Season 26 of The Bachelor had a happy ending when Clayton Echard and Susie Evans reunited, but it didn’t take long for the couple to realize they needed to work on themselves before they could be in a healthy relationship.
“I would never wanna speak for her. We’ve been very careful with what we’ve shared because so much of what we went through is private and it doesn’t need to be shared,” Clayton, 29, began on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast while promoting his new book. “We just wanted to ultimately be there for each other and be supportive. And that’s why we’ve been very adamant about letting people know that like, ‘Hey, I’ve got nothing but love for her.’ We both know that we could have done things differently, but ultimately, the outcome was the outcome.”
Fans learned during the March 2022 finale that Clayton and Susie, 29, had reconnected off air. The duo previously split on the show when the wedding photographer learned the former football player slept with his other finalists, Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey.
“It was really, really complicated because we were pitted against each other. That was that night of the show where I lost my cool — which I still am embarrassed by to this day — when I lost my cool, it became Susie vs. Clayton. Not between her and I, but between the audience. Camp Susie vs. camp Clayton,” he explained, referring to their breakup scene in which Clayton briefly wondered whether Susie was trying to be the next Bachelorette. “I was getting all the Camp Clayton people in my DMs telling me that she was wrong to do this, and then she was getting all the Camp Susie DMs. And so what it did was just validate our internal thoughts and beliefs. Now we’re butting heads because now we’re both like, ‘I got this many people saying this. You have this many people saying this. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?’ The fact of the matter was all that noise on the outside had no idea what was going on internally. And we should have cut all that off. And she did a better job than I did. I allowed that outside noise because of my insecurities to have an impact on me and my decisions. I allowed my ego to be validated by this external noise.”
Clayton added that “you can’t heal when you are pitted against each other,” explaining: “It became, ‘I’m trying to heal. You are trying to heal. When I wake up and I’m happy [and] fine for one day, you are struggling. So now I’m sharing your pain.’ So it was this constant struggle and depression and it just wore us down.”
Their individual mental health struggles “absolutely just destroyed” their relationship, he explained. The twosome announced their split in September 2022.
“I didn’t want to get out of bed certain days. My days would start at 11:00 a.m. because I just didn’t want to get out and do stuff because I had no drive to live life. I remember just kind of looking at each other and thinking like, ‘We have to heal separately because we can’t take this any longer. I’m so destroyed. There’s nothing left. I have zero energy to fight this battle any longer.’ It was just a really sad place to be.”
Clayton — who explores his battle with depression and how he’s learned to cope with mental health struggles in his book, 180 Degrees: On Mental Health, Mindfulness, and Unlocking Self-Belief — got visibly upset as he continued.
“I get a little emotional. It just sucked because, like, our last day together, we already knew that we were ending things, but I stayed in a couple extra days after we broke up. We just turned on a movie — she had a projector sent to her and we fired up the projector, turned on a movie, ordered a bunch of food to the house and just cracked up and laughed and cried and every single emotion on that last day,” he explained. “Then, I got up at 5:00 a.m. and drove away and that was it. It was just so odd because we had so much fun that last day and I think we both realized that, like, there’s so much pain attached to all of this, and after all the damage that was already done, like, I don’t know if we can repair this and the best thing we can do right now is separate and do this separately.”
While the pair briefly lost touch, they are now friends.
“Is there a chance down the road that this could happen [again]? We don’t know,” Clayton concluded about a possible reconciliation. “But, like, we can’t stay together any longer because we have nothing left to give. It was tough. It’s a really hard place to be when you feel like it’s outta your control. And you make the decision, but ultimately you feel like the decision was almost made for you by the outside.”