Did anyone else wake up with an emotional hangover after the Aug. 2 episode of The Bachelorette? Former Bachelor Nick Viall said it best, tweeting that the episode was “the best TV I’ve seen in a long time” — but it was also completely exhausting. After watching Greg Grippo and Katie Thurston’s fight and subsequent breakup, Bachelor Nation is split on how to process it all. Did Greg gaslight Katie? Could Katie have been more open about her feelings? And most of all… did their relationship have to end this way?
ICYMI, here’s a quick recap of where things stand. After saying a tearful goodbye to hot dad Michael A. last week, Katie headed out for her three “hometown” dates with Blake, Justin, and Greg. (The show is still abiding by COVID-19 protocols, so the guys were asked to recreate their hometown experiences for Katie at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa in New Mexico, where they’re filming.) Blake and Justin’s dates were relatively uneventful — a quick moment of silence for Blake casually suggesting he had used maple syrup in the bedroom — but it was Greg’s hometown date where things really took a turn.
After a day of shooting hoops, kissing in the rain (again), and Katie meeting Greg’s mom and brother, Greg’s status as her frontrunner appeared to be stronger than ever. (Let’s recall that Greg and Katie’s immediate connection was so obvious that fellow contestant Andrew S. dubbed this season “the Greglorette.” He also received the first impression rose.) That evening, Greg told Katie he was in love with her and had never been this vulnerable with anyone before. Katie, who had committed on air not to say “I love you” to anyone until she gave out her final rose (viewers knew this, but Greg did not), responded by saying, “I just love looking at you.”
This did not sit well with Greg, who began questioning whether he could continue if he didn’t feel confident he was the one in her eyes. “I can’t be there at the end if I don’t think it’s us,” he said. Katie tried her best to reassure him. “I need you to trust in our relationship,” she said. “I know this is hard, and it’s going to be hard, and I’ve said that from the very beginning … I’ve never felt like you wanted to give up until right now.”
Fast forward to the next morning, when Greg came to Katie’s apartment to talk again. “When I expressed to you that I love you, I felt like I was telling it to a stranger,” he said. Katie tried to explain that she was holding her “I love you” until the end and that she planned to keep him around for another week, but Greg responded that he needed to feel like more than “just a number.” Ultimately, he decided to leave, telling Katie, “I deserve more than I’ve been given on your side.” Katie hid in the bathroom and cried, telling co-host Kaitlyn Bristowe she was heartbroken and wanted to book a flight home. End scene.
It was a doozy that left Bachelor Nation with many different thoughts and feelings. Some viewers on Twitter claimed Greg gaslit Katie — Katie herself even shared an Instagram Story post about gaslighting after the episode aired. Others feel Greg had the right to be upset. To better understand this conflict, Elite Daily spoke to two relationship experts who each provided their professional opinions on what happened between Greg and Katie, and what we can all learn from it.
Did Greg Gaslight Katie?
If you’ve been following along all season, you know that Greg has been nervous throughout this process. He has told Katie multiple times that it’s hard for him to see her with other men. “There have been clues all along the season that Greg was falling hard,” breakup coach Natalia Juarez tells Elite Daily. Greg has appeared to be struggling with the process — when he caught a glimpse of Blake and Katie’s hometown date, he admitted he felt “sick to [his] stomach.” Contrast that with Katie, who has outwardly been handling the challenges of the show and her leading role with a fairly level head.
But as the weeks wore on and pressure grew on their relationship, tensions naturally built, Juarez explains. What started as a healthy conversation about their future escalated quickly when they both got hurt. “As objective viewers, we could easily see that both partners were triggered, and that they were both under a lot of stress — a recipe for relationship disaster,” Juarez explains.
Viewers could pinpoint the moment that Greg’s heart was broken: when Katie didn’t reciprocate his “I love you.” But because she had decided to set a boundary for herself, she wasn’t able to respond in a way that validated him. During their argument the next morning, Greg insisted Katie was holding things back from him, saying, “Here I was thinking I was expressing my love to my future wife, and you didn’t feel it. You just completely dismissed it.” Some people in Bachelor Nation saw this as a sign of gaslighting, a manipulative behavior where someone convinces the other person that their thoughts, feelings, and perception of the situation aren’t real.
“I can see how some viewers would think that Greg’s ‘neediness’ was emotionally manipulative or gaslighting,” Juarez says, “but in this case, he was emotionally triggered and vulnerable, and was attempting to gain some reassurance from Katie.” But due to Katie’s boundaries, she wasn’t able to provide him that reassurance without sacrificing what mattered to her: a commitment to holding her “I love you” until she found her person.
