ABC’s The Bachelor is a reality dating television show. The premise follows a bachelor as he ventures into the dating world with a selected group of females who are potential candidates. Throughout the season, the bachelor goes on one-on-one and group dates with the women; the contestants and the bachelor travel to exotic and romantic locations for their dates. Each week culminates with the lead eliminating one woman, until he is left with the one he chooses to marry.
Since the premise of the show is about finding love through relationships, how can this reality television series promote healthy relationships, when the bachelor is dating numerous women at once? Does The Bachelor normalize cheating? Is openly going on dates with several women considered cheating, if the other women involved are aware of his actions?
A broad definition of cheating is an act of unfair or dishonest doing. In relationships, cheating can be noted through emotional, physical, or sexual affairs. The boundary of cheating can be a fine line and those in relationships have a different perception of what cheating entails.
Since cheating is an unfair or dishonest act, is the bachelor really cheating if the other women are aware of his separate relationships?
When there are three contestants remaining, the bachelor offers them keys to the fantasy suite, which is a hotel room where the couple spend the night together and have sex, without cameras.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Andi Dorfman, the bachelorette for season 10 of The Bachelorette (the spin-off of The Bachelor), wrote “almost every Bachelor has sex with everyone he goes into the fantasy suites with.”
When you step away from the idea that The Bachelor is a reality television dating game show, and think logically about one man dating several women at once, you can’t help but think—he is cheating and everyone is okay with that.
The Bachelor normalizes the concept of cheating because the bachelor himself is in relationships with multiple women. Although this is the whole point of the show, there is something unsettling about it. How can trust be built when the bachelor is building relationships with multiple people at once? How can the bachelor be in love with so many women at once? Is he really in love or he is performing for the cameras?
In an interview with BUILD, the season 23 bachelor Colton Underwood talked about how his experience on the show still affected his personal life. He stated, “I even caught myself, at times, sort of going about things just because that’s what the bachelor was supposed to do… he’s supposed to take three [women] to fantasy suites and he’s supposed to break up with one and go through all these rose ceremonies. And it’s like, okay, but this is my life after this.”
Underwood’s season was untraditional because he chose a contestant who left the show. He told BUILD that, “I couldn’t let someone walk away that I was in love with. And that’s what I came to this show for, is I came to find love, and I came to find a love worth fighting for, and I found that.”
Underwood might have found love on his season, but the same cannot be said for other seasons. Out of the 23 completed seasons, only two couples remain together today. 14 out of 23 couples got engaged during their season finale, however, 13 of those engagements and/or marriages eventually broke off.
Considering The Bachelor has an 8.6 per cent success rate, does the concept of not being in a monogamous relationship during the dating period, have anything to do with this? Viewers will not know the exact reasons why, but the speculation of an unfaithful start to their relationship seems like a valid indication for an eventual breakup.