Although much of reality TV is not real, sometimes we can actually learn from it! Join us each week as our therapists provide thoughts on the most recent episode of ABC’s The Bachelor. Spoiler alert: Do not keep reading if you are not caught up.
This season Chris Soules, an entrepreneur farmer, is looking for love and 30 women are hoping to receive the final rose. In episode 5, Chris and Carly spent time with a love guru, Britt soared with Chris in a hot air balloon, Kelsey displayed some questionable behavior, and the cocktail party was cancelled. Let’s see what our therapists thought of the episode’s dramatic happenings:
Britt was extremely afraid of heights but had to face her fears during a hot air balloon ride date with Chris. How can people overcome their fears about relationships?
When Britt was describing her fear of heights, she framed it as if she was suffering from a severe phobia that she would be unable to control on her date with Chris. The ease with which she was able to enjoy the hot air balloon ride leads me to hypothesize that she likely does not suffer from a specific phobia, and that the level of anxiety she displayed leading up to it had more to do with her fear of humiliation and rejection on the date. Britt displayed a positive attitude as they approached the balloon, readying herself mentally for the experience and focusing on sharing it with Chris in a connective way. Whenever we feel fear in the face of intimacy, which may manifest in a variety of veiled ways that may seem unrelated, it is helpful to do what Britt did: have the self-confidence to lean into the experience and acknowledge the positives, rather than create distance through anxiety and insecurity.
I wonder if Britt was thinking to herself, perhaps unconsciously, “where is this anxiety really coming from?” When we’re able to acknowledge and deconstruct the root of our emotions, we are better able to self-soothe and control our responses to stressful situations.
– Nicole Brown, MFT
Chris and Carly had the most awkward one-on-one date in the history of the show: a visit with a “love guru.” What should you do in situations that force intimacy? When dating, how can you make your first physical encounters less awkward?
Chris and Carly are still in the process of getting to know each other, and the situation was set up to be sexually charged and intimate from the beginning, with the first date card suggesting “Carly, let’s come together. – Chris” The date with the “Love Doctor” guru was focused on helping them find each other’s “secrets of intimacy” by instructing them to meditate together, to breathe into each other’s mouths, and to disrobe each other with the intention to “feel their bodies.” It was clear that both of them were uncomfortable. Finally, Carly confessed that she has a fear of intimacy, and asserted that she doesn’t “take my clothes off for just anyone, much less on a first date.” The experience triggered some feelings about self-confidence around her sexuality and intimacy stemming from her past. This experience led them to have a touching and honest discussion around their fear of intimacy and relationships.
A level of comfort, trust and emotional security is a necessary ingredient before engaging in such a close, intimate, mind-body connection. Rather than having the conversation AFTER the experience, Chris and Carly could have communicated ahead of time on what they both needed before being intimate in such a forced way. Since Carly may need to feel close emotionally before feeling sexual due to her past experiences, she needs to be assertive in communicating what approach feels safe for her. Communication should be open, compassionate and honest, so both partners feel safe and connected before any physical encounters.
– Charmaine Ensinger, MFT
Kelsey told Chris that she’s a widow, hoping her story would make a sympathetic Chris give her a rose. Should Chris give her a rose out of sympathy?
On this week’s episode, Kelsey disclosed to Chris that she is a widow and that her husband died a year and a half ago. It seemed that she chose to do this now because she feared that this would be her last chance to tell him. That implies that she believed that he was going to send her home. Perhaps Kelsey thought that if she made this last ditch effort to let him know her better, let him understand her, and be vulnerable with him that there would be more closeness between them and that connection would make him want to continue seeing her. It seems, however, like a very big risk to take to share something so personal and painful with someone you think might be about to break-up with you. While on the one hand she might be more open with him, on the other she might be perceived as manipulative. The show seems to suggest, and it might just be due to editing, that “Kelsey loves her story,” which seems an odd thing to say so gleefully to producers about the death of her husband. Along with the fact that when she told the other contestants her affect was very different than when she told Chris seem to suggest manipulation.
If Chris allows himself to be manipulated and asks her to stay out of a sense of pity or obligation, that does not bode well for the future of their relationship. I have worked with many people whose relationships involved one partner’s crisis or trauma early on that made the other feel like they could not end the relationship. They might think “How could I leave someone whose parent just died, or who was just diagnosed with an illness?” That sense of responsibility can lead to resentment and a lack of equity in the relationship. It also just leads to a longer and deeper relationship that can be much more difficult to leave and that may cause even more hurt. In these cases a partner’s good intentions or fears about being perceived negatively can lead to a great deal of difficulty and pain for everyone involved.
– Emma Steiner, MSW, LCSW
Original Post – http://councilforrelationships.org/insights-bachelor-episode-5/