How Much Crying Do You Really Need On The Journey To Love?
The show’s supposed to be about love, not insecurities.
There are a few undeniable hallmarks of the Bachelor franchise: roses, Neil Lane rings, and yes, tears. Whether it’s Clayton Echard sobbing, “I’m so broken,” or Colton Underwood hopping a fence to get a minute alone, the show loves a high-stakes, emotional reaction. Still, just because The Bachelor has made viewers accustomed to frequent bouts of tears doesn’t mean the show’s reliance on its casts’ insecurities is healthy. This is a franchise that glorifies finding love and getting engaged. And when misery is an intrinsic part (and primary marketing tactic) of that story, it sends a troubling message to audiences while simultaneously traumatizing the contestants. With every tear-filled promo, the show implies that falling in love has to be brutally painful. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.
“Insecurity and crying are not requisites for love,” Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., psychologist and creator of the Instagram account Mental Drive, tells Elite Daily. And yet the show paints this emotional turmoil as a necessary obstacle for falling in love — even suggesting that the tear-filled journey will make the happily-ever-after, well, happier. On the Bachelor and Bachelorette, the contestants and leads are constantly referencing how the difficult journey will be worth it... but will it? Even Gabby Windey, one of Season 19’s two Bachelorettes, seems to have her doubts. In the season’s trailer, she explains, “This journey finding love together, it’s messy. I just hope, for both of us, it’s worth it.”
In reality, stable, lasting relationships typically do not come from places of insecurity. “The onset of a healthy dating scenario is typically one of lighthearted conversations, learning the relationship ‘basics’ about a person, and determining whether there are mutual interests,” Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, Psy.D. and licensed clinical psychologist, explains. “The Bachelor, by nature, does not lend itself to a stereotypical dating scenario.” Instead, it typically involves a mix of trauma-bonding, competition, and, of course, romantic helicopter rides.
Am I too broken for anyone to love?
So instead of focusing on what dating really looks like (and all the flirty, subtle moments of getting to know each other that make it fun), the show zeroes in on drama and insecurity. “This competitive landscape lends itself to heightened emotions not typically present in healthy dating,” Zuckerman adds. (Elite Daily reached out to ABC for comment on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette’s portrayal of the leads’ experiences, but did not hear back in time for comment.)
The Bachelorette’s Season 19 has made the show’s dependence on these intense, insecure emotions more obvious than ever. With Rachel Recchia and Windey sharing the position of the lead, the show is constantly priming the women to compare themselves to each other. From labeling their contestants as “Team Gabby” vs. “Team Rachel” to allowing the men to publicly reject their roses, the show capitalizes on both women’s fear of not being enough. According to Recchia herself, “It’s been challenging for Gabby and I to have our insecurities brought out as being compared to one another.”
Windey’s estrangement from her mom has been one point of insecurity. As she tearfully told a producer, she “can’t explain what it’s like to have a mom that doesn’t love you.” Recchia’s concerns seem to stem from quite a few men rejecting her in favor of Windey. She explained to the camera, “I've been through so much rejection. It's really easy to get down on yourself and feel unwanted.”
It’s no coincidence that practically every Bachelorette commercial features one or both Bachelorettes crying, or that the host promises each season will be the most dramatic ever — not the most romantic.
The Show Romanticizes Insecurity
As Recchia and Windey have embarked on their season as co-Bachelorettes, their insecurities are a constant storyline. Some notable quotes from these leads (so far):
- “I don't know why I feel more insecure, more desperate on this side of being on the Bachelorette than the side of being a contestant on Clayton's season.” -Recchia
- “I don't know how I'm supposed to fall in love when I'm having mostly bad days. I don't feel like I deserve to be the Bachelorette.” -Recchia
- “I have a huge fear that men in my group might not even be interested in me and will want to switch over to pursue Gabby or that they might feel like they are in the loser group.” -Recchia
- “A big part of me worries and is really scared that people aren’t going to be able to resonate with me.” -Windey
- “Am I too broken for anyone to love?” -Windey
- “I’m terrified. What if Erich decides I’m not for him? I’m overwhelmed. What if I can’t do it? People want to see the Rachels because she’s easier. I’m too complicated. I’m messy.” -Windey
Reminder: We’re only halfway through the season.
