This isn’t the first time Woman’s Day has enjoyed a fun photo shoot with Arthur Green and Matilda Rice. Since finding each other on The Bachelor NZ, the young couple have shared their gorgeous grins and infectious giggles with our camera on several occasions.
But as we join Art and Matilda for an exclusive catch-up at a rural Auckland property this week, it’s very clear something has changed between the happy pair, who shower each other with affection, stealing kisses and cuddles between shots.
And they agree. “We’ve just clicked completely and utterly given in to how we are feeling,” says Matilda, 24, nuzzling into her handsome squeeze. “We are super-comfortable with each other. I always feel like I want to grab or cling on to him because I just love his little face.”
Yes, you heard right. The twosome – who have been hounded by accusations of a false romance for so long – are head over heels in love. But not just any ordinary kind, adds Matilda. “Love with a capital L!”
Speaking of the L word, she continues, “I said it first! We were eating burgers in bed after a night out in Auckland. I’d been feeling like I’d wanted to say it for about two or three weeks, but I’d been weighing up whether or not to tell him how I was feeling.
“We are still only early on in the relationship and I didn’t want to scare him off. I knew deep down we were on the same page, but there was that tiny bit of doubt, like, what if he didn’t say it back?
“In the end, I just babbled out this long-winded conversation that finished up with, ‘I love you.’ I told Art I just wanted to get it off my chest and that he shouldn’t feel pressured to say it back.”
But returning the favour came naturally for Art, who was feeling the same way.
“Now we tell each other every day,” smiles the 27-year-old. “The word love is quite a big deal for both of us, which I like. We both knew we wouldn’t say it unless we truly meant it.”
He and Matilda marked their six-month anniversary by whipping up a batch of their favourite guilt-free Paleo pancakes and hitting the gym together. While a sweat session isn’t typically romantic, the couple is through with the showy dates they experienced on the TV3 reality show and enjoy simply being in each other’s company.
“It doesn’t matter what we are doing – we always have fun,” says Art. “Any spare moment I get, I want to spend it with Matty. If I have a stressful day at work, I come home to her and none of it matters any more. I spend so much time at her house, I think my flatmates are beginning to wonder if I even live at my flat any more.
“It’s crazy how perfect our relationship is. Matty’s everything I could want in a girlfriend – she makes me so happy. We are really chilled, we are always laughing and we are really open about stuff. I can’t think of anything that could ever be an issue between us as we’re just so on the same page.”
With things positively perfect between the pair, Art and Matilda are looking forward to a long, hot summer beach-hopping around the country, as well as a romantic overseas escape and celebrating Christmas with each other’s families. With so much fun to be had, the young lovers don’t feel any pressure to rush into marriage, babies or even moving in together any time soon.
“We were forced to talk about those bigger topics on the show, so we both know we want a family down the line, but it’s still early days, so we don’t feel the need to talk about that stuff all the time,” explains Art. “It’s not like we avoid talking about those big topics, but we don’t feel the need to discuss them every day.
“When I entered the show, I honestly didn’t expect to be sitting here now as happy as I am, so Matty and I are really just enjoying the stage we are at right now.”
Reminiscing about the first time she laid eyes on Art, Matilda says, “I doubted that the one guy on The Bachelor could be someone I could fall in love with. I obviously hoped he would be, but I’d been single for a few years before the show and hadn’t met one guy I liked, so it really seemed too good to be true.
“But after being shoved out of the limo without any briefing or any idea what to expect, I spoke to Art for the first time and felt instantly relaxed. I always knew we had something special – and look at us now!
“I get so much happiness out of having a permanent little buddy to do stuff with. I’m so lucky to have a boyfriend like Art who makes me feel so good about myself.
“He accepts me completely. Art always tells me how he prefers me without make-up and with my natural hair – it’s so nice to have someone you can be so comfortable around.”
Though only six months have passed since Matilda received Art’s final rose on the sandy shores of the Gold Coast, they both agree it feels like a lifetime ago. Art says, “That’s how Matty and I know what we have together is so right.”
Matilda adds, “We don’t mind being referred to as ‘that couple from The Bachelor’ because it’s true – that’s how we met and we’re not ashamed of that.
“But it all feels a bit irrelevant to us now. I truly think Art and I would be in the same position if we met each other randomly in a bar.”
And with an all-new second season of The Bachelor NZ coming soon to TV3, Art has only one piece of advice to the lucky suitor looking for love: “Just follow your heart. I did and look where that got me!”