“I've now fallen in love with all three men here, which is something I didn't think was possible,” Michelle Young confessed to the cameras during her fantasy suites episode of The Bachelorette on Dec. 14. ”And now, I have to break someone's heart.” In real life, falling in love with three people in under nine weeks would be highly unusual. But on the show, it’s the crux of the drama, the stakes behind the rose distribution, and the only way to justify a rushed engagement. But can people actually fall in love that fast?
Filming for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette takes around two months (Young’s season was filmed between July 30 to Sept. 10), and the lead’s quality time with each contestant is very limited. It’s not uncommon for leads to have only one “one-on-one” date with someone before selecting them for the final four (which adds the potential for a hometown date, a fantasy suite date, and meeting the lead’s parents). This rushed timeline certainly doesn’t seem like a foolproof plan for success.
And for most leads, it hasn’t been. The show’s success rate is... not great. Out of the 42 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, there are only eight couples that are still together. That’s 19%. (That estimate is generous, too. I’m counting Arie Lluyendyk and Lauren Burnham’s relationship — even though he actually proposed to Becca Kufrin before quickly changing his mind and pursuing Burnham, his runner-up.)
Suffice to say that for the majority of Bachelors and Bachelorettes, things don’t work out with their final pick. And the show’s quick-paced timing might have something to do with it. In God Bless This Mess, former Bachelorette Hannah Brown’s autobiography, she wondered whether she chose Jed Wyatt (a contestant who reportedly had a girlfriend at home the whole time) over Tyler Cameron and Peter Weber because of the show’s strict timelines.
Upon reflection, Brown realized just how little she knew about Wyatt before he proposed. She didn’t even know his full name until he was her fiancé. She wrote, “How could I be engaged to a man when I didn’t even know his name? And his name was... Jared?” (It’s not, BTW. On Facebook, he spells it Jerrod. Either way, he goes by Jed.)
Brown and Wyatt soon broke up amid reports that he allegedly had another girlfriend, prompting her to take a closer look at her other contestants. “I couldn’t let go of the question of what might have happened if I’d had more time to get to know both [Cameron and Weber],” she wrote. “[Cameron and I] had all this potential that hadn’t been fully explored yet, but there just wasn’t time,” she explained. Later in the book, she reiterated that same point with Weber: “There was this little twinge of regret at seeing Peter again, wondering what could have happened if we’d had more time.” (Brown attempted to reunite with both Cameron and Weber after her season ended, but neither connection flourished into a relationship.)
So was Brown right? Could more time have solved this former Bachelorette’s woes? And what about all the other leads who left the show heartbroken instead of engaged? According to the data and experts, more quality time certainly might help.
Outside The Bachelor, Do People Fall In Love That Fast?
Quantifying emotions can be tricky, but there’s still plenty of data surrounding dropping the L-bomb. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011 surveyed a group of undergraduate students about their timelines of confessing love. The results showed that men take an average of 97 days to say “I love you” whereas women typically take longer, around 149 days. Another study, conducted by YouGov for eHarmony in 2013, found comparable results: 88 days for men and 134 days for women.
To put this in perspective, filming for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette lasts between 42 to 63 days. But contestants typically start to express their love before the finale. By hometowns (two episodes before the finale, when leads typically hope to get engaged), most of the remaining contestants have already given the lead some sort of verbal validation — whether it’s “I’m falling for you,” “I’m falling in love with you,” or “I’m in love with you.”
During Young’s season, two of her final three contestants — Brandon Jones and Joe Coleman — said, “I’m falling in love with you,” by their hometown dates. Nayte Olukoya lagged behind, but just barely. He confessed his love by the next episode. But even that slight hesitation caused Young some concern. “In a perfect world, Nayte would say that [he loves me] tonight, but if he can't get there, I will be incredibly heartbroken,” she explained to the camera.
