Ben Higgins & Jessica Clarke's Relationship Timeline Is Surprisingly Relatable
There’s something innately comforting about a former Bachelor star finding love in the real world. Sure, watching a contestant pop the question with a jaw-dropping Neil Lane ring at the end of a reality TV competition is exciting, but those televised happily-ever-afters don’t work out for everyone. That’s the case for Ben Higgins — but fortunately, he eventually found "The One" on social media of all places. Ben Higgins & Jessica Clarke's relationship timeline may not be a Bachelor love story, it’s definitely a relatable one.
Before we get into their digital meet-cute, however, let’s take a trip down memory lane. In case you need a refresher, Higgins proposed to Lauren Bushnell on the 20th season of The Bachelor, but the couple ended their engagement in May of 2017 (and Bushnell has since married country star Chris Lane). Higgins didn’t share another serious relationship with the public for over a year. So, when he announced on Instagram in 2019 that there was a new leading lady in his life (and that — *gasp* — she had no affiliation whatsoever with The Bachelor alumni) fans were shook. In fact, Jessica Clarke, a Nashville resident and University of Mississippi graduate, had never even seen Higgins’ season of the show when they met. However, the duo shared a couple of other key things in common: a love of sports, and a serious humanitarian streak.
While there may not be a fantasy suite or a final rose involved in Higgins and Clarke's timeline, theirs is one that's packed with real-life, long-distance romance. Follow along to learn about (*Chris Harrison voice*) the most chill finale in Bachelor history.
August 2018: It All Starts On The 'Gram.
Higgins kept his relationship with Clarke on the DL for a few months before sharing the news with fans, but he opened up about how it all started on an episode of his podcast with Ashley Iaconetti Haibon, Almost Famous.
Here's the gist: In August of 2018, Higgins was in Nashville for a charity event. While he was checking in, he noticed a group of athletes and hopped onto IG to try and figure out which team they played for. While looking at the top posts connected to his location, he spotted Jessica's photo with her dad from a nearby Nashville Predators hockey game, and she immediately caught Higgins' eye.
If you're assuming he immediately sent her a smooth icebreaker to get on her radar, you're wrong. Higgins actually waited several months before reaching out (honestly, who does that?) — but took a screenshot her post so that he could find her again. Fortunately, it seems that his patience paid off.
November 2018: Higgins Makes His Move — Over DM.
No one knows why he took so long to shoot his shot, but finally, around Thanksgiving 2018, the Bachelor alum got up the courage to send her a message on Instagram. On his podcast, Almost Famous, he revealed that he said something to the effect of, "If you're single, please message me back." Simple and direct — nicely done, Higgins.
On the same episode of Almost Famous, Clarke received the message, she didn't recognize Higgins from The Bachelor (she didn't follow the show), so she initially ignored it. When she finally did give it a read, she admitted she thought it was "hilarious" and "very cute." At that point, she still had absolutely no idea that her social media admirer once starred on one of the biggest reality competitions on television.
December 2018: They Finally Meet Face To Face.
In an Instagram post, Higgins noted that it took weeks of messaging, FaceTiming, and phone calls before they finally got to meet IRL for the first time. Higgins lives in Denver and Clarke is based in Nashville, so they had a small practical matter of distance to deal with.
According to ET Online, Higgins flew Clarke out to visit him in Colorado. She happened to be there the same weekend that a local restaurant he's involved with — Ashkara — had its grand opening.
“It was an exciting time,” he told ET Online. “The next day she also went with me to an event I’d already committed to. Since the beginning, she’s been really understanding and focused on whatever time we can get together. For me, that weekend, seeing her, I felt like we’d known each other and been around each other many times before. There was a comfort.”
January 2019: Higgins Drops A Hint.
Though he didn't go public with his relationship right away, Higgins did drop a little breadcrumb to fans on Jan. 14, 2019, when he casually admitted he was off the market on his Almost Famous podcast.
During a chat with Colton Underwood, he vaguely mentioned that he was dating again. When Underwood asked if he was seeing one person in particular, Higgins clarified that he was indeed.
