Did Ashley I. & Ben Ever Date? An Important 'Bachelor' Analysis

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After their stint on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is over, contestants usually try to find a way to make some money and stay in the spotlight. Besides the obvious Instagram influencer sponsorship (which some of the Bachelor retirees make absolute bank from), another great option to keep your name out there is by podcast. Bachelor stars Ashley I. and Ben Higgins host the Almost Famous podcast every week, talking Bachelor and beyond. These two have such great chemistry on their show that it's worth asking — Did Ashley I. and Ben ever date before hitting The Bachelor Winter Games together?

Ashley's first Bachelor experience was on Chris Soules' season of The Bachelor. She then went on to Bachelor In Paradise twice, and she's known for crying all over the place. Ben made his debut on Kaitlyn Bristowe's season of The Bachelorette, and then, after Kaitlyn eliminated him in fourth place, he nabbed the top spot of Bachelor for Season 20. Both are on The Bachelor Winter Games, so suffice it to say that the Bachelor knowledge is strong with these two. They know the ins and outs of producing, but most importantly, they know everyone (including Chris Harrison!) so they can invite their Bachelor family on the podcast and people will listen.

These two have known each other a while, but they're not dating, nor have they. Ashley told People that she and Ben were firmly friends and nothing more. After admitting that she had a crush on Ben years ago, back when he was the Bachelor, Ashley said, "We are friend zoned. We friend zoned each other. That's where it's supposed to be." Because the news of Ben and Ashley's podcast came just before Ben and Lauren Bushnell announced their split, some speculated that Ashley and Ben were the cause of the break up. Ben told Ryan Seacrest that nothing could be further from the truth. "[Ashley and I] started planning this podcast months ago way before any of this [separation news] happened," he said on On Air With Ryan.

They're not above playing with fans' heads though. Ben recently left a flirty comment on one of Ashley's Instagram posts, causing fans to speculate that these two are hiding a relationship, and not very well, either.

Ashley and Ben have maintained that they're just pals, and so that's what we can go on, barring that flirty comment or two. Following his breakup with Lauren, Ashley said that Ben was very single. Very, very single. "He's mostly home and hanging out with his guy friends," Ashley told Entertainment Tonight. "I think Ben needs a girl that's, like, low maintenance — a natural, church-going, humble girl who's, like, looking to go with him when he does his mission trips. And somebody who's a very good conversationalist, for sure."

Ben may have found that woman — he told Us Weekly of his time on The Bachelor Winter Games, "I made a lot of good relationships from when I stepped into the house to the time I left. If you ask me, 'Did I take steps in the romance department?' I definitely did. There's not a question in my mind that there were steps made. I may or may not have [found love]. For me, personally, there was huge steps made. I'm excited for people to be with me in that story, through television." Hmm… is there a new romance in the works for Ben? No spoilers allowed, I guess, but it sounds like he may have done some smooching.

If Ben was doing some smooching, Ashley was doing some crying. That's what Ashley is known for on these shows — her tears. They're there in the preview for the series, but you know what? That's just Ashley. As she told People, "I'm kind of shameless — I just embrace myself so much now at my old age of 29. Like, whatever, this is me, accept it. I'm not going to put on an act."

Ashley and Ben are looking for love, but they're certainly not looking for it with each other. Having friends is always a good thing — let's just hope these two find something more on The Bachelor Winter Games, even if that's not with each other.