By Carista Luminare, Ph.D.
I'm a grown woman with an extraordinary life and a fabulous relationship with the man of my dreams. I don't need to watch the ABC hit show, The Bachelor. But I do and I have been for years. On Monday night, I found myself outraged by the final episode. I think Chris Harrison was reckless.
As a relationship counselor, I was curious what the hype was about. People suggested that it was an alluring romance saga. Then my teen daughter took a liking to it, and that gave me the chance to watch it with her, guiding and teaching her about psychology, love and the illusory nature of so-called "reality" shows.
Superficial behavior filled the screen week after week. The show barely touched on real love, and rarely demonstrated what a sustainable relationship might look like. I guided her carefully, teaching her what healthy love is — and what it is not. Now, as she goes off to college, she has the wisdom and confidence to pick good men from among the creeps. That made the show worth watching.
Women are attracted to fairytale stories, and many people seem to want one for themselves — even if it means sealing their fate for an unhappy life. The Bachelor is a fairytale cooked up to stir the imagination. The true reality is that successful relationships — the kind that can be sustained over decades of life's challenges — don't feel like fairytale romances.
Fairytale romances have princes who never get upset when you react emotionally, or demand more connection time. In real romances, sometimes he just annoys the hell out of you because he's clueless how to love you. You might be lucky enough to live in a fairytale romance with an athletic Ph.D. who made millions as an entrepreneur, or you might have found a real King — one who is kind, who has a big belly and who loves to watch The Bachelor with you (as long as you don't tell his friends). In your real relationship you may get to be a Queen with wrinkles and grey hair, having earned your wisdom through life’s real battles, with resulting battle scars around your heart.
I have found my King, but I don't yearn for a fairytale fantasy with romantic sunsets (and TV cameras rolling). I wanted a man I could be REAL with — raw and gritty, not fabricated to trick a love-starved global audience into believing that love can be found on a televised show in just 10 weeks. There are no guaranteed "happily ever afters" in real life — once the cameras stop broadcasting your every move.
I found myself very disturbed at what I witnessed during the Final Rose Ceremony. Chris Harrison, supposedly a caring therapist, was attempting to manipulate Juan Pablo into professing his love, when he could not, in good conscience, do so. Surprising everyone, Juan Pablo had enough integrity NOT to propose.
Yes, as with almost all of the bachelors and bachelorettes, Juan Pablo frequently expressed insensitive remarks to various women that were foolish and hurtful. And, in a powerful demonstration of maturity, we finally saw him as a real man protecting his woman from false promises. He refused to be pushed into rash behavior. But this makes bad television, and pisses people off. It doesn't follow the show's fairytale formula. He demonstrated strength of character instead of allowing himself to be intimidated by Chris Harrison's manipulative tactics. He blew The Bachelor's brand, so he got vilified.
Juan Pablo is supposed to give the audience what they want: all sweetness and light, with a strong commitment to happily ever after. Cue the music, fade to black, everybody goes home happy. But no. Juan Pablo doesn't take the bait. He says he doesn't know her well enough, having had 26 other woman to distract him during the past 10 weeks. He's smart enough to understand that authentic love takes time to build. It's not an instant fix made up between commercials.
He has a choice, and he and Nikki together as a couple choose to keep their plans private. Chris was appalled they would not disclose anything other than they are happy with being together starting a real exploration without cameras. I was appalled by him being appalled. Authentic love does not happen on demand or for the purpose of popularity and great TV ratings. Here, for the first time, a Bachelor broke from the script, refusing to become a media darling. Instead of being praised for maturity and truth, he was publically humiliated; they spit him out for being true to his heart. That screwed with the show's branding of instant love in just ten weeks. Keep Reading ...
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