What ‘The Bachelor’ Can Teach Us About Finding Lasting Love

We all have our guilty pleasures, mine being watching every episode of The Bachelor (or Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, or Bachelor in Paradise) that has ever aired. ABC and The Bachelor franchise have created a reality television show that entertains me on multiple levels – from the intense rose ceremonies and two-on-one dates, to the competitive nature it brings out in the contestants. In the end, it’s the hopeless romantic that wins over and I watch the episodes in anticipation of the Bachelor/ Bachelorette making a genuine connection with someone and all the chaos of the previous episodes making sense in the end. Critics of the show have argued that show provides an idyllic environment that is not sustainable when the couple transitions their relationship into the “real world”. Despite this, The Bachelor is currently in its 21st season, and the Bachelorette is gearing up for its 13th season, telling me that there are enough Bachelors and Bachelorettes that believe in the process to continue on the search to find their true love.

As of the publication of this post, out of the over 30 seasons of the show, only 8 of the couples from the entire franchise are still together. While some consider this number low, I personally see it as remarkable considering the stresses that almost every one of these couples goes through as a result of press and media related to the show. So, as we head into another episode of Nick Vaill’s season on his journey to find love, let’s consider what over 30 seasons of the Bachelor can teach us about finding lasting love.

The Bachelor Tip #1:

Being Open and Vulnerable to New Relationships is a Must

Nick Viall has made being ready to find love the foundation of each of his four appearances on the various Bachelor franchise shows. After being viewed by many as the “villain” in both Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons of the Bachelorette, he redeemed himself in season 3 of the Bachelor in Paradise, when the audience recognized his heartfelt and genuine desire to find his lady love. Now in his own season as the Bachelor, Nick’s ability to let his guard down with the woman he is dating has been his saving grace in developing relationships of more depth with a select few women. Nick has discussed his intention to be vulnerable throughout the season, with the hopes that this will bring him closer to finding love.

The Bachelor: Nick Vaill and Kaitlyn Bristowe's breakup during the final rose ceremony

Photo: Nick Vaill and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s breakup during the final rose ceremony, from E! Online

If we look at previous seasons, this seems to be what set the couples that work apart from the couples the break-up shortly after their season finale. Like all romantic relationships, the contestants of the Bachelor that find love seem to know that in order to truly fall in love in the whirlwind of dating multiple partners and limited alone time, you need to bring your full, true self to the dating table. The love that develops when you know another person at a level that most others do not, is only possible when you’re able to let the other person into your private world.

This level of vulnerability brings a whole new level of uncertainty, especially for the contestants vying for the love of the Bachelor or Bachelorette who may be falling in love with someone else. As with any romantic relationship the tendency can be to pull back and protect ourselves from being hurt, but we also risk missing out on that deeper love. We’ve seen the downfall of this when we recall season 18’s Bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis. Despite having two woman eager to become engaged to him, Juan Pablo was unable to let either woman completely in emotionally. After choosing to continue his relationship with contestant Nikki Ferrel, the two ended their relationship several months later when Juan Pablo was unable to open up and love Nikki as she wanted. Without a genuine and deeper connection, romantic partners will face challenges later in their relationships and will struggle to connect during times of individual difficulty. The Bachelor couples that have found lasting love seem to have this in common, which helps them to sustain the love they found on the show.

The Bachelor: Nikki Ferrell and Juan Pablo during the final rose ceremony, from Starpulse.com

Photo: Nikki Ferrell and Juan Pablo during the final rose ceremony, from Starpulse.com

The Bachelor Tip #2:

Connection is Fostered Through Difficulty

Early into every season there is a less than desirable group date that challenges each of the contestants to step outside their comfort zone and prove their dedication to the Bachelor or Bachelorette. This season, Nick took his dates to a local farm to milk cows and shovel cow manure out of the stalls. Besides being entertaining for the audience to watch the moment who are typically dressed in designer gowns get a little dirty in the name of love, this date theme often acts as a catalyst for determining who is a good fit for the Bachelor/Bachelorette and who is not.

