Arie's season of 'The Bachelor' may have been controversial — but there are love lessons to be learned

Jenna Birch
Contributing Writer
Yahoo Lifestyle
(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)
(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)

Warning: Spoilers abound.

If you’re an avid fan of The Bachelor, you’re probably still digesting Monday night’s season finale “part one” (a second helping of “After the Final Rose” will air live Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ABC). But now that we’ve soldiered through the first leg of this two-day event, we know that the swirling rumors are true: Arie was confused about his feelings for Becca vs. Lauren right until the last possible second, and then he ultimately flip-flopped his final-rose decision.

In one of the most controversial Bachelor choices ever, Arie selected Becca to be his bride. He proposed to Becca. She said yes. And then Arie dumped Becca in a gruesome, uncut breakup scene, which played out over the third hour of Monday night’s show. Since that time, Arie has restarted a relationship with Lauren, his runner-up. Got all that?

Of course, this is a show built on drama: The entire premise is that a guy starts dating 25+ women, hoping to find The One and marry her. That seems crazy. But when you think about it, it’s not that far-fetched. In fact, minus the cameras and contrived activities, this a scenario a lot of people looking for love now face; the process IRL just plays out in a much quieter fashion, over an undefined period of time, with options arising from Tinder and Bumble and Match instead of a team of producers.

(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)
(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)

With all that in mind, are the any love lessons we can we learn from the The Bachelor’s onscreen mayhem? Well, actually, yes. Here are five biggies.

1. Smarter women may just have it harder in love.

This first lesson has resulted in a whole bunch of yelling in my living room watch parties. This season boasted some cool, accomplished women; most notably, Jacqueline will be getting her PhD in chemical psychology, and Seinne is a well-traveled and super-articulate Yale grad. However, Arie focused a lot of attention on the stumbling blocks associated with these full-package female contestants.

He admitted to being “intimidated” by both women, specifically by their education and intelligence. On their one-on-one dates, he also vividly explained why Jacqueline’s ambition was going to be an obstacle for any future relationship they may have. And while Arie’s seeming unwillingness to compromise for a partner’s goals might seem pretty specific to The Bachelor, a show designed to put the needs and desires of its lead first, Seinne and Jacqueline’s stories are all too common among smart, educated career women. (I wrote a whole book about the romantic difficulties facing career women, so I’m clued in to the struggle — and feel for them both.)

Overall, I think both gals dodged a bullet when their relationships with Arie ended — and I was secretly happy to see them say their goodbyes. To ultimately have a successful long-term relationship, smart, driven women should look for men who are big on compromise and egalitarian partnership, someone who’s adaptable and mature in figuring out how ambition can coincide with love. Neither Jacqueline nor Seinne need to date a guy as wishy-washy on what he wants as Arie.

2. Age ain’t nothing but a number, but it can certainly get in your head.

Poor Bekah M., y’all. Age aside, she was clearly one of the most thoughtful, insightful, mature contestants The Bachelor franchise has ever produced. On top of that, Arie was suuuuper into her epic confidence. Then the chemistry was stunted because he found out her age — Bekah was 22.  Which mean that Bekah was, in fact, 14 years younger than the salt-and-pepper-haired 36-year-old leading man.

(Photo: Paul Hebert: ABC)
(Photo: Paul Hebert: ABC)

Although there were plenty of contestants with similar, 20-something ages — and lots of people noted how quickly the older women went home, sparse though they were to begin with — the fact that Bekah was 22 made for one of the season’s biggest storylines. Research shows there are pros and cons to age gaps in relationships, so much so that I’m inclined to think those numbers are mostly silly discussion points. If you click with someone for real reasons, you click; connection is more about overall maturity and sharing the same view on commitment as your significant other. That said, age does mess with people’s minds, especially since outsiders seem to feel free to make comments on your relationship’s viability.

Some people can’t deal with that. If Arie couldn’t stick up for his relationship with Bekah or get over the mental block her age created, then it’s best he released her to find someone who’s secure in the bond they’ll one day have. Age gaps are OK. But if you’re in a relationship with someone who makes you feel inferior for the number of years you’ve spent on this planet, next ’em.

3. Stop listening to all the outside chatter and expectations.

Speaking of outside forces commenting on your relationship, I knew Arie was in for trouble when his family met both Lauren and Becca on Monday night’s episode. Despite the fact that he’s been weirdly enthralled with Lauren the entire season, his entire home squad told him that Becca was the smartest choice for a future wife. Arie seemed to laugh along with this reasoning and basically agree, but it was clear to me he was silently dying inside. He didn’t want to pick Becca! Even if he “should” have wanted to. That word, in itself, is so frequently toxic.

