The Bachelorette reality show franchise has quickly become the guilty pleasure of just about everyone in America. Watch parties have been scheduled and brackets predicting the couple-to-be have been created. People really seem to get a kick out of watching one person date 25 different people until they can narrow down the herd and find their “true love.”
Even though a lot of people watch the shows just to laugh at and mock the dramatized and unrealistic nature of it all, many still find themselves left with an impractical idea about relationships and romance after exposing themselves to these shows.
Viewers watch romance blossom and chemistry intensify on screen, as couples go on lavishly expensive and exclusive dates all across the globe. Suddenly their own date night at the Olive Garden, followed by a late viewing of the latest rom-com, seems wildly inferior. This flood of discontent and rise of expectations is leading to a strong demise in successful relationships in the real world.
The Unrealistic Expectations
The fact of the matter is, shows like this, although entertaining, can be truly toxic to real life relationships. Carole Lieberman, M.D., a Beverly Hills psychiatrist and author, states that “The shows not only create unrealistic expectations of how over the top a date should be, but they also encourage lying to your partners in order to keep them interested in you, while you are really interested in someone else.” It can be difficult to watch JoJo and Robby go cliff diving in Argentina and still be content with a nothing more than “Netflix & Chill.”
The theory that couples are breaking up due to the feeling that their partners are not romantic enough has actually been backed by recent research. Jasbina Ahluwalia,a matchmaker and dating coach, and the founder of Intersections Match by Jasbina, says, “Research does reveal that couples are actually breaking up due to one partner deeming his partner not romantic enough, as measured against the romance created by shows.”
The Reality of Reality TV
The problem that arises from the popularity of these shows revolves around the fact that people forget what it really is — a TV show. Even though many people tell themselves that they watch the show purely for entertainment purposes, whether they mean to or not, they become mystified by the idea of the picturesque, fairytale romance that they watch unfold.
An appreciation and interest in a TV romance is seemingly harmless and we have all been guilty at one point or another for growing a small obsession for an on-screen couple. Unfortunately, The Bachelor franchise has changed the idea of what happily ever after and modern day romance rightfully entail. “Watching The Bachelorette made me think that when I am in my 20s, I will have tons of guys fawning all over me — this is what I was prepared for but it definitely isn’t what happened.” says Kelley Andrews*, a sophomore at Florida State University.
We grew up thinking that monogamy was the only way to pursue a relationship and that every person we date will look at us like we are the only girl in the room. These shows go strictly against this traditional type of romance that people used to strive for. Even supposing that change is inevitable and often times very beneficial, the structure of the show doesn’t even typically work for those on it, so why should the rest of society follow suit?
The Downfall of Monogamy
It is clear that the idea of monogamy is not exactly idolized on the show. Although going on a few first or seconds dates with multiple people is rather common, pursing a serious relationship with more than one person at a time is not as widely accepted — especially when throwing around the “L” word and promises of marriage. “It is kind of like glorified cheating,” says Emily Hartranft, a sophomore at Florida State University.
When people watch the show and their #relationshipgoals turn into pursuing serious relationships with multiple people, the idea of committed relationships start to dwindle throughout our society. “Watching the show kind of makes me think that it is a good idea to pursue multiple serious relationships — that way, if one doesn’t work out, there is always another one,” says Karen Marsh*, a sophomore at the University of Florida. Having multiple serious partners can work for some people, but the show distorts this concept. On The Bachelor, for instance, the man is dating multiple women throughout the duration of the show, however, the women he is dating are not allowed to be romantically involved with any other people. The same goes for the woman and men on The Bachelorette.
The Distortion of Reality
Besides the obvious double standard that this format presents, it also becomes a problem because it creates a false reality that normal people strive to achieve. In real life, when dating multiple people, there is nothing stopping your partners from also pursuing relationships with other people at the same time that they are pursuing you. The heartbreak and complications that go along with this are not featured in the shows, so people often assume that dating multiple people will leave them with a number of devoted suitors who dedicate all of their time and emotions to them when this is most likely not the reality.
The distortion of relationships does not stop there. These shows are also notorious for making relationships appear to be much easier than they are in real life. The couples on these shows spend very little alone time together and the time they are together is typically spent in front of a camera. The public sees the passionate kisses and cozy fireplace snuggles, but doesn’t see anything that real couples normally go through. “Relationships take a lot of time and effort and I don't think shows likeThe Bachelor can accurately reflect that effort because of the lack of real world, everyday situations,” says Madison Sokol, a sophomore at the University of Florida.
It is wild to think that after a total of 12 dates, a number of which are group dates, a couple is expected to get married and spend their lives together. The type of love that is needed for a life-long partnership can’t be determined in that short of a time period. Seeing two people “fall in love” and begin a life together after just a few short weeks makes normal people expect a sped up timeline in their own relationships. This can lead to only disappointment and stress when real life relationships take much more time to cultivate.
The Unavoidable Complications
Furthermore, the idea of having all of the people who the star is dating residing in the same house throughout the show creates an unavoidable presence of competition. This is great for entertainment purposes, but can make it more difficult for the start to find true love, which is what the show was designed to do. “I think that the competition aspect of the show can leave the star wondering if he/she is genuinely desired for who he/she is; or alternatively temporarily desired merely as a competition ‘prize,’” says Ahluwalia. This competitive aspect not only creates another unrealistic expectation for normal people, but takes away from the goal of the show itself.
This intention to produce entertaining television is the most important goal that the producers have. Therefore, when choosing contestants for the show, it is not the compatibility that they search for, but the entertainment value that they can provide. They want contestants who are going to have meltdowns or who are going to be the “heartthrob” that viewers fall in love with; who the star is going to click with the best is not their main concern. Due to this, the relationships become somewhat forced and artificial.
Don’t get me wrong, The Bachelor franchise is one of my favorite things to watch on television, however, it is not the best place to get your ideas about romance. When thinking about your ideal relationship, question the reality of it. Does it make sense to have 25 people dating only you? Are your date expectations a little bit too extreme? Comparing relationships is a bad idea in real life, let alone when television comes into play.
*Name has been changed