In the game of love, some will win and some will lose. And losing always hurts, especially when it happens on television for the entire world to see—just ask the runners-up of the ABC reality dating series The Bachelor (and Bachelorette). The series, which premiered all the way back in 2002, has since spawned several spinoffs and dozens of heartbreaks. Some contestants turned their lemons into lemonade, and others...well, they're still sour.
Here, we catch up with the runners-up from both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette to find out what and how they're doing after not finding love.
For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.
Trista Rehn appeared on the first ever season of The Bachelor, competing against 24 other women for bachelor Alex Michel's love. The physical therapist and former Miami Heat dancer (get you a girl who can do both!) came in second to Amanda Marsh, but she didn't have too much time to be a sad girl™ about the breakup because soon after she started her own journey as the first bachelorette in ABC history.
Rehn's time on The Bachelorette led her to firefighter and total sweetheart Ryan Sutter, and the couple got married in 2003. Today, Rehn and Sutter are still married and now have two children who are a perfect mix of their genes.
Remember Charlie Maher? After failing to win Trista's heart on the first season of The Bachelorette, the California-born financial analyst (and actor!) pretty much disappeared into thin air, but do you blame him? He was rejected on live TV for the world to see!
The last we heard of Maher, he had tentatively started a new relationship and was looking forward to life after The Bachelorette. Same, brother. Same.
Brooke Smith left the University of Alabama as a senior to compete for Aaron Buerge's heart on the second season of The Bachelor. She juuust lost out to Helene Eksterowicz (although, TBH, "lose" is a relative thing, since Eksterowicz and Buerge broke up soon after their season ended). Deciding that she loved working in TV anyways, she went back to 'Bama, graduated, and pursued a long career in broadcast journalism. Which, get it, girl.
Smith joined Birmingham's WTVN in 2003 and continued working for them (including on a daytime talk show covering entertainment—irony!) at least through 2014; she last posted about her work in August 2019 on Insta. Now, she's a yoga instructor and ultra-marathoner. She also got married and had two kids, so she did find her happy ending...once the cameras were off.
At only 23 years old, Kirsten Buschbacher fell in love with Firestone Tire and Rubber Company heir Andrew Firestone on the third season of The Bachelor. She didn't get the final rose—Andrew's family somehow had the impression that Buschbacher wasn't fully over her ex-boyfriend—but all's well that ends well. Buschbacher went on to pursue a career in acting, finding work in the off-Broadway production "Pieces (of Ass)" and even appearing in a documentary about reality TV stars. Now, Buschbacher has a thriving career on the corporate side of the retail industry.
Kelly Jo Kuharski
Again, "losing" this season might have been a blessing in disguise—Bob Guiney only gave winner Estella Gardinier a "promise ring," and the two broke up almost immediately afterwards. Kello Jo Kuharski had only signed up for The Bachelor because of a dare from her sister.
Today, the communication specialist is Kelly Jo Higgins and works for Rodan & Fields. She's a mom to two kids, beauty entrepreneur, and wife to former pro hockey player Matt Higgins. She figured out the influencer/beauty expert thing way, way before it was cool, TBH.
Unlike a lot of contestants later in the franchise, who might have come on the show hoping to boost their careers (*cough* Jed Wyatt *cough*), Hickl stayed far, far away from TV after he just missed out on Meredith Phillips' final rose.
Hickl was the odds-on fave to win the season, so fans were shocked when Phillips picked Ian McKee instead. For his troubles, Hickl earned a "most eligible bachelor" title from People, and then he exited showbiz basically forever. He got married to a fellow Texan, Ellen McMillan, model and dance teacher. He doesn't have social media, but based on his wife's Insta, he's sporting a fabulous beard and has two cute kiddos.
The general contractor from Oklahoma had one of the roughest exits in Bachelor history, throwing up from the limo ride, then yelling at Jesse Palmer for rejecting her. Since then, Huckeby has kept so low a profile that there's basically nothing online that people can find about her. So what she's up to lately will remain a mystery. Hope you're doing well, Tara!
In one of the weirder seasons of The Bachelor, the female contestants had to...vote on which man they wanted for their season? (That format did not last, natch.) The winner, Byron Velvick, ended up choosing Mary Delgado over Michel. She's now a coach and personal trainer with two adorable furbabies. She also appeared on a 20/20 special back in 2010 about the show and its most dramatic moments.
John Paul Merritt
The OG John Paul (a.k.a. the one who's NOT John Paul Jones) competed for Jen Schefft's heart in 2005 and lost to Jerry Ferris, art gallery director. Merritt is now CEO of Texas oil company Pony Oil and has a family. His Insta is private (sigh) but based on an article about his new home in 2018, he and his wife Kristi have four children. (Oh, and their new home is gorge.)
Having worked as a reporter for the New England Sports Network (NESN) prior to signing on for the seventh season of The Bachelor, Krisily Kennedy was no stranger to showbiz, so it was natural for her to continue being in the limelight even after she found herself as the runner-up for Charlie O'Connell's heart. Kennedy went on to join the short-lived spinoff Bachelor Pad but didn't last long.