When I was writing my book on dating and relationships, one of the best lessons any interviewee taught me was this: Be mindful of the forces guiding your romantic decisions. If it’s an outside or external force driving your relationship forward, like family or friends or societal expectations, you’re taking steps for the wrong reasons. When you make a decision in love, make sure it’s because you feel it’s the right choice internally and you actually want to.

(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)
(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)

Few relationship struggles have been repeated to me as often as those regarding family and friends. “My parents don’t like my significant other,” for instance, or, “My friends say we should break up.” If you’re struggling with outside opinions on your romantic decisions, then share less about your love with those in your circle, and be more discerning about the friends and family members you choose to open up to. It’s tempting to ask for advice, but, at the end of the day, those people you love don’t know your whole relationship. Well-meaning though they may be, they are probably going to create more unnecessary questions than lead you closer to personal answers.

4. Love must honor logic and emotion.

Arie said throughout the season what a logic-driven person he is, and maybe that’s accurate. As in, maybe he typically makes choices in life with his head instead of his heart. That’s all well and good, except when it comes to romantic love. It was quite obvious that Arie was most moved, on an emotional level, by Lauren — he sweat it out when he went to meet her family, and he opened up so much when speaking to her at dinner that he was forced to step away to collect himself.

Becca was the right pick on paper, the logic-driven choice, the compatible choice who just made sense. She totally fit the mold of the bold, confident, “ready to do the thing!” woman Arie set out to find when he started his Bachelor journey. And hey, many of us have those ideas about the person we “should” end up with. But often, our feelings guide us in another direction entirely — for Arie, it was to Lauren. I can’t tell you how many people are just like Arie; they tend to make major romantic decisions strictly based on what should logically work for them in the real world, despite a conspicuous lack of romantic ingredients such as chemistry or emotional connection.

One of my best pieces of advice for seeking love? Learn how to balance emotion and logic in your search; a long-term relationship must honor elements of both. Let emotion and intuition be your first guide, the internal force nudging you toward one person over all others. Logic is the supplement, the means by which you test whether or not the relationship will work in the real world, whether or not you’re compatible in your goals, lifestyles, communication styles, and views on commitment. One is your pilot (emotion); the other is your co-pilot (logic).

(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)
(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)

Despite what online dating data and fancy attraction formulas may have led you to internalize, scientists have yet to determine a single predictive variable for whether two people will be mutually attracted to each other as a couple. So, don’t lead with logic. Don’t buy into a “type” you should be with. Trust the inexplicable emotional connection (scary as it sounds), and don’t confuse “right on paper” for genuinely right.

5. Sometimes, you really do break up with the right person.

I personally think Lauren was the “right” choice, the person with whom Arie connected most, and the woman he wanted to pick (even if he didn’t really know why). Of course, the internet was pissed about the first part of the finale — but, to be clear, I don’t think everyone was pissed at Arie for realizing he made the wrong choice but rather for the way he went about blindsiding Becca with a big breakup on national TV.

But if Bachelor Nation can set its upset feels aside for a moment, I think there’s a lesson here. It’s a consistent theme among youngish men and women today, with tons of dating options and general life options, to realize that maybe their ex was actually the right person all along. We break up, we date around, we build our lives … and sometimes, all those points of comparison make you miss what you had with your ex for very real reasons.

(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)
(Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC)

The inability to shake or forget someone specific from your past can signal a critical realization about who will make you happiest in the long term. I’m glad Arie didn’t go through with a wedding to Becca when he was still thinking so much about Lauren. With all of Arie’s back and forth, it seems that one of three things is currently happening:

  • Arie is not as ready for the realities of love as he thought he was.

  • Neither woman — not Becca nor Lauren — is right for him in the long term.

  • His relationship with Lauren is right, and he needed to try being with Becca to see it, since dating and coupling is simply a process of data collection and analysis.

Time will tell which camp Arie falls into. But if anything can be learned from former Bachelor leading man Jason Mesnick, who is still married and going strong with his runner-up since 2009, going back to your ex actually can be the right decision — even on this crazy show.

Jenna Birch is author of  The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love (published in January by Grand Central Life & Style). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo every Monday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, send an email to jen.birch@sbcglobal.net with “Yahoo question” in the subject line. 

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