 Bachelor and Susie Evans got real about watching the finale episodes of the ABC show together, including his messy splits from Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey.

Related: Bachelor Clayton Echard and Susie Evans: A Timeline of Their Relationship

After admitting to Susie, 29, during the March 8 episode that he loved her “the most,” the twosome split amid disagreements over how he handled the fantasy suite dates with Rachel, 26, and Gabby, 31. The 28-year-old former football player subsequently convinced his other two finalists to finish the journey on the Monday, March 14, episode — before confessing again that Susie had his heart.

Clayton Echard Why I Didn’t End Gabby Rachel Romances When I Knew I Loved Susie
ABC/Craig Sjodin (4)

“I made that comment [that I loved Susie the most] and when I said that I felt that way about Susie, but when she left, I realized that that ship had potentially sailed,” Clayton told Us during a joint interview with Susie on Wednesday, March 16. “And beyond that, just because I loved her the most, did not mean I had made a definitive answer that she was The One. I do believe everything happens for a reason. And when she left, like, I said, ‘OK, I have these two incredible women here and I need to continue to pour into them because this is what apparently, exactly needed to happen. So give these women your all and see if maybe you’ll end up walking outta here with one of ’em.’”

Related: Most Dramatic Yet? Bachelor Nation Reacts to Clayton's Major Finale Twists

During the Tuesday, March 15, finale, fans saw Clayton officially end things with Gabby and Rachel to pursue Susie again. While the videographer turned down his offer for the final rose, they reconnected after she reached out to him via Instagram.

“I think we learned a lot from our discussions after the show more than anything. We didn’t hold back. We rehashed that entire night on several occasions and we both could have done better that night,” Susie told Us. “I could have communicated it better. [Clayton] could have communicated better, [he could have been] more understanding of my perspective. We both learned so much. And watching it back, it was sad, and it was tough because I could see on Clayton’s face when I brought up that topic … you could see the devastation in his face and that realization of, like, coming back down or coming back over to the real world where I was living. It just broke my heart because I knew it was coming. So it was tough to watch.”

Related: Biggest Takeaways From Clayton and Susie’s Post-‘Bachelor’ Interviews

Clayton prepared Susie for what to expect, however.

“When we started talking after the show, we opened up our journals because we had really written down everything from the beginning to the end of the journey and we opened them up and we just read them to each other all the way through,” he told Us. “I didn’t take out anything. There was a lot of stuff in there and I wanted her to know this is exactly how it went. These are my inner thoughts.”

Clayton Echard Why I Didn’t End Gabby Rachel Romances When I Knew I Loved Susie 2
Susie and Clayton Echard ABC/Craig Sjodin

“She read me [what she wrote about] how she felt after that night. And she had very, very strong feelings about who she saw me [as] in that moment and it hurt,” he continued. “I knew I hurt her. I knew that I was out of line. I knew that I attacked her character, and I shouldn’t have, but we just read it cause we wanted to say, ‘Hey, listen, let’s make sure there are no surprises because we’re gonna have to watch this back and we’re gonna have millions of people that are gonna also be commenting now. … It’s surely going to affect us in some way, but we need to make sure that we’re rock solid and that we already know what’s coming, so there are no additional surprises that could potentially shake this relationship.’”

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