On Matt James’ season, things happened a little more quickly. By week five, he and Rachael Kirkconnell (whom he’s still dating) said that they were “falling in love” with each other. This is definitely a faster pace than average, but it’s not unheard of, either. The YouGov study also revealed that 39% of men and 23% of women have said “I love you” within the first month of seeing someone. Still, why do relationships move so quickly on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette? Are these people actually falling head-over-heels for each other?
What Does Falling In Love Mean, Anyway?
Although the data gives us a general “I love you” timeline, the specifics of falling in love change on a person-to-person basis. “Timing is so specific to the couple’s personalities,” Meredith Prescott, LCSW and couples therapist, explains.
That’s partially because people have different views on what love really means. “People’s definitions of ‘I love you’ are quite different. Some think that saying it means forever, and others feel like, ‘This is how I feel in the moment.’ They don’t see it as guaranteeing a future with someone.” Still, per Prescott, “Typically, it is a few months before couples say it.”
So why does it happen so much faster in the Bachelor franchise? Maria Avgitidis, CEO of Agape Match and the host of Ask A Matchmaker podcast, explains that the difference may be between two different types of love known as eros and agape in Greek.
There Are Two Kinds Of Love
Eros is the beginning stage of love when what you’re feeling more closely resembles lust. “But you don’t tell someone, ‘I lust you,’” Avgitidis explains. “You say, ‘I’m falling for you.’” (Um, hi, that sounds incredibly familiar.)
This stage doesn’t last forever. “Naturally, as human beings, eros will plateau somewhere between month four and month seven,” Avgitidis says. “Once you plateau, you start to feel some distance. Those rose-colored glasses come off. Before, in that eros period, it’s impossible to see those [red] flags.”
At this point, a relationship will likely either fizzle out or grow even stronger. “Agape is the big love, the unconditional love,” Avgitidis says. “[The philosopher] Aristotle believed that agape is one soul’s recognition of another soul. And that is a form of acceptance.” It’s the type of love you have to choose, and it’s not based solely on instant connection or attraction. This is what keeps people together for the long haul.
In other words, getting engaged while you’re still in that “eros sphere” (which Bachelor stars typically do) is “risky,” Avgitidis says. There’s a good chance that once that plateau happens, you start to realize, “Our values do just fundamentally not align. Whereas before, you were accepting things because you were in eros,” Avgitidis adds. So could this eros phase, which doesn’t end until well after the show has wrapped, account for why Bachelor couples have such a low success rate?
Former Bachelorette Katie Thurston’s split from her fiancé Blake Moynes seems to support Avgitidis’ explanation. After six months together (smack dab in the middle of that eros plateau), the couple announced their breakup on Instagram, and their words were resonant of Avgitidis’. “[W]e ultimately have concluded that we are not compatible as life partners,” they wrote in their joint statement.
So... Is It Possible To Fall In Love In 9 Weeks (Or Less)?
When it comes to love, anything is possible. But finding lasting, true love or agape in only nine weeks is just not probable. “I think you can fall for someone [on the show]. I don't know if I'd say ‘love’ — I think ‘fall for’ and ‘fall in love’ are two different things,” former Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky-Manno told Insider in 2017. “I feel like, to know whether or not you're compatible to be married to someone you can't know that in the amount of time you spend together on The Bachelor. You can't.”
She added, "You spend maybe a total of 72 hours with the person that you end up getting engaged to at the end. I, personally, don't feel that's enough time to know whether or not you're compatible with someone to marry them for the rest of your life.” (She ended her season engaged to Roberto Martinez, but they went separate ways after 18 months. She later married Kevin Manno, a television and radio host.)
Sure, there are the occasional success stories where the eros they formed on the show plateaued and transitioned into agape. (Rachel Lindsay and Bryan Abosolo and JoJo Fletcher and Jordan Rodgers are really holding down the fort these days. Cheers to them!) But in most cases, whirlwind romances turn into storms. Six to nine weeks is not enough time to learn if you truly love someone. It may not even be enough time to learn their real name.
Meredith Prescott, LCSW and couples therapist