5 Ways 'The Bachelorette' gets relationships wrong

Surviving, thriving marriages from the popular franchise's two shows are few and far-between-for a reason. According to Rachel Sussman, LCSW, a marriage and couples counselor at Rachel A. Sussman & Associates in New York City, the reality of married life is given such short shrift, and so many of the key elements are overlooked, that these unions simply don't have the backbone to survive long term. "As you get to know someone, you need to know what you are looking for-what you will and won't settle for, or ask for," says Sussman. 'Do you want to have kids? How many? How do you handle work-life balance?' These are the questions people need to ask each other." Here, 6 more relationship mistakes the series makes:

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1. There's No Mention of Practical Matters

The would-be couples on this show spend an inordinate amount of time checking in to ask each other, essentially asking, "do you love me yet?" and if there's any nuts-and-bolts discussion of the reality of married life-shared goals, religion, values, children (or not), work-life balance, and how everyone feels about one spouse grossly out-earning the other-it's edited out by producers, says Sussman.

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2. Every Date is an Exercise in Excess Whether you're in a long-term relationship or just starting to date, sometimes less is more. If you've seen even part of one episode, you know the drill: boy and girl go on a highly scripted and over-thought "date," which is so distracting, it's impossible to capture a real feeling. Producers do a stealth trick-using the extraordinary circumstances of the series, and the dates they set up for the contestants, to allow for heightened emotion that can get misplaced onto actual people. There is no grabbing a pizza, catching a movie, sitting in Starbucks-because actual reality is kind of boring. When you're not focused on the extraordinary circumstances of the evening, "boring" or just plain familiar backdrops can open the door to deeper conversation.

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3. Talk is Cheap In successful marriages, couples prioritize what's important to discuss. In fact, our internal editors play a key role in keeping the peace. "If something major is going on, your partner takes into consideration the whole picture of your relationship before diving in to discuss one specific situation," says Shannon Boxley, LCSW, a marriage and family therapist at Four Seasons Therapy in Park City, UT. "It's good marriage manners to be tactful." Just as it's bad relationship manners to, say, allow someone to get down on his knee before you tell him he's not "the one." And even worse form to try to soften the blow with seemingly meaningless compliments. Yeah, we know, it's good TV. Last night, before Bachelorette Ashley could pin the final rose on JP's lapel, she had to first explain to poor (lucky?) also-ran Ben that while she found him "interesting," and they'd shared some great moments, she didn't return his devotion and love. It carried no truck with Ben, who gathered his last shred of dignity-and stormed away in anger. "Don't try to sugar coat this," he nearly growled. "It can't end well. When something good comes to an end, it's not ending well." She appeared stunned-because every thought she'd