'Bachelor' Nick Viall, 41, says starting a relationship with Natalie Joy, 23, gave him anxiety because of their age gap

·5-min read
Nick Viall gets candid about mental health and relationships after reality TV. (Photo: Getty Images)
Nick Viall gets candid about mental health and relationships after reality TV. (Photo: Getty Images)

Nick Viall is opening up about experiencing an emotional "relapse" during his time on The Bachelor, sharing that the experience made him fall back into people-pleasing tendencies.

The 41-year-old, who has appeared on four of the ABC franchise's shows, was asked about how he deals with critics during an episode of the Call Her Daddy podcast. And while he said that he thinks "the show has done better" when it comes to offering support to contestants struggling with their mental health, Viall admitted that he and other alums of the franchise weren't offered much when it came to dealing with negativity and hatred that followed.

"Alumni really lean on each other," Viall explained, noting that he's become close friends with Ben Higgins after the two were on the same season of The Bachelorette. "We went through it, we relate to each other and we’ll call each other especially when we’re like, 'Man, f*** I’m struggling. I’m caught down a rabbit hole looking at shit people are talking about me.'"

Although the show famously has villains and fan favorites on each season, Viall expressed that it's been damaging to be subjected to people's opinions of him whether favorable or not.

"The thing is if you read any comments and you don’t know any of these people, if you start reading the positives and you start believing it, it validates comments in general and that subconsciously means you have to believe the negative stuff. And then you’ll go down that rabbit hole and it’s just such a toxic thing," he explained. "What other people think of us is none of our business, but we’re exposed to everyone’s opinions of us."

For Viall, who said he's previously put a lot of effort into leaving a good impression on others, attempting to gain unanimous acceptance and support from audiences was detrimental to his mental health.

"Especially my first season I was the villain and I got a ton of criticism and I would meet people in person and so they’d be like, ‘Oh my god you’re so much different than what I expected. You seem nice or you’re taller than I thought,’ whatever the f***. And so I kind of became obsessed with meeting as many people as I could and then I realized, I’m just trying to convince everyone to like me and it was such an empty feeling. It kind of started reminding me of like in my twenties when I was dating," he explained. "Going on The Bachelor for me was like a relapse."

Viall went on to explain that he spent his twenties "chasing love, chasing relationships" after growing up with the example of his parents's long-lasting marriage. "I felt like I needed that validation that I was gonna be a good partner," he said. As he grew up, there were parts of that he had to unlearn in order to actually be better in relationships. But ultimately, the show brought it out of him again.

"Everything I learned and taught myself about controlling my ego and not chasing validation, that was all out the door. And so then I went into this world and fell in love, I mean I had real feelings, and it just threw me because when I got out I felt like I had relapsed back to the person I tried so hard and put so much work into getting out of," he said.

Viall's appearances in the franchise came to an end after leading the 21st season of The Bachelor, where he got engaged to Vanessa Grimaldi. After ending their relationship in August 2017, Viall explained that he ultimately became comfortable with being single. When he began to hang out with his now girlfriend, Natalie Joy, who slid into his Instagram direct messages, their 18-year age difference was his biggest concern.

"At first, it was something I think I was having a lot of anxiety about. Are we gonna be compatible? And I think early on that was part of the things I would worry about. But the more I got to know her, the more I was just going to her for advice or just checking in with her. I just felt like we met each other on the same wavelength and I always felt like she was my equal," he explained. "So other than that, it really didn’t affect. But earlier on it was something I had to get over. And it was a me problem."

Viall said Joy "knew I was self conscious about it" and made efforts to remind him that the age gap wasn't a factor. Ultimately, the way he spoke about her with friends made him realize it didn't matter.

"I always remember talking to certain friends and I would be like, wishing that that gap didn’t exist because I would feel less nervous about it. I’d always just talk through all the things that I loved about her or that she would do for me," he said. "I’m a big personality. I don’t always feel like people, regardless of age, I can connect with. And with her, I never felt that disconnect."

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