A good friend recently put The Bachelorback on my radar, and I’m obsessed again. This reality show’s got it all: drama, eye candy, drama, comedy, and drama. Also, drama. And beneath the surface, it actually has a lot to say about love, relationships, dating, and heartbreak. As your resident Bachelor of psychology, I’m here to break down the romantic psychology of The Bachelor.
(All these points apply to The Bachelorette as well, but for simplicity I’ll be referring to both versions of the show as The Bachelor.)
1. People can love more than one person at a time.
Each season, just one contestant makes it all the way to the end. Ostensibly, that’s the bachelor’s one true love. But as contestants are whittled down, we see the bachelor struggle to decide who to eliminate each episode. There are often tears as he decides who to cut, and sometimes full-on meltdowns, particularly in the last few episodes of the season.
Clearly, then, it’s not as easy as “Who do I love the most? The rest are irrelevant.” Instead, the bachelor is developing relationships with multiple people at the same time. Typically, multiple contestants confess their love verbally; the bachelor often reciprocates.
This teaches us that, contrary to the monogamous American dream scenario where each of us meets one true love, it’s very possible for someone (with the best intentions) to develop deep connections with multiple people simultaneously. If polyamory were more common in modern America, who knows, The Bachelor could end with more than one winner.
2. People can respect others vying for the same person.
There are always conflicts between contestants on The Bachelor. It’s a sure thing, and one of the most entertaining parts of the show. But despite all the contestants going for the mutually-exclusive goal of winning the bachelor’s heart, we often see camaraderie and respect between them.
In fact, it usually raises a red flag to the bachelor when his contestants don’t get along with one another. It shows maturity when someone can be cordial with others who are after the same person, and the bachelor typically views this maturity favorably.
3. Vulnerability is key.
This one actually works for platonic relationships as well. People like vulnerability. It’s relatable, likable, and endearing.
The bachelor always appreciates contestants who give their best shot at something uncomfortable on a group date. This is because we are naturally drawn to people who aren’t afraid to show all sides of themselves – whether those sides are pleasant or not.
It’s difficult to get close to someone who withholds parts of themselves that they don’t want the world to see. In the show and in life, we like people who are open.
4. Breaking up is never easy.
If you were on The Bachelor, the rational part of your brain would remind itself that, most likely, the bachelor won’t choose you at the end.
But as things get closer and closer to the end, it’s impossible for the contestants not to feel like their bond is the strongest in the group. This is the cruelest part of the show, and also the most engaging (see: vulnerability is key).
When you’re physically intimate with someone you’re falling for, you’re going to see stars. You’re going to wonder if you’ll be married someday. You’re going to have high hopes.
But, for all contestants but one, it is doomed to never be. They know this when they sign up for the show but, even so, contestants are never ready to be told that their time is up. And such is life.
5. Happily Ever Afters are never guaranteed.
“Who will the bachelor choose to spend the rest of his life with?” is the question the entire show hinges on. It’s the source of all the show’s tension and drama, and the question that, in the end, only has one answer.
But the gag? It doesn’t matter. No matter who makes it to the end or who has a ring on their finger by the end of each season, there is no guarantee that the relationship will last.
It’s an unfortunate truth, but most “winners” on The Bachelor don’t stay with the bachelor long after the show. In fact, sometimes the winner has already broken up with the bachelor by the time the show airs. While some couples do stay together happily (see Sean and Catherine Lowe), a split is more common than an eternal marriage.
It’s hard to digest, but the real world is this way too. Love can spring up in the most unexpected times, and it can also end after fifty happy years. The bond between two people is ever-changing as each person evolves (an everlasting process), and this makes it difficult to know which relationships will endure regardless of circumstance.
If nothing else, maybe we can take love’s ephemerality as a positive; whether a happy relationship lasts a few months or until you die, you can always take it’s lessons and memories forward with you.