I was a late-comer to watching “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” starting when I was dating my now-husband. While the drama, pseudo-scriptedness, and competitiveness of the show are a turn-off for some, I’ve found many valuable lessons on love in “Bachelor Nation” as my own real-life love story unfolds.
Despite being purely entertaining and the endless memes that come from the show, it’s intriguing to see the attitudes our culture has about love reflected in reality television. Whether it’s a cautionary tale or encouraging a certain virtue, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette can move beyond just entertainment into the world of advice.
Here are seven lessons about love I learned from watching Bachelor Nation:
1. Monogamy Is Better for Happiness
In the last several seasons of both The Bachelor or The Bachelorette that I’ve seen, there is almost always dialogue among contestants – not to mention the leading guy or gal themselves – about how difficult dating multiple people is. The tension that comes from trying to cultivate multiple connections only escalates with the arrival of the Fantasy Suites, in which many couples sleep together for the first time. The pain this creates among both contestants and stars is sad, but relatable – the human heart thrives when dedicated to a journey of intimacy with one person at a time.
2. Vulnerability Is the Only Way to Intimacy
While what the show seems to deem “vulnerable, open, and honest” almost always doesn’t seem very serious, almost every season still places vulnerability at the forefront of developing a strong and lasting relationship. The Bachelor or Bachelorette tends to give roses to those they have good conversations with, not just those to whom they’re physically attracted (though that definitely happens too). As C.S. Lewis once said, “To love is to be vulnerable,” and even a show like The Bachelor seems to know that’s true.
3. Sharing about Yourself Isn’t a Way To Keep Someone Around
On the flip side of lesson #2, viewers see contestants almost compete for who can share the most shocking, moving, or “deepest” thing about themselves to the Bachelor or Bachelorette, in an attempt to have the most established “connection.” While the show is right in portraying the need for vulnerability, the deep struggles and joys of a person’s life shouldn’t be treated as currency to be exchanged in order to buy or win something. Vulnerability is always a gift to give and receive.
4. Being There for the “Right Reasons” Matters in Real Life Too
Bachelor and Bachelorette fans know that a trademark phrase that seems borderline legally required to come up in every season is the accusation or affirmation that someone is or isn’t there for the “right reasons.”
While the show franchise promises recognition, fame, and a guaranteed increase in Instagram followers, people can enter relationships for the wrong reasons even when there are no cameras involved – whether that’s a desire to simply not be alone, a hope that a relationship can solve personal issues, or trying to assuage feelings of pressure from family, friends, or social circles. It’s important to evaluate whether our reasons for seeking relationships are authentic, and to make sure that our partner’s are as well.
5. Backstabbing Never Pays Off
Most, if not all, of the drama on The Bachelor and Bachelorette come from fellow contestants treating each other terribly (Clayton’s current season is no exception). Despite the fact that some seasons’ “villains” have made it a little too far for comfort, those who cause drama almost always get their comeuppance. Backstabbing, gossip, and other toxic tactics among men and women almost never pay off, whether on television or not. If you can’t treat your friends and community with love and respect, you can’t be trusted to treat a romantic partner well either.
6. Idealizing Relationships or People Only Leads to Disappointment
Men and women come on the show only knowing of the current Bachelor or Bachelorette what they’ve seen of them from a previous season. Most of them come proclaiming how they want to win, get engaged, and how the person is “exactly what they want.”
This kind of idealism isn’t limited to reality television: it’s easy to idealize an existing or potential partner when we hardly know anything about them. However, putting a partner on a pedestal only sets us up for disappointment, and prevents us from being able to receive someone’s flaws in a constructive, realistic way. Approaching relationships – especially in the beginning – knowing that the person you’re interested in is human, with mistakes in their past, present, and future, is key to developing a healthy relationship that betters both partners.
7. Building a Real Relationship Takes Time
Realistically speaking, the winner of The Bachelor or Bachelorette gets engaged to the star of the season with very few interactions under their belt. Filming itself only takes about 6 to 9 weeks on average, allowing the Bachelor or Bachelorette and their winner to have spent only about 72 hours together total. This is hardly a foundation for a lasting relationship, hence the low success rate. In fact, of the 25 seasons of The Bachelor and 18 seasons of The Bachelorette, only 14 couples are still together, as of 2021. This super-speed timeline might be tied to that statistic, combined with the invasiveness of being on camera.
Whatever the cause, the timeline shows us how necessary it is to take time to truly get to know a partner. Everyone’s timelines are different, but they do matter – and however short someone’s timeline may be, hopefully, it’s a bit longer than 72 hours total. Time together during dating and engagement are necessary for a solid marriage – it’s in that time that you learn each other’s likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and discuss your values, struggles, and goals as individuals and as a couple. Without that, you go into marriage blind.
While your reasons for watching The Bachelor or Bachelorette might be completely different, next time it could be helpful to try to pick out some “do’s and don'ts” of love from the show. While it certainly isn’t the healthiest way to seek or start a relationship, it can give viewers a clearer picture of the ways their expectations, idealism, and bad habits can get in the way of having a real, lasting relationship.
Finally, it can make you either happy and hopeful for the reality that is in your life, or what might be coming down the road in the future. Relationships grounded in vulnerability, commitment, and the growth of both partners in virtue are a significant source of peace and happiness, and they’re only more so when there are no cameras involved.
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