For anyone who's lost faith in romance as a general concept, or in reality TV's ability to engineer love, we have a happy story for you: Bachelor/Bachelor in Paradise alums Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon are finally dating in real life. After a full three years of crushes, occasional dating on and off camera, and friendship, they are in love. They sat down to tell their story for an episode of Iaconetti's own Youtube series, The Story of Us, and could not stop kissing each other's hands, caressing or staring at each other for the whole 45 minutes.
"Our close friends have watched our relationship evolve and understand how we’ve gotten to this point," Iaconetti told People of why they decided to come out with their romance, and tell their story on her show. "But people who haven’t been a part of our day-to-day lives ask us ‘Wait, how did this happen?’ "
The story of Ashley I. and Jared is kind of the opposite of what Bachelor/Bachelorette producers have in mind when they try to match up people for our viewing pleasure — drawn out and mostly off camera. Iaconetti said she liked what she saw of Haibon when she saw him on TV, and when they both wound up on season 2 of Bachelor in Paradise (which aired in 2015), it was "love at first sight for her." Unfortunately, he had just been disappointed by Kaitlyn Bristowe on his season of the Bachelorette, so he was a little less invested.
"I’m not gonna lie and say that I was in love with Ashley during BiP," he told People. "It was a slow build for me."
They became friends, however, and he was among the other BiP cast members she invited to her family's home in Virginia for a fundraiser that year. That was when Haibon began to get some, um, feelings about Iaconetti, and damn, what we would give for that whole thing to have played out on TV.
"You were just so down to earth and easy-going, ambitious … sexy," he says on The Story of Us. "I wanted you that night."
They stayed in the friend zone all that year and into BiP season 3, which was famously heartbreaking for Iaconetti. Just watching this scene again will make you throw things at your screen and wonder why she ever gave him the time of day again.
Still, things weren't over for this pari. It wasn't until they were both on separate Bachelor franchises that things clicked in Haibon's head.
"I remember I was on a date with a girl in Paradise [Australia] … and I was just sitting there and thinking, ‘God, I wish Ashley were here,' " he says. Typical!
Meanwhile, Iaconetti was dating her Winter Games guy Kevin Wendt. Haibon admitted his feelings for her while they were on a group trip, without Wendt, and kissed her goodbye. She stayed with Wendt for a few months after that, but the poor guy never stood a chance, did he? She broke things off in March, and Haibon swooped right in with all sorts of letters and romantic gestures. And OMG look at how he speaks romantic comedy:
Their mutual friends, BiP’s Jade Roper and Tanner Tolbert, must have been helping things along.
"I’m living proof that you should listen to your gut, and that it’s not too late," Haibon says. "The person I wanted to be with most was right in front of my eyes."
Again, the body language between these two is Meghan and Harry-level swoony in the Story of Us, enough to make the Bachelor producers jealous for sure. Don't screw this up, Jared!