‘The Bachelor’ Promises True Love. So Why Does It Rarely Work Out?


The season premiere of any installment in “The Bachelor” franchise always starts the same: with the host talking directly to camera about the lead’s almost-certain path to finding lasting love. Unlike other popular reality dating shows, the franchise markets itself as a genuine chance to find love without any other incentives like cash prizes.

But it’s actually not all that probable: Of the 40 combined seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” only eight couples have stayed together — not great betting odds.

Morale in the franchise was low going into 2023, with no recently minted couples still together, until ABC announced a hopeful new twist. “The Golden Bachelor” pledged to aid then-72 year-old Gerry Turner make the most of a second chance at love following the death of his wife. At season’s end, he proposed to Theresa Nist in a teary finale. In January their wedding was televised on ABC. By April, they’d announced plans to divorce.

That breakup felt like the last straw in believing this franchise could foster lasting love, so to look into why “The Bachelor” rarely makes good on its premise, we spoke to the former Bachelorettes Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams, as well as the former contestants Tyler Cameron and Melissa Rycroft about the flaws that doom the reality franchises’ lovebirds.

Many love-related reality television shows that are on the air today — think “Love Island,” “Are You the One?” or even “Bachelor in Paradise” — allow for participants to intermingle in environments specifically designed to mimic some version of real life.

On “The Bachelor” circumstances are purposely anti-real-world dating scenarios, the better to “focus” on finding real love. The lead dates 25 or more people at once while the contestants have their sights set on that one person. Prospective love interests don’t have access to any outside distractions like cellphones, books or television.

“When you’re in that ‘Bachelor’ bubble, all you do is focus on and be brainwashed toward that person,” Tyler Cameron, the runner-up on Hannah Brown’s “Bachelorette” season, said.

Since the show is marketed as an opportunity to find love and have the lead establish separate connections with different contestants, Melissa Rycroft, from Season 13, said the competitive feel among the contestants is orchestrated by producers and not necessarily inherent to the environment.

Contestants are isolated and singularly focused on gaining the affections of one target. The competition makes it hard for contestants to know if they even like the lead. Rycroft got engaged to the bachelor Jason Mesnick at the end of his season before he broke it off to instead be with the season’s runner-up.

“They have built him up as this amazing bachelor,” Rycroft said, adding, “I finished this process not knowing a lot about him because I was more interested in making sure he wanted me and didn’t want to reject me than going through the process going, ‘Are you the one that I want to be?’”

Cameron agreed. “You kind of look past the red flags and the signs that it won’t work,” he said, “because you want to work for what you think it could be because of how great or fun the show makes it seem on the other side.”

Kaitlyn Bristowe, the Bachelorette from Season 11, got engaged at the end of her run but broke off the relationship four years later (“In Bachelor years, that’s like 40 years,” she joked.) Bristowe’s season, like many others, featured elaborate dates including multiple helicopter and yacht rides and a private fireworks display, not exactly a window into what a real-world future would look like.

“I always talk about the foundation of a relationship and when the foundation is that it’s built off an edited TV show, a TV show where you’re doing all these dream dates,” she said, “you don’t actually get to spend a lot of time with the person.”

So “the relationship is so built up and put on a pedestal,” she said, “and it’s manufactured, and that’s a tricky foundation to start a life on.”

Tayshia Adams became the lead on Season 16 of “The Bachelorette” after Clare Crawley bowed out a few episodes in to leave with a contestant from the season. Adams got engaged to that season’s winner but that relationship ended just under a year later.

“Where there is a logistical hiccup, it’s the fact that it is a television show and you and your partner essentially have to go into hiding for months on end before the show airs,” Adams said.

“It’s not normal for people to get engaged and then be like, ‘Bye, gotta go, I’ll see you later. Oh, I don’t even have your cellphone number yet,’” she said.

When Turner and Nist announced their divorce, they cited the fact that neither of them wanted to move away from their families.

Bristowe also noted that this type of coordination can be a part of the problem.

“Logistically to live in two different cities, when you have built your foundation for who you are in a certain city, I feel like that all makes it kind of a recipe for a failed relationship,” she said.

Adams said it was important to manage expectations. The leads sign up because they’re ready to get engaged. But the real questions are, “‘Are you ready to uproot your life in order to make a relationship work if you end up in one? Are you ready to leave your job? Are you ready to leave your family? Are you ready to move? Are you ready to start over?’ That’s reality, it’s not just being in a relationship, we can all be in relationships.”

“If you just look at dating shows across the board,” Bristowe said, they’re “not a perfect recipe for happiness.”

Rycroft agreed, adding: “I think what you need to create a lasting relationship is just not really good TV.”

And perhaps, it’s about changing perception — it isn’t a show about love; instead the drama is what reels people in.

“I started watching back way back when you were rooting for these people like you wanted love,” Rycroft said. “And now I’m not even sure that the audience wants a love story.”


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