Everything that's wrong with 'The Bachelor,' according to therapists and psychologists

ABC‘The Bachelor’ has been on the air for over a decade.
  • The popular dating show “The Bachelor” has its share of critics, including therapists and psychologists.
  • One psychotherapist who is a licensed marriage and family therapist said the show might idealize power imbalances in a relationship and foster damaging ideas that romantic relationships should always be prioritised over friendships.
  • Some experts also say the show’s environment is unnatural and can make it hard to make a relationship that will last when the cameras stop rolling. They also point out that people who are being watched may not be acting as their authentic selves.
  • The experts also said the program could inspire viewers to set unrealistic standards for happiness, beauty, and relationships and could cause viewers to normalize the unhealthy idea that it is OK for relationships to have an inherent power imbalance.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Since its debut in 2002, “The Bachelor” has become a household name. But along with winning over countless fans, the dating show has also inspired criticism for the way it portrays romantic relationships and gender dynamics.

INSIDER spoke with psychologists and therapists to lay out the biggest problems with “The Bachelor.”

‘The Bachelor’ pits women against one another, and this could foster damaging behaviours

The bachelor cotlonABCThe women in the house are supposed to compete for the affection of one man.

On “The Bachelor,” female contestants are placed in direct competition with one another as they try to “win” the affections of one man, who is depicted as the ideal partner. Rather than getting to know one another, the contestants most frequently spend their time drawing comparisons between themselves and other women or attempting to undermine their competitors.

Patrick Tully, a psychotherapist who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, told INSIDER that this structure was unrealistic and could be damaging.

At its core, the show seems to be reinforcing the unhealthy idea that women should view other women as adversaries and that romantic relationships should always take precedence over friendships.

Read more: ‘The Bachelor’ franchise is dying. Here are 8 ways ABC could save its cornerstone reality show.

The show seems to normalize a power imbalance in romantic relationships, and this can lead to some unhealthy beliefs

One of the aspects of “The Bachelor” seen as most troubling is the way in which the show seems to reinforce the idea that an extreme power imbalance within a relationship is acceptable or even romantic.

Rather than fostering relationships in which each partner is seen as equally desirable and valuable, the show frames the titular bachelor as the ultimate prize and makes it necessary for the contestants to “prove their worth” to him.

“‘The Bachelor’ and similar shows represent an idealised way of living where the man has control over who gets to be with him,” Tully told INSIDER. “Viewers may internalize the idea that men are the people who make the choices in the relationship. The dynamics of an unhealthy relationship are set up from the start.”

The contestants are isolated from outside opinions and facts, which can make it hard for them to make a well-informed decision

In the universe of “The Bachelor,” contestants are essentially expected to choose a life partner with almost no input from anyone outside the show aside from when they bring the bachelor on a hometown date to meet their family.

“The contestants live in an echo chamber of other women who have bought into, or at least are incentivized to demonstrate, the belief that the bachelor is the ideal man,” a licensed clinical psychologist named Jessica L. Dubron told INSIDER. “They are allowed very little contact with influences such as friends, family, or any outside information that might challenge this belief.”

This isolation from more objective opinions that don’t reaffirm the desirability of the bachelor can make it difficult for contestants to determine whether they truly are well-matched with the show’s lead.

The show’s environment is unnatural and doesn’t reflect real life, which could make a relationship difficult to sustain after filming ends

The bachelor dates ABCThe competitions and group dates are unlike most normal outings you’d have in a relationship.

When the show ends and the happy couple leaves the unnatural, fabricated bubble of “The Bachelor,” the clinical psychologist and relationship expert Lindsay Jernigan said, the shock of reentering reality can cause even the most picture-perfect relationship to crumble.

“Contestants are asked to try out a relationship in an environment filled with novelty, mystery, and unprecedented glamour,” Jernigan said. “Although couples testing out relationships on ‘The Bachelor’ certainly face stressors together, they are not the typical stressors that are pitfalls for most couples, such as financial strain, work stress, division of labour, and humdrum routine.”

Going from glitzy on-screen living to real life isn’t exactly realistic or practical and could partially explain why even though there have been more than 20 seasons of “The Bachelor,” fewer than three couples formed on the show are still together.

Contestants are under constant observation, which can make their behaviour inauthentic

People often behave differently when they know they’re being watched, so one can only imagine how participants might act when they know they’re being filmed and subsequently viewed by millions of people around the globe.

“When we’re being watched, it’s difficult to be our relaxed, authentic selves without effort or self-consciousness interfering,” Jernigan said. “For couples on ‘The Bachelor,’ this creates a relational handicap since knowing our potential partner’s authentic self is a critical ingredient to knowing if [they are] a good match.”

The show can set unrealistic standards for beauty, desirability, and happiness for viewers

Even if viewers are aware of the exceptional nature of such a dating pool, it can be hard not to compare oneself to the show’s participants, who are typically styled to the nines and selected from a specific, generally not very diverse, group of applicants.

“This kind of entertainment can damage our self-esteem,” Tully said. “By not being the same as the people on the show, we feel inferior. By not fitting the mould that the television tells us we must fit, we feel like failures.”

If viewers aren’t careful, it is possible to internalize the show’s unrealistic standards of beauty and success for oneself or one’s potential future partners.

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