“Here’s the thing … The Bachelor is a really great thing because it forces you to have conversations and right now, the girl that I’m talking to is long-distance,” Higgins told Underwood. “So we FaceTime a lot, and it feels very similar because we don’t get time together. It’s very intentional. It’s very focused. And if we’re going to spend any time with each other, it’s going to be in conversation.”
Higgins didn't reveal a whole lot about this mystery woman at the time, but he did call her "the best, purest person I know." I'm not crying, you're crying.
February 2019: Higgins & Clarke Make Their Relationship IG Official.
Seeing as their love story started on IG, it seems fitting that the duo went public with their romance on the same platform. In a February 2019 post, Higgins shared a sweet photo of himself with Clarke in Honduras (where Higgins has long been involved in work with the charity Humanity and Hope United, writing, "I’ve been selfishly keeping this girl to myself for too long!" He also added in the caption:
"I took a risk and I am glad I did. She is someone special, and I look forward to where life is going to take us. Stay tuned for the journey."
Clarke, for her part, posted the exact same photo to introduce her "secret boyfriend, Ben."
"He has one of the biggest hearts and kindest spirits, I got to share Honduras with him this past week and I’m excited for many more adventures!" she wrote in the caption.
If that alone doesn't make you swoon, it's worth noting that Clarke later divulged that she went on that Honduras trip for a very meaningful reason.
"My mom encouraged me to come here with Ben in February, because if I’m going to be with someone, I want to share your passions," she wrote in an Instagram post from October 2019.
March 2019: Clarke Shares A Sweet Birthday Post.
If you weren't already obsessed with Higgins and Clarke at this point, one particular IG post in March 2019 might win you over. On March 24, Jessica Clarke composed a thoughtful birthday tribute to her boo on the 'Gram. The post included a pic of her sandwiched between Higgins and her brother, Philip, as well as a sweet caption to match. The trio appeared to be at her baby bro's baseball game. Underneath the photo, she wrote:
"Two of my favorite guys had big bdays! Benjamin turned 30 yesterday and has been my greatest surprise and blessing. Baby Philip turns 21 today and has been my best friend and little brother since forever. My heart is just overflowing, what a weekend."
May 2019: Higgins & Clarke Play Co-Hosts — & Hit The Slopes.
The May 6 episode of Almost Famous was a momentous one: It marked the first time Clarke got to co-host the podcast with Higgins. The same week, Clarke posted a photo of herself and Higgins skiing at Keystone Resort in Colorado. She wrote:
"Being with this guy has brought a lot of new experiences, including being a cohost on his podcast. If you don’t know me, it’s the most you’ll have ever heard me talk!"
August 2019: They Attend A Very 'Bachelor' Wedding.
Celebrating the nuptials of Jared Haibon and Ashley Iaconetti was kind of a big deal for Higgins and Clarke. After all, Higgins doesn't just co-host a podcast with Iaconetti, he also dated her on his season of The Bachelor — and their wedding was packed with other franchise alumni. In an episode of Almost Famous following the wedding, Higgins said:
“I don’t think people realize how nervous Jessica is to enter into this world at all because it is intimidating and there’s a lot of attention around it. I think she feels like she’s going to be constantly judged, and she’s not."
Luckily, Clarke didn't end up feeling left out — apparently, Becca Tilley and Tanya Rad in particular *rose* to the occasion (pun very much intended) and made her feel more than welcome. In fact, he revealed that the duo came over to their Airbnb after dinner one night and talked to Clarke and Higgins for about three hours.
The wedding turned out to be a beautiful bonding experience for Higgins and Clarke. He admitted on his podcast that when he started crying during the ceremony, and Clarke squeezed his hand, he realized: "This is a girl that loves me. This girl loves me. She's in it with me no matter thick and thin."
August 2019: The Couple Attends Another 'Bachelor' Wedding.
Haibon and Iaconetti's wedding wasn't the only Bachelor celebration of love that Higgins and Clarke attended in the summer of 2019. They were also invited to witness Bachelor in Paradise stars Chris Randone and Krystal Nielson tie the knot (the couple has since announced their separation after eight months of marriage in February 2020). As per usual, Higgins and Clarke looked adorable AF in coordinating blue ensembles.
