The Bachelor ’s Colton Underwood Reveals He and Cassie Randolph Briefly Broke Up Last Year

Aili Nahas

Colton Underwood has had one very special caretaker as he recovers from COVID-19 — his girlfriend, Cassie Randolph.

“She’s doing everything she can for me,” Underwood, who fell in love with Randolph on his season of The Bachelor in 2019, tells PEOPLE. “She’s bringing me all my meals in gloves and a mask.”

But in his new memoir, The First Time, Underwood reveals that he and Randolph, 25, briefly split last August.

  • For more from Colton Underwood, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Jim Wright Cassie Randolph and Colton Underwood

“To put it very frank, after the show, we realized we weren’t communicating as well as we once did,” says Underwood, 28. “Nobody was forcing us to talk about real things going on, so we let a lot of things build up.”

Ultimately, “in a weird way, I kind of broke up with myself,” says Underwood. “I was like, I feel like we need to figure this out and in order to do that, we need space. She agreed. So it was a mutual thing.”

RELATED: The Bachelor‘s Cassie Randolph Says Colton Underwood Is ‘So Wiped Out’ as He Battles Coronavirus

But within two days, “it was like, ‘I miss you!’ ” he says. “It was a very real and very emotional breakup, but it was also very good to be real and emotional because it forced us to have conversations and move on. Now, we know the flags to look for. When issues start to creep up, it’s like, let’s go have a conversation. We’re trying to be more transparent and honest and really trust each other.”

Jim Wright Colton Underwood

As for the future, “we talk and we plan and we have so much hope,” says Underwood. “If she were here, she’d nudge me for saying this, but I think an engagement is something we’d both like to see this year. No matter what, I don’t want my life without her. Our relationship hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth it.”

Colton Underwood’s book, The First Time, is available March 31.