Nikki Bella Reveals How Doing ‘DWTS’ Helped Her Realize She Needed To End John Cena Relationship

In Nikki Bella’s new memoir, she explains why she was so ‘lonely’ and unhappy in her relationship with John Cena, and how her time on ‘DWTS’ helped her to ‘wake up’ from his broken-hearted bad dream.

Reading Time: 3 minutes
View gallery
Image Credit: Mediapunch/Shutterstock

“I have many regrets about that relationship,” Nikki Bella, 36, writes about her six years with John Cena, 43, in Incomparable, a new memoir with sister Brie Bella. In this tell-all, Nikki discussed how her unresolved issues with her father abandoning her at age 15 affected her relationship with John, and how it took a stint on Dancing with the Stars (where she would meet future fiancé and father of her child, Artem Chigventsev) to snap her out of it. “I wish I’d understood how the patterns in my life, and my relationship with my own father, informed how I react to love, boundaries, and feelings of abandonment. I think I could have averted some of what happened [with John.]”

Nikki said she felt “almost pathologically lonely” during her relationship with John. “I just didn’t know how to identify the emotion. And I certainly didn’t know how to ask what I needed.” Nikki, out of her trauma of being abandoned, was “operat[ing] from a place of fear of losing something I wanted (my ex), but I also wanted to be perfect for him because I wanted him to have a perfect life.” She wanted to fit “into the contours of my ex’s very busy and big life,” and that came at the expense of voicing her own needs. She “stuffed my desire for marriage and kids as deep as I could…While I wanted those things very badly—I just wanted him more.”

“I don’t think it was until I did Dancing with the Stars that I really woke up,” writes Nikki. “The producers got me an apartment in Los Angeles for the show, where I stayed for about eleven weeks. It wasn’t a palace, but I loved it. I loved doing whatever I wanted, and I loved getting back into my body through dance. I loved hanging out with friends and going out to see live music, brewing a pot of coffee, making an English muffin, and some watermelon, choking down my vitamins, turning on the Today show.” Her stint on DWTS broke her dependency and reminded Nikki how much she liked “to be that independent girl. I had been sitting in a jail cell without realizing that the door wasn’t locked and that I had built it myself. After Dancing with the Stars, I felt like I’d found myself. I didn’t want to lose her again.”


“One of the things that Dancing with the Stars also unlocked for me was the idea that I can stand on my own,” Nikki adds. “I think it’s partly growing up as a twin, and then becoming a star based on that twindom, but being involved with a mega-star also undermined some of my faith in myself.”

The rest, as she puts it, is “is Total Divas and Total Bellas rerun history.” Nikki “panicked” as her and John’s wedding approached, and she “had to walk away.” Since then, they both have seemingly moved on, and Nikki credits her relationship with John in helping her see was deserving of love (“He could see the real me and love me just the same.”)

She also acknowledges that because she put his needs first, she never gave him the “respect of actually hearing about how I was doing.” She didn’t give their relationship “the benefit of the doubt that maybe it could handle more. Because I assumed he wasn’t willing to make sacrifices, I did not persistently ask. Because I was so fixated on what I believed he wanted, I made many decisions on his behalf, even though I was losing myself in the process.”

Nikki hopes that her and John’s “story together will have a happy ending” and that she probably wouldn’t change a thing if given a second chance to relive it. “I believe I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be. But, I know the path to get there would have been far less tortured if I hadn’t needed to learn a lot of important lessons about tapping into what I want and need and learning how to communicate that to the man I loved most in the world.”

More From Our Partners