September 2019: Higgins & Clarke Make A Red Carpet Appearance.
At this point in their relationship, Higgins and Clarke had stayed somewhat out of the limelight — but that all changed in September of 2019, when they made an appearance at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas and walked the red carpet together. This event marked another first as well: In an Instagram post, Higgins revealed that Clarke had never been to Sin City before.
October 2019: The Couple Supports A Cause At A Charity Event.
It's no secret that Higgins and Clarke share a passion for philanthropy, which is why their appearance at the Carousel Ball — which supports the Children’s Diabetes Foundation — marks such a key milestone in their relationship.
In an Oct. 23 IG post, Clarke shared some heartwarming behind-the-scenes details from that weekend:
"In between that and dragging Ben to workouts for @sweatnetdenver, we were actually able to stay in and cook dinner/watch a movie on the couch. Those nights are few and far between when you’re in a distance relationship with busy schedules! But man, I’ll never get sick of some QT with my cutie."
November 2019: Higgins Hints At An Impending Proposal.
Almost exactly a year after Higgins slid into Clarke's DMs, he gave a strong indication that he might be popping the question very soon. In fact, he told former Bachelorette and Extra correspondent Rachel Lindsay: "I don’t want to say when it could happen, but if you come to these live shows, it could possibly happen live on stage.”
Seeing as he was about to kick off The Bachelor Live On Stage which he was co-hosting with Becca Kufrin, many fans assumed that he might be referring to a possible proposal on that tour.
December 2019: Higgins & Clarke Celebrate One Year Together.
Higgins and Clarke didn't meet in person until December of 2018. They must have made things official pretty quickly, though, because an IG post from Higgins revealed that they celebrated their first anniversary on Dec. 15. In the Instagram sharing their one-year celebration, Higgins included a photo of him and Clarke at a Denver Nuggets NBA basketball game.
"Thanks for celebrating a year with me," he wrote underneath. "It’s been a ball! You’re my best friend."
December 2019: The Couple Spends Christmas With Clarke's Fam.
When Clarke wrote in an IG post that she has a "big family" — she wasn't kidding. The photo of her countless relatives seated around a long dinner table is kind of legendary. Fortunately, Higgins got to meet her many loved ones in Connecticut during the holiday season of 2019. In her Instagram sharing pics from the festivities, she admitted that her fam has lots of traditions, and her favorites involve Christmas.
"This was our first year without Papa, and while it felt strange, we were lucky to have some fun, new additions," she wrote. "I think it’s ok and natural for traditions to evolve."
March 2020: An Engagement For The Books.
Hey, remember when Higgins dropped a major clue that he might be proposing to Clarke on stage? Well, those plans kind of got foiled once the coronavirus outbreak happened — because he originally hoped to pop the question in Central Park in early March, when he was supposed to be in NYC for The Bachelor Live on Stage tour. That said, he was able to adjust his plans and pull off an equally — if not more — romantic proposal near her parents' home in Franklin, Tennessee.
Higgins and Clarke had been quarantining with Higgins’ parents, when he decided to take a little road trip with Clarke, and surprise her by getting down on one knee in front of their families.
"This is exactly how I would have wanted it to be," Clarke told ET Online. "Central Park would have been magical and special in its own way. But it's really cool that we just got to be together last night and not really have to talk to anyone else but my family."
As for the ring, it's a custom-made, three-stone sparkler featuring an oval-shaped center diamond on a yellow gold band. Higgins spent several months working on the design with Denver-based Gnat Jewelers, and the effort definitely paid off.
Higgins posted a heartwarming series of photos from the proposal to announce their big news on IG, and in the caption, he wrote:
"I now officially have the most beautiful, kind hearted, supportive, well intentioned person to spend life with!"
In her corresponding Instagram post, Clarke gushed:
"I don’t remember everything you said, but I know that I said yes. I woke up in a dream today and I get to live in this dream every day from now on (eeeep)."
Here's hoping this next chapter is filled with many more exciting adventures for these lovebirds.