The Bachelor: Contentants from Nick Viall's season shovelling cow manure on a "date", from Jillian Harris

Photo: Contentants from Nick Viall’s season shovelling cow manure on a “date”, from Jillian Harris

For one, these challenging dates serve as an opportunity for the Bachelor/Bachelorette and each of the contestants to trial what it might be like to go through the many potentially stressful life events that are common in typical romantic relationships. Eventually, all couples are faced with these events that challenge how they communicate with one another and work together to get through the situation – the dog breaks out of the house and needs to be chased down the street, the couch you bought won’t fit through the stairwell to your apartment (a la Friends), there are no parking spots when you’re late for a dinner reservation and you drive around stressed until you find one, or something equally small but impactful in the moment. It’s in these moments that you see a glimpse of how your partner reacts to stress and they witness the same in you. Can you work your way through it together, or does one of you sit on the sidelines (Corrine in last week’s farm episode of the Bachelor), while the other does all the dirty work on their own? How people respond in these situations says a lot about them, as well as their compatibility within the relationship. When couples are able o make it through these tough times, they actually develop a closer bond. They’ve survived something difficult and it brings them closer. If the opposite occurs, it may be a sign that the relationship requires work in this area.

The Bachelor Tip #3:

Self-Respect and Assertiveness Begets Respect

A challenge for many people when they begin dating someone is balancing their own needs with the needs and desires of their partner. When we like someone, we tend to let certain things slide early on. However, when we feel as though our boundaries have been crossed or we need something that our partner is not giving us, speaking up assertively can go a long way in either ending a relationship that is not right, or developing greater respect within the relationship.

We’ve seen this over and over again on the Bachelor. During Juan Pablo’s season, Andi Dorfman made her infamous exit from the show after sharing her concerns with Juan Pablo that she did not feel as though he was genuinely interested in getting to know her. On her overnight Fantasy Suite date with the Bachelor, Andi reportedly felt unheard and unimportant. During their conversation the next day, Juan Pablo’s infamous response was “It’s okay,” when it really was not okay for Andi. Andi’s demonstration of self-respect and assertiveness to first talk to Juan Pablo about her concerns and then end the relationship when she was not heard gained her fan respect and was the driving force behind Andi becoming the Bachelorette on the next season. There, this same self-confidence attracted the affection of many of the male contestants.

The Bachelor: Andi Dorfman breaks up with Juan Pablo when "It's NOT okay.", from Hollywood Life

Photo: Andi Dorfman breaks up with Juan Pablo when “It’s NOT okay.”, from Hollywood Life

Similarly, on this season of the Bachelor, Nick was respectfully confronted by Vanessa, one of the current front-runners for his heart. She was able to assertively express her concerns about his more sexually-focused behaviour with one of the other contestants that did not fit with her expectation of how a man that was interested in potentially becoming engaged to her would behave. What was different about how Vanessa expressed herself compared to other more panicked expressions from other contestants, was the undertone of self-respect that Vanessa had for herself. She was able to express her value to Nick, assuredly making a statement of “this is what I’m worth, can you rise to the occasion?” The result was Nick apologizing and requesting that Vanessa continue to be as open and honest with him moving forward through the process. Although this was another uncomfortable conversation, the mutual respect that was expressed seemed to bring them closer together.

