The 29-year-old 180 Degrees: On Mental Health, Mindfulness, and Unlocking Self-Belief author got candid on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast about the backlash he faced during season 26 of The Bachelor. Still, Clayton can admit that some “critics” were “on the money” as he “lacked empathy and emotional intelligence” when he opted to tell Rachel, 26, Gabby Windey and Susie Evans that he was in love with all three of them — and slept with the pilot and the nurse, 32.
“I didn’t make the best decisions. I mean, there were weaknesses of mine that people were calling out and they were right. It was things that I was struggling with,” Clayton told Us on Monday, February 27, while promoting his book. “Something that I really regretted was at first [was] I was very defensive post-show. I was defending all of my actions without accepting accountability for what I had done. I kept shooting myself in the foot where people were like, ‘We get what you were thinking. It doesn’t take away from the fact that you hurt these people and you’re still not accepting accountability.’ And I wasn’t accepting accountability because my ego was under attack and my ego was telling me, ‘Defend, defend, defend. Keep explaining yourself and eventually everyone, you’ll make it click for everybody.’ And thankfully, it never clicked for everybody. People got more angry and they were like, ‘This guy continues to explain himself and it’s annoying. Just accept accountability.’”
He continued: “At that point, I was so torn down that I thought, ‘OK, this isn’t working your way, so how about you try accepting accountability and see how that goes.’ And it was very rewarding. I started accepting accountability and I was able to heal and then relationships around me were healed.”
Clayton noted that it was “really cool” to reunite with Rachel earlier this month after not talking to each other for an entire year.
“There was so much healing there. That conversation was so powerful,” he told Us. “I walked away from that experience and I just remember thinking like, ‘Man, this just felt so rewarding.’ And I’m just so happy to know that even someone like her — after everything that happened — everyone that was mad at me, [but] nobody could be more mad at me than her or Gabby. And so for her to forgive me and tell me that, ‘Hey, I understand, and I don’t hold this against you any longer,’ that was probably one of the best things I could have heard. … They don’t have any reason to [forgive me], but if she can, then everything that I’ve done is forgivable. And I can grow from this, and I can allow myself to forgive myself. If they forgive me specifically, I should be able to forgive myself. And so I did.”
After Clayton and Rachel were seen in social media posts together from the group outing, some fans wondered whether they could be a romantic reunion as season 19 of The Bachelorette ended with the flight instructor single because her winner, Tino Franco, cheated.
“They see me, they get to know me, then they see her. She has her own season with Gabby and people get to know you to a degree and they go, ‘I like this person, I like this person. I want this to work,’” Clayton told Us, adding that he believes viewers get emotional because they see their own trauma within the leads. “I think part of the healing process for some people, they go, ‘To make this all make sense, it would be really great to see these two get back together and then we can all be happy. There’s a happy ending to it all and we can all feel good about ourselves as opposed to feeling terrible after what happened.’ … They want to see those amends be made and healing.”
Clayton also dropped a bombshell that the idea of the twosome reconciling did come up during their chat on February 1.
“Her and I both talked about it. We said, you know, we have very high thoughts of each other. But, of course, after what all happened, it’s like, ‘How would you ever go about dating again after all of what occurred?’ She doesn’t have any interest in doing so,” he said. “And I got that. I also was on my end, like, ‘You know what, after everything we went through, being friends sounds very pleasant.’”