Ashley I.'s Defense Of Dean's 'Bachelor In Paradise' Behavior Suggests The Man Fans Saw On 'Bachelorette' Still Exists

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Controversy aside, one of the most devastating things to come out of this season of Bachelor In Paradise has been Dean Unglert's fall from grace. After entangling himself in a love triangle with Kristina Schulman and Danielle Lombard — and handling it disastrously — he quickly devolved from fan favorite to freshly dethroned internet boyfriend, and fans are having a difficult time seeing past his gross behavior. During a recent Bachelor star charity event benefitting Restore Dignity, however, Bachelor alum Ashley Iaconetti defended Dean, insisting that if given the chance, he would approach things differently, and that his BiP actions shouldn't actually define him.

"I think that Dean will admit he's made a lot of mistakes, that he's felt a lot guilt, a lot of confusion over the past couple of months," Ashley told Bustle. "He takes all that back. He knows he made stupid decisions. He feels guilty over it, and I think that as long as he learns lessons — and I know that he did — everything is fine."

She continued to say that the Dean she knows is much more than the version presented on reality TV, and that he's learning to grow from his mistakes.

"He's got such a good heart and he lights up the room. He makes me smile and laugh like very few people can," she explained. "I feel like anyone who's mad at him right now, if you meet him in real life and he gives you a big bear hug, you're going to forgive him, because I think that he's going to learn to never do what he did in Paradise again, and to take female emotion a little bit more seriously and sensitively."

That's a fair assessment. Let's remember that Dean is 26 years old, and while he should perhaps have a better grasp on how to maturely navigate relationships by now, everyone is entitled to a few missteps. Considering the unstable upbringing Dean described during his hometown visit on Bachelorette, it's possible his perspective on how to effectively handle emotions was skewed: He lost his mother at an early age, and by his account, his family largely left him to fend for himself after her death. At least now he can use Bachelor In Paradise as a belated but teachable moment. Who would have thought an alcohol-fueled stay in Mexico could be such an eye-opening life experience?

For what it's worth, Dean has owned up to his indiscretions, and even if it feels a little too late, it's a step up from past Bachelor Nation pot-stirrers — just look to Chad Johnson's unapologetic antagonizing, or Lee Garrett's refusal to condemn his problematic remarks until confronted with them live on The Men Tell All (which, by then, felt a little disingenuous).

While speaking to Bustle at the same Restore Dignity event, Dean said that he "never realized how messed up it was" and that he sees now that "just because you're up front about your feelings doesn't necessarily make your actions appropriate."

So, if he's acknowledging his mistakes and doing his best to learn from them, can fans really continue to fault him? It doesn't excuse his behavior — it was bad, there's no getting around that — but frankly, what more can you ask? He shouldn't automatically get placed back on the list of Bachelor standouts, but the least everybody can do is leave that door open. According to Ashley I., the Dean viewers first fell in love with is still in there somewhere. Let's give him a chance to find his way back.

Additional reporting by Mallory Carra.