The couple is taking things a day at a time — or more literally, three months at a time — as they explore a relationship outside of Clayton Echard’s disastrous season.
It will go down as the most controversial season of “The Bachelor” ever, and we say that with great hope that no season will be as much of a disaster as Clayton Echard’s journey.
A surprise pick to begin with, Clayton seemed to make one wrong decision after another in the final weeks of his season, ultimately infuriating and breaking the hearts of every woman around him until he was left quite literally standing alone in Iceland at the end.
No Bachelor Nation lead had ever been rejected at the Final Rose before Clayton. So how is it that he still got the girl?
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Fans were stunned during the live portion of the “Bachelor” season finale when Susie Evans walked out and gave Clayton a kiss, admitting to host Jesse Palmer that Clayton was her “boyfriend.”
How on earth did the young woman who rejected him twice during the course of the show — once for declaring he was in love with two other woman and that he’d slept with both of them — come back again, and this time stick around?
It turns out that the key was essentially throwing away everything that the show did for and to them other than introduce them to one another and start over entirely. Clayton revealed during the finale that it was Susie who’d reached out to him.
Their chemistry was palpable from the start of the season, with Susie a clear front-runner for weeks and weeks. Ultimately, Clayton revealed to her that he loved her “the most,” along with all that about loving and sleeping with other women.
Until that moment, Susie was all in with Clayton, too, and it’s clear that those feelings didn’t just go away. And so, she reached out. And what started wasn’t attempts to rekindle a romantic relationship, but just phone calls … many, many very, very long phone calls.
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“We had these really deep conversations. We stayed on the phone for like five hours every night for weeks, just talking with no expectations,” Susie said on Nick Viall’s “The Viall Files” podcast on Wednesday.
Susie said that both she and Clayton “have a lot to learn about each other,” as well as a lot to learn about themselves. But even as they opened up, they weren’t talking about becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, though they certainly played around the edges of that.
“We talked about a lot of things, that would let us know where our compatibility lies as far as what we’re looking for in the future, what we’re looking for in a partner,” Susie revealed. And then, there was one moment that things changed for her.
“We had this really great conversation where I opened up to Clayton about something I’ve never really shared publicly about one of my biggest insecurities in a relationship and something I’m fearful of,” Susie shared. “His response was just so genuine, and in that moment, I was like, ‘Wow. This man loves me. He really does.'”
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And so, the conversation pivoted to exactly what these talks are about. Is it going somewhere, and is that somewhere a relationship of some kind? Did they really want to try to make something work between them?
“That conversation was a point for me where I was like, ‘OK, I think I want Clayton to be my boyfriend,'” she said. And so, Susie proposed a rather structured process by which they would navigate their relationship as they gingerly moved forward.
“I’m like, ‘Let’s get through this together, and let’s do a three month post-show check in on each other,’ … Let’s see where we’re at,” she explained, which would put them in June. Then, as her lease is up in September, they would check in with things again at that point. And that’s about as far as things are planned right now.
Clayton had said during the finale that he had already quit his job and was getting ready to move to Susie’s home state of Virginia and give living together a shot. Things are progressing, but it’s healthy that they have these checkpoints lined up where they can pause and reassess.
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They also have a clear understanding that Clayton will not stealth propose to her, as he almost did in Iceland when he pulled out a ring box. At that point, he didn’t even know if she was going to give him the time of day, so Susie nipped that right in the bud.
Even during that finale, Jesse seemed to be hinting heavily and hoping for a stealth proposal right there, but Susie checked her man beforehand. “I’ve told Clayton, ‘If you surprise me, I will say no. This is not a fun surprise.’ We can obviously laugh about it now, but that is not something that we’re talking about.”
She also said that they both realized that had they given into the pressure and gotten engaged during the live finale to put a bow on Clayton’s season, “it wouldn’t have been for [them].” So they decided it wasn’t the right thing to do until it was right for them.
As Clayton and Susie are getting ready to move in together and begin their next chapter, Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia — the two women Clayton put through the emotional wringer in Iceland before dumping them all at once together — are together again as they share the lead for the next season of “The Bachelorette.”