updated 12/10/2010 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/25/2010 AT 12:00 PM ET
What a difference a year makes – especially for Bachelorette star Ali Fedotowsky.
“A year ago I had just gotten home from filming The Bachelor,” recalls Fedotowsky, who, at the time, was one of four women vying for the affection of Dallas pilot Jake Pavelka.
On the show, she made the shocking decision to withdraw from the program and return to her job at Facebook, which caused an uproar with fans and wreaked havoc on her nerves.
“I was like, ‘I don’t have love. This sucks,’ ” Fedotowsky tells PEOPLE. “I bought a really expensive pair of boots that cost as much as my rent to make me feel better.”
“Last year I was filling a void with boots, and this year I have Roberto,” says Fedotowsky, who’s excited that the couple will celebrate their first Christmas together.
They’ve decked out their San Diego home with all of her favorite things. “It’s decorated with silver and red balls and little fairies,” Fedotowsky says. “I love this collection from Hallmark and every year they come out with a new fairy and I put them on the tree.”
Next year, things might be different. “I want to do a major league baseball theme,” Martinez says with a laugh. “No, whatever makes her happy is fine with me.”
Indeed, the two are grateful that amidst the chaos of looking for love on television, they found each other.
“Last year I was single, missing that piece in my life,” Martinez says. “Now I have it. I’m appreciative of that.”