Could Katie Have Said More To Reassure Him?
Some viewers were sympathetic to Greg’s point of view, including breakup coach Trina Leckie. “I personally was very proud of Greg for speaking up and being realistic about what was going on,” she says, “versus just acting like nothing bothered him and as though he was waiting to ‘maybe’ be picked.” According to Leckie, Katie’s resistance to open up was hurtful to Greg, whose feelings didn’t fit neatly within the confines of a reality dating show.
“Katie could have given more physical reassurance even and put herself in his shoes,” Leckie says. “Greg showed his love by showing his certainty to his family and Katie. He opened up to her in ways he hadn’t with anyone else. She knew that, and it was like she was having a conversation with a stranger. Opening up to someone like that and have them awkwardly smile back wouldn’t feel good to anyone.”
But Katie did do her best to reassure Greg that she was confident in their relationship, even going as far as to say, “We’ve made it this far for a reason,” and, “We’re almost there.” Not every couple is ready to say “I love you” on the same timeline, and that’s OK. (You definitely shouldn’t say it if you aren’t ready.) What matters is that the partner who doesn’t reciprocate those words still makes the other person feel valued. They can do this through their body language, actions, and other words of affirmation. And while still being true to her boundaries, Katie gave Greg what she could at that moment.
It’s also worth noting viewers are seeing only a small snippet of what really went on between Greg and Katie — and it’s the bits that Bachelor producers choose to show. The audience is not privy to what these two have brought from their pasts into their current relationship, and how their conversations behind the scenes might have escalated the situation for both of them. Outsiders can only work with what they know, and in this case, that information is limited to what’s shown on TV.
Based on what the audience did see, both Katie and Greg were in a tough spot. “She thought reassuring him that he would be there next week was key, when he wanted reassurance that she was still on board with their past conversations,” Leckie says. “He was right when he said being there next week doesn’t mean anything if it’s not real.” But at the same time, Katie could only do so much to give him that reassurance he needed.
Katie’s choice not to open up might mean she really was unsure about a future with Greg — and therefore, they weren’t totally on the same page. (Although, as some viewers have pointed out, Katie had no obligation to decide Greg was “the one” at that moment. She still had two other relationships she was exploring!) Maybe The Bachelorette was never the right place for this love story to work out, and maybe there was more to the story than viewers got to see.
Was There A Healthier Way To Have This Conversation?
The saddest part of all of this is that Katie and Greg clearly cared for each other deeply. “It’s heartbreaking to watch two people, such as Katie and Greg, come to an impasse in their relationship due to a lack of understanding of one another’s emotional needs and ineffective conflict resolution,” Juarez says. “It’s a tragedy when people who love each other don’t know how.”
Ultimately, Katie and Greg might have benefitted from a break to cool off and collect their thoughts before making that final decision. “I would have advised that they re-engage in dialogue once they feel more relaxed and are able to listen to one another,” Juarez suggests. “Then to take turns really listening to one another, repeating to the other person what they heard the other person say, to ensure that they’re really on the same page.”
Rather than project emotions onto each other (like Greg did when he said Katie wasn’t being real with him), experts say it would have helped if both partners approached the conversation with “I” statements from their own perspective. After all, they both had valid needs and boundaries to express. “A lot of valuable information came out in that first conversation after Katie met Greg’s family, such as the depth of Greg’s love for Katie and his willingness to be more vulnerable than he has ever been in his life,” Juarez says. “We also gathered that Katie is under a tremendous amount of pressure navigating budding love, heartbreak, and rejection.” But they couldn’t ever see eye-to-eye due to their hurt feelings.
Even in a situation this complicated, one thing is obvious: Conflict resolution is a skill that matters a lot in romantic relationships. “Watching a breakup such as this one makes me wonder how many couples who could have had successful, fulfilling relationships weren’t able to get there because of their inability to understand emotional needs and conflict resolution,” Juarez says. The more earnestly you navigate these tough conversations with your partner (and the more you examine your own blind spots), the better prepared you’ll be to avoid a worst-case scenario like this one.
Meanwhile, here’s hoping Katie’s journey takes a more positive turn next week — or, at the very least, leaves viewers with some sense of closure. Oh, and let’s all pray that Blake does not bring maple syrup to the fantasy suite. Things might get a little messy for the resort staff.
Natalia Juarez, breakup coach
Trina Leckie, breakup coach