These days, Kennedy is heavily involved in the television and film industry; she started her own entertainment blog and covers press junkets for Regal Cinemas. She also appears to be dating someone new.
Dixon didn't get the final rose from Travis Stork—technically he didn't propose to the winner, Sarah Stone, either, though, so yea. (Remember how Stone was Stork's neighbor? I wonder if that ever got awkward.).
Dixon owns California-based design studio The Hunted Fox (she used to own it with her husband James North but the About page now only lists her). Her Insta is private, so it's not clear what else she's up to these days.
Remember The Bachelor: Rome? No hard feelings if you don't—it wasn't the juiciest of seasons, but at least the locale was gorgeous! Season nine of The Bachelor took its contestants to Rome, Italy, to vie for the affections of cosmetics heir (and prince) Lorenzo Borghese. Among the group was Sadie Murray, a publicist from sunny California. She made it all the way to the end of the competition but ultimately lost out to Jennifer Wilson.
After her extended vacation in Italy, Murray returned and got right back to work. She's a popular influencer with her own blog and is also a TV personality who's appeared on shows like E! News, and The Real.
Bevin Nicole Powers
The Palo Alto–based clinic-research coordinator made it nearly to the end of Andrew Baldwin's season (and his mom liked her more than his final pick, Tessa Horst). But she said later she kinda knew what would happen: "I had this feeling that it wasn't going to be me," she explained. She now keeps a low profile—so low, that there's really nothing online about her these days.
Brad Womack made Bachelor history when he rejected both of his finalists, Jenni Croft and DeAnna Pappas. Heartbroken but not down for the count, Pappas became the next bachelorette and got engaged to professional snowboarder Jesse Csincsak.
The engagement didn't last long, however; the couple split just months after the show, leaving Pappas single again. She was able to find love off-the-air, however, with Stephen Stagliano, who just happens to be the twin brother of Michael Stagliano (from Jillian Harris's season of The Bachelorette). Talk about a crossover!
The former bachelorette can now be found sharing recipes and parenting advice on her lifestyle blog.
Croft, on the other hand, left the limelight for the most part. The former cheerleader got married, had three kids (who are all ridiculously cute, btw), and is now the owner of Pretty Chic Unique Boutique. She still dances and recently shared an impressive fitness journey. So her life's in a good place is what I'm saying.
The pharma rep from Colorado didn't end up winning British Bachelor Matt Grant's heart, and she's kept a low profile ever since. She does have an Instagram filled with her travels, though, and we know she lives in Ojai, California. She also seems to be interested in settling down at some point, but for now it looks like she has a fabulous jet-setting life.
Fans were initially introduced to Jason Mesnick on the fourth season of The Bachelorette, during which he almost won the love of DeAnna Papas. Less than a year later, he became the lead in the 13th season of The Bachelor. In what many consider to be one of the most dramatic breakups in the franchise's long history, Mesnick changed his mind after giving the final rose to Melissa Rycroft, deciding that he actually wanted to be with runner-up Molly Malaney...
...and the couple got married in February 2010, with their wedding airing in a two-hour special called The Bachelor: Jason and Molly's Wedding. Together with Mesnick's son Ty from a previous relationship and their daughter Riley, the Mesnicks are one big happy family.
Kiptyn Locke competed on Jillian Harris's season, but his hesitation to propose to the Canadian bachelorette was likely what got him cut. (Side note: Why else did you come if not to propose?!) It was a shock to the heart, but with a stay in the Bachelor Pad, Locke made a full recovery. In the Bachelor spinoff, he coupled up with Tenley Molzahn (see next slide), and the two dated on-and-off for years before calling it quits for good.
Tenley Molzahn dodged a huge bullet when she was sent home by Jake Pavelka during the 14th season of The Bachelor, but it probably didn't feel like it at the time. Still, she mustered up the coverage to give love another chance, joining other Bachelor alums on both Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise.
Fortunately, like most of the franchise's contestants, Molzahn was able to find love in the real world. She married Taylor Leopold in a gorgeous backyard ceremony that was even featured in Martha Stewart Weddings. As Mrs. Leopold, Molzahn is working in the fitness industry and runs a cool wellness blog called Tenley's Sweet and Free Life.
Landscaper Chris Lambton tried to use his green thumb to cultivate romance with bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky, but no dice; he ultimately lost out to Roberto Martinez. Fortunately for Lambton, love within Bachelor Nation was still in the cards. He found his soulmate in Peyton Wright, who appeared on season 10 of The Bachelor (Andrew Baldwin's season). The couple exchanged vows in May 2012 and have since welcomed two children together.
In addition to starting a family together, Lambton and Wright teamed up to star on the HGTV landscaping series Going Yard. Lambton is kind of a big deal in the home improvement world, even hosting his own show Yard Crashers on the DIY Network.
