Several seasons of The Bachelorette have now seen me through the end of my marriage and divorce. While it may be superficial and unrealistic, there’s nothing like clinging to the idea of a fairy tale when your own is going down the tubes. What have The Bachelorette and I both learned?
1. Beware of sexy men with foreign accents. Juan Pablo made the women swoon with his charming Spanish accent, but off-camera he was crude and ultimately had no real interest in who the Bachelorette was as a person. I also fell for my ex-husband’s foreign charm, but this appeal had little to do with long-term compatibility. Worse yet, I discovered that not having the same native language makes for small but lethal communication misunderstandings that can compile and combust the marriage over time. Being made love to in a foreign language may be a turn-on, but if you can’t fight with each other in your own language because something is getting lost in translation, it’s more than unsexy – it’s destructive to the relationship.
2. A three-month courtship does not often end in a successful, long-term relationship. There is an abysmal rate of long-term durability for The Bachelor/The Bachelorette couples. Not surprisingly, when the whirlwind of exotic dates far from the drudgery of everyday life ends, it’s hard to keep the romance going. But it’s also hard to forge a solid foundation for a lifetime relationship after only three months of dating, which I did not realize when I became engaged.
After three months, you just barely begin to scratch the surface of who that person is. It’s too easy to hide the ugly reactions to life’s curveballs in that amount of time and to put on a good façade that melts away with exposure to the heat of months or even years of shared daily trials. If it’s right, it doesn’t need to be rushed into, because it will withstand the test of time.
3. Choice is good. While I’ve never had 20+ eligible bachelors fawning over me at once, divorce has taught me that there are many, many fish in the sea, and I can be a choosy fisherwoman. I did not ask myself enough hard questions the first time around but rather trusted that what I was feeling was proof enough that I did not need to look any further.
It had not occurred to me that I could have the same feelings towards someone else, someone who might be a better match for me in many ways. I don’t believe there is just one perfect match out there for every person. Ultimately we can each have many potential partners, some choices are simply better than others.
4. Choice is hard on the heart: While it might be flattering to have more than one suitor, it’s no laughing matter when it comes to eliminations. Your heart might be telling you one thing and your head another. Dating multiple people is not like shopping for an appliance. You can’t just decide to give the rose to Bachelor “A” because he has X, Y, and Z features that Bachelor “B” does not.
It’s not a matter of simple calculations or just going with your feelings, either. Dating after divorce has made me get it in a way I did not before when the Bachelorette has to send a good guy home and then sobs over her own decision. It hurts.
5. Sex is part of a relationship, and I do not need to apologize for this: Kaitlyn caught flak for sleeping with one of the men before getting to the fantasy suite. She responded that she was an almost 30-year-old woman who didn’t need to apologize for her sexuality and furthermore that the intimate part of a relationship had to be a good match along with the rest in order for it to work long-term. Thank you, Kaitlyn. I also don’t need to apologize for wanting to explore this aspect of dating. By doing so, I’ve discovered that a sexual relationship is a mirror for how my partner will treat me otherwise in the relationship.
Best of all, I’ve learned that a decent guy is one who doesn’t mind watching The Bachelorette with me, as hokey as he may find it. Because a real man isn’t afraid of talking openly about relationships.