These quotes don’t mean that Recchia and Windey are insecure people. In fact, throughout their time on the franchise, they’ve proven time and time again that they know their worth and are unwilling to settle for less. Remember when Windey refused to let Clayton Echard walk her out? Or when Recchia openly confronted him about his complete lack of empathy? How about when they sent Chris Austin packing for talking about Fantasy Suites before ever actually speaking to them? From what audiences have seen, Recchia and Windey are strong leads, and they don’t let their insecurities overtake them.
So if Recchia and Windey aren’t insecure (dating on national television isn’t exactly for the faint of heart), then why is that what we’re seeing most? The simple answer: The Bachelorette profits off of exacerbated insecurity, especially this season. As Jesse Palmer keeps reminding us, they’ve never had two Bachelorettes for a full season before! They don’t know how this goes! There are no rules! How... comforting?
Already, the position of lead comes with a lot of pressure. On top of that, Recchia and Windey have to navigate sharing the top seat — and the fact that men will sometimes reject one Bachelorette in favor of the other. That unfortunate event has happened several times to both Recchia and Windey.
As these co-leads spend so much of their screen time in tears, falling in love has never looked worse. It begs the question: Do you really need to be so miserable in order to find your soulmate?
Insecurities Are Normal, But You Don’t Them To Appreciate Love
In every season of the Bachelor and Bachelorette, phrases like “the journey is worth it” and “your future husband/wife is here” (they don’t attempt gender-neutral language yet) abound. In essence, the show is asking everyone to trust the process. But if that journey involves constant crying, bouts of insecurity, and thoughts of quitting, is it really deserving of our trust?
This season more than ever, the format of the show deserves some skepticism. As Recchia and Windey constantly question their self worth, their insecurities are depicted as simply another aspect of their ~journeys~. But they don’t have to be.
Feeling some anxiety at the beginning of a new relationship is completely expected. Klapow explains, “The process of falling in love is a process of emotional manifestation. It all comes to the surface when we begin to tap into our deeper emotions. Therefore, it is not surprising that in a situation where people are expressing vulnerabilities in the ‘name of falling in love,’ they will also express their fears, anxieties, resentments, and frustrations.”
Pain should not be painted as foundational to a long-lasting partnership.
Of course, there will be emotionally intense moments in any relationship, but pain should not be painted as foundational to a long-lasting partnership. “To suggest that trauma is required to appreciate love shows a fundamental and toxic misunderstanding of what trauma is and [its] long-term effects,” Ariella Grosse, LMSW, explains.
Not to mention, relationships built from places of insecurity may not be the healthiest of attachments. Dr. Monica Vermani, clinical psychologist and author of A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas, explains, “When we are not in a place of self-love, we look to a partner for traits that fill our gaps, voids. The resulting relationship dynamics play out unhealthily because we are relying on someone else to complete us.”
With that in mind, by putting cast members in an environment rife with emotional tension and insecurities, the show makes the possibility of falling in love even more challenging. “Being in situations where you feel extremely insecure or self-conscious can actually get in the way of your ability to establish and strengthen connections with others,” Grosse says. And guess what struggling to connect tends to do? Make you even more insecure.
I have to wonder, then, does the show care about promoting healthy relationships? Or just dramatic ones?
So What Does Healthy Dating Actually Look Like?
“Most healthy relationships begin with a reciprocal effort to get to know one another,” Zuckerman says. “Unlike reality TV shows, healthy dating does not include overt competition under the same roof.”
In a healthy romantic situation, first dates usually don’t involve tearful confessions of deep insecurities. Naturally, falling in love with someone can feel like a rush of emotions — and it’s not a red flag to occasionally experience self-doubt. But that doesn’t mean you should be “having mostly bad days” on your journey to love, as Recchia once said.
“Falling in love doesn’t have to be hard, and it shouldn’t be,” Grosse explains. “Nearly everything about our biology quite literally wires us to find and seek romantic relationships. Although nothing in life is easy, if you find that you are constantly in distress, feeling anxious, confused, or insecure about your partner, this is likely a sign that you are not pursuing the right person.”
Recchia and Windey’s joint season is just the latest in a string of the franchise’s emotionally painful journeys to love. As their Bachelorette journey continues, it’s clear that ABC is missing an opportunity: rather than showing what falling in love should really look like, the Bachelor franchise portrays the worst, most painful parts of it. So much so, that by the end of each season, it’s hard to believe anyone really won — no matter who is holding the last rose.
Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, Psy.D. and licensed clinical psychologist
Ariella Grosse, LMSW
Dr. Monica Vermani, clinical psychologist and author of A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas