Before announcing that she and her Challenge costar Jordan Wiseley had called off their engagement, Tori Deal welcomed the opportunity to compete on a season of the MTV show without him. Getting that space on The Challenge: Double Agents might've even helped give her some perspective on their relationship.
"It's one of those interesting things when you take so much time apart from somebody, now you're not in their face and you don't have to think about what's wrong in front of them and then fight about it," Deal, 27, tells PEOPLE. "You can really sit and reflect on it when you're away, and both him and I needed that."
Although Deal says "having him there would have been fine," they had competed on the last two seasons together, so appearing on the show without him "felt nice."
The five-time Challenge competitor still had supporters on the upcoming season, though — Double Agents allowed her to reunite with friend and fellow vet Aneesa Ferreira, with whom she'll host MTV's Official Challenge Podcast, launching this week.
"I was having way too much fun," Deal, who teamed up with Barry's Bootcamp to teach a virtual workout class in honor of Double Agents' premiere, says of arriving on The Challenge set in Iceland for season 36. "I think because of corona[virus] and being quarantined all year, and then going on this show and being around people, I was like, 'Oh my God, people!' It felt so good to give Aneesa a hug and not play the game and really just have a fun time."
She and 30-year-old Wiseley — who popped the question on The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2 last year — announced on Instagram last month that they mutually decided to end their engagement.
"I'm really happy that Jordan and I are on the same page," says Deal. "It would suck to have a really nasty breakup, especially when you've created a lot of years of love with somebody. You don't want to just throw it in the trash."
The New Jersey native appreciates the support from her castmates during this time — and refutes allegations from naysayers that she and Wiseley feigned their relationship for the cameras.
"I think people are going to say whatever they're going to say to downplay whatever Jordan and I had," Deal says. "Some people are saying it was fake and we only did it for TV, which is just so false, because why the f— would anybody put up with somebody else for three years for f—ing TV? That's just a bald-faced lie."
Deal entered The Challenge: Dirty XXX in a relationship with her fellow Are You the One? Second Chances costar Derrick Henry before meeting Wiseley, so the prospect of taking a break from finding love on TV appeals to her right now.
"I can't even begin to even think about answering that question, that's how nauseated I am by thinking about a public relationship," Deal says when asked about the possibility of dating a costar again. "I think I just need to focus on trying to get my Challenge win."
And she promises the new season will be "really, really messy," even though viewers won't see the final days of her relationship with Wiseley play out on TV.
"So, be easy on everyone," Deal implores. "Because we're all going through it."
The Challenge: Double Agents premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV. The first episode of MTV's Official Challenge Podcast drops Thursday on the iHeartPodcast Network.
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