Speaking on the Pomp podcast Tuesday, James, 29, said that the "ultimatum" was the push he needed to fully commit to their relationship.
"She was like, 'If you're going to make this work, let's do it. But, if you're not going to make it work, I'm going to let you do your own thing,'" he said.
"That's really all I needed. It was an ultimatum that I needed," he continued. "It's been great. It was honestly a commitment that we made to each other that we were going to work on the relationship."
"There came a point in time where it was evident that my working on the relationship looked different than Rachael's because I wasn't really honoring that commitment that I made to working on the relationship," the ABC star admitted.
Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell
Craig Sjodin/Getty Images Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James
James and Kirkconnell, 24, revealed on the After the Final Rose special in March that they broke up after photos of Kirkconnell attending an antebellum plantation-themed party in 2018 resurfaced on social media. She has since apologized and said that she is "learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist."
The pair then reunited in April after the former Bachelor flew her out to New York City to "stay with him," a source close to Kirkconnell told PEOPLE at the time.
Kirkconnell believed she was going to see James to mend their relationship and was disappointed when that didn't pan out.
A woman claiming to be James' ex said that he had spoken with her just days before inviting Kirkconnell to stay with him in New York, which the insider said made the 24-year-old feel James had "broken her trust."
"There were rough patches in our relationship [and] we actually broke up for a moment. We're back together [now]," James shared on the Pomp podcast Tuesday. "Everything we've been through, everything she's been through, she's stuck right by my side. She's continued to have a positive attitude. It's one of the many things I love about her."
Last month, James confirmed to PEOPLE that he and Kirkconnell are now exclusively dating.
Rachael Kirkconnell/ instagram Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James
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"I'm not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it," he said.
As for whether James feels Kirkconnell has been doing the work she promised regarding educating herself about racism, he said, "That's something you could talk to her about."