It's time I come out about one of my guiltiest pleasures- I've been watching the Bachelor (and Bachelorette) since the beginning. It started as a curiosity (because I really do love love and relationships- in all forms) and has continued to inspire me to help people change the way they're doing relationships.
I know it could seem counter-intuitive for someone who does so much work with polyamory and non-monogamy to stay loyal to a show based all around the fantasy that there is one true love out there for every one of us.
(Not to mention so many super dated ideas about what relationships are, and how gender works... I digress...)
One thing I have always LOVED about the show though is that it normalizes many of the important principles of non-monogamy and brings them to a mainstream audience. Suddenly people who have never realized its possible to love, care for, or ethically date more than one person at a time are questioning long-held beliefs about monogamy- and I think that's a good thing.
I'm going to outline my favorite lessons in non-monogamy from the Bachelor below to celebrate my favorite Bachelorette of all closing in on her final rose next week. If you're watching I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
What the Bachelor/ette Gets Right About Non-Monogamy
1. Time is essential
Love may be infinite, but time is not and on the Bachelor (much like in most non-monogamous relationships) conflicts over who gets more time and comparisons of the quality of time one date gets vs another are HUGE.
On the show (and in reali non-monogamous life) time (screen time and date time) often communicates importance or priority to our partners. Every season has had heated conflict between suitors who want more time- and worry they're not getting enough.
To avoid running the circles so many Bachelor/ette contestants have, get clear about your time commitments and what they mean to you with each partner who matters to you.
2. Comparison will eat you alive
It is so easy to get lost in comparison when our partner spends quality time with someone else. We easily start wondering if they are funnier/sexier/smarter/more exciting than us.
You can see this happen every time someone gets a 1:1 date on the Bachelor/ette. The contestants who aren't on the date easily spiral into worries about their comparative inadequacies. Usually they shrivel into isolation and self-doubt or combust in ego and overcompensation.
The thing is, no two connections are the same. Each one is very different so trying to compare will only drive you bananas.
In my practice I've seen many clients get stuck in spiraling comparative thoughts. Remember, comparison will never lead you where you want to go- contestants on the show who get stuck there rarely make it to the home visits (final rounds).
3. Stay focused on your own time
As I said before, time is limited and when you're sharing it with many people it becomes especially precious. And yet, comparison, jealousy, and insecurity often lead us to bring other people to mind and conversation when we finally do get to be alone with our special someone.
This has become a bigger issue with each turning season of the Bachelor/ette. One contestant or another fixates on another "not being there for the right reasons" and loses focus on why they're there themselves. One known kiss of death in this show is using the brief time you have with the Bachelor/ette 1:1 (usually during cocktail parties and group dates) to complain about another contestant.
Take a lesson from the many failed contestants over the years: stay present during your time with a sweetheart. Don't spend your precious moments talking about anyone but the two of you.
4. Yes, you can love more than one person at a time
This is my favorite hypocracy of the Bachelor Franchise. The show is all about finding your one true love and living happily ever after, yet with each passing season it becomes more clear it is possible to love multiple people at the same time.
One of the biggest scandals of the show's history was when Bachelor Ben Higgins said "I love you" to two different women. The audience was shocked (many appalled), "HOW COULD THIS BE?"
Yes, ultimately he chose just one woman to propose to. I mean, that is the fantasy the show centers on people.
But the message still gets sent home to all those folks who doubt multiple loves- YES, it IS possible to love more than one person. It is my hope that with this growing awareness (multiple attractions, friendships, romances, and even loves can co-exist) we might start building a healthier form of monogamy- one that understands attractions are real and non-threatening and more folks might consider healthy non-monogamy without shame.
Maybe that's a lofty goal for a pretty cheesy reality TV show, but we have to start somewhere.