The Bachelor Tip #4:

You Can’t Hurry Love

One of the most frustrating things about falling in love is that you can’t predict when it will happen. You really don’t have any control over when it happens, or who it happens with. Contestants on the Bachelor/Bachelorette learn this lesson every season. Among the tear-filled final interviews after someone has be eliminated, there is almost always someone who claims that they were “really falling for the Bachelor/Bachelorette”, they could see themselves “marrying the Bachelor/Bacherlorette” and/or they ask, “When is it going to happen for me?” The simple, yet unsatisfying answer is love just won’t be hurried. Unfortunately part of the vulnerability of dating in the hopes to fall in love is that sometimes you end up having more feelings for your partner than they have for you. There is no amount of fancy cocktail parties, elaborate romantic dates on the top of skyscrapers or long stem roses that will ensure that you will find long, not even on the Bachelor. While Brad Womack became the villain Bachelor of his own season for not picking a contestant to propose to, I actually think this was the more respectful decision for both the women he was dating and Brad. If the feelings aren’t there, they can’t be forced and nor should they.

The Bachelor: Brit Cries Goodbye as she is eliminated, from Thought Catalog

Photo: Brit Cries Goodbye as she is eliminated, from Thought Catalog

The Bachelor Tip #5:

I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends – But Aren’t They Great?!

Every season of the Bachelor/Bachelorette there’s a contestant touting “I didn’t come here to make friends!”. They’re also usually the same person that struggles to get along with the other contestants. These people seem to view the process as a competition and the Bachelor or Bachelorette a prize to win at the end. Needless to say, these people rarely make it beyond the first half of the season and are often eliminated when they are no longer needed for the entertainment value they bring with their conflict with the other contestants.

These competitive, take no prisoners (or friends) contestants often find themselves on the outskirts of their contestant peer group, and often spend cocktail parties “stealing” time with the Bachelor/Bachelorette. There’s an underlying sense of insecurity among these contestants, with a false sense demonstration of confidence. In my humble opinion, people that are able to be friendly with others, while also developing a romantic relationship possess relational skills that bode for a better relationship in the long-run. The contestants who are able to juggle both seem to have a greater self-confidence and trust in their relationship with the Bachelor/Bachelorette separate from their relationships with the other contestants. They understand that being friendly with their peers doesn’t threaten their romantic relationship with someone else. Think about how this plays into everyday romantic relationships – you’ll have much smoother sailing if you can befriend the friends of your partner rather than jealously demanding that your partner spends all their time with you.

The Bachelor: Corrine and Nick, during an infamous cocktail party, from The Inquisitr

Photo: Corrine and Nick, during an infamous cocktail party, from The Inquisitr

Also, who hasn’t benefitted from the support of a good friend to call on when their dating relationship was going through the highs and low? Your boyfriend is on a group date with 5 other women? Well thank goodness for your bff roommate, who’s there to talk it out! Again, looking at Juan Pablo’s season, even though Nikki and Andi had very different opinions on their Bachelor, their friendship withstood two Bachelor break-ups, including when Nikki inevitably ended her relationship with Juan Pablo. End of story, having friends to ride with on our own journey to find love is like good company on a long road trip.

The Bachelor: Andi Dorfman and Nikki Ferrell, from Hollywood Life

Photo: Andi Dorfman and Nikki Ferrell, from Hollywood Life

There you have it! Despite the seemingly superficial nature of the Bachelor/Bachelorette reality TV shows, there is actually quite a bit can learn about the everyday experience of finding lasting love – with the added entertainment of watching it all unfold in front of our eyes from the comfort of the living room. Personally, I’ll be tuning every Monday until Nick proposes in the final rose ceremony.

What are your thoughts on the generalizability of what we see on the Bachelor/Bachelorette to everyday dating experiences?

~ Meredith of Parallel Wellness

Hey there!!

I'm Meredith MacKenzie, the founder of Parallel Wellness and a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Simply put, I love to talk about psychology, emotions and all the things that make us human. My goal for this blog is to share information, resources and a fresh perspective on what brings clients to our practice.

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Hey there!!

I'm Meredith MacKenzie, the founder of Parallel Wellness and a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Simply put, I love to talk about psychology, emotions and all the things that make us human. My goal for this blog is to share information, resources and a fresh perspective on what brings clients to our practice.

So you want to know more??

download free guide