On Brad Womack's (second!) quest to find love, O'Brien ended up getting dumped for Emily Maynard—and boy, did she take it hard, both on the finale and on After the Final Rose. But after that, she said she and Womack had gotten to a "good place" and that she was dating fellow Seattle resident Jeff Razore. She also modeled for Sports Illustrated as part of a Bachelor swimsuit edition.
Ben...oh, Ben. When we first happened upon the winemaker in Ashley Herbert's season of The Bachelorette, we were taken by his soft-spoken nature, his quiet but earnest energy, and his floppy hair. Herbert ended up choosing J.P. Rosenbaum (they're still married to this day and have two lil carbon copies of themselves), and Flajnik found himself the next bachelor.
Unfortunately, Flajnik's time in the lead role was less happily ever after and more WTF; he proposed to season 16 villain Courtney "I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends" Robertson twice in 2012, yet the couple split for good that same year.
Coming in second place to Courtney on Ben Flajnik's season was Washington native Lindzi Cox, who took the whole thing pretty well...considering. She even skipped out on the After the Final Rose special, missing out on Flajnik and Robertson's dramatic re-engagement. "I don’t really have anything pressing I need to say to Ben," she told EW after the show. "If down the road I do, I can have a chance later.”
Fast forward to 2019, and if her Instagram is any indication, Cox is living her best life. The self-proclaimed "best day ever enthusiast" can be seen road-tripping around the country, riding horses, and generally having...the best day ever.
Arie Luyendyk, Jr.
Where do we even begin with this guy? The son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk (and an accomplished race car driver himself), Luyendyk was a notable public figure in many households long before he joined 29 other men in the fight for Emily Maynard's heart. He didn't win the final rose, but like a true competitor, he dusted himself off and tried again, becoming the franchise's 22nd bachelor in 2018.
As The Bachelor, Luyendyk got a lot of criticism for the way his season played out; initially, he proposed marriage to Becca Kufrin, but after some time to think, he changed his mind and broke up with her—on camera.
Arie Luyendyk, Jr., may have been Emily Maynard's second pick, but Sean Lowe wasn't far behind, and the second-runner up got his shot at love in the 17th season of The Bachelor in 2013. The Jesus-loving gentlemen found his soulmate in Catherine Giudici, leaving Lindsay Yenter out in the cold after a tearful (mostly on his end) breakup.
Yenter bounced back shortly after her heartbreak, finding her perfect match in Karl Swanson; the couple got married and now have two little ones together. She even credits Lowe for helping her see the kind of man that she needed to be with. "After doing the whole show, it made me realize I need to find guys who I want as a husband and as a father instead of going after the bad boy," she said shortly after getting engaged. "And I really, really think that Sean has opened up my eyes to that, and I'm so thankful for that."
When Desiree Hartsock broke things off with Drew Kenney during what he hoped would be their best date ever, Bachelor Nation was crushed. Granted, Hartsock made the best choice for herself—she and winner Chris Siegfried are still married with two children—but Kenney was a really nice guy.
Fortunately for him, Kenney ended up meeting and falling in love with Amy Long, a Bachelor alumna herself (she was a contestant on Juan Pablo's season). The couple turned lemons into lemonade and have been dating ever since.
Kenney hasn't just been lucky at love since getting sent home; his career is also on the up and up. He's starred in two films, including one with veteran actor Danny Glover, and even picked up modeling along the way.
If you're anything like me, you've probably blocked Juan Pablo Galavis's nightmare season of The Bachelor out of your mind, and for good reason—he was nothing short of terrible. But, if you can for a moment, think back to his runner-up, Clare Crawley. Juan Pablo pretty much slut-shamed her for their MUTUAL possible ocean hookup towards the end of the season, enraging Crawley to the point that she had no choice but to tear into him at the final rose ceremony. Needless to say, she didn't get the ring.
Crawley connected with Canadian angel Benoit Beausejour-Savard on The Bachelor: Winter Games, and the couple quickly fell in love and got engaged. However, things went south even faster, and they called it quits just after a month.
Nonetheless, Crawley is still doing her thing; fans of the 37-year-old can keep up with her latest moves on Instagram.
In the immortal words of Aaliyah, "If at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again." Nick Viall really took that to heart, appearing on both Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe's seasons of The Bachelorette. After being the first runner-up twice, ABC took pity on Viall and gave him the chance to do the selecting as the star of The Bachelor—and we all know how that turned out. He proposed to Canadian teacher Vanessa Grimaldi (which led to Bachelor Nation's sweetheart Rachel Lindsay becoming the next bachelorette!), but the couple quickly parted ways due to irreconcilable differences.
Now, Viall is one of the most famous faces in the franchise. He started a very popular podcast called The Viall Files, he's a noted Instagram influencer, and he's been in a number of films. (Also, he's maybe dating Rachel Bilson? Unclear.) Maybe coming in second isn't always a bad thing.