Eight months after leaving her final bonfire with Ben, Ashley Howland compares Temptation Island to summer camp — where ignorance is bliss, and camp-goers feel like the only people in existence. "We're in a bubble," she tells Bustle. "Those are the people that you hang out with ... and people get their little crushes." Hesitantly, she's leading up to revealing that she and Ben are no longer together.
So what happened? On the island, they couldn't keep their hands (or lips) off of each other, and he promised they would survive in the real world. According to Ashley, what happened was Ben changed. "It took like a 360. I'm not even kidding," she says. "We're not together. And he is a completely different person." Her tone grows defensive and frankly, over it. "He's a completely — I have such a strong, like, opinion on Ben now," she says. "It's crazy."
On the show, she constantly wondered if she was catching feelings too quickly. "I did feel a little bit crazy," she says. "Looking back at it now, I mean, it's understandable. But my feelings have changed." She was repeatedly scared by Ben's wide-eyed kindness and optimism, hoping it was sincere. Unfortunately, according to her, it wasn't real at all. But it ultimately taught her a lesson about going too far, too fast.
"Get to know somebody really well before jumping into a relationship or thinking that you know, you have it all," she says. "Because people will put on a face for you and tell you what you want to hear until it's inconvenient for them."
At the Temptation Island reunion, they both shared more details about their breakup, and it's clear they don't agree about what happened. Ashley said he broke up with her after they dated "for like two days," and according to Ben, they ended things after she went home to collect her belongings, saw her ex Casey, and allegedly hooked up with him. Ashley denied that they hooked up and said they only kissed.
Regardless of how she and Ben split, Ashley says she's "single now for sure," and she's still in touch with Casey, who couldn't emotionally bring himself to attend the TV reunion. Right now, she's happy to have time to herself.
"You have to love yourself first, before you love anybody else," she says. "And that was one of the big things that I learned when I was over there was that, you know, kind of doing what you think is best for yourself, understanding who you are as a person."
In a Q&A on her YouTube channel, she said she has no regrets about joining the show, even though she didn't want to originally. It opened her eyes to reality TV stardom. She told her subscribers that her next goal is to be on MTV's The Challenge. "I am such a big competitor," she said. "You have no idea." If she did get cast, it wouldn't be the first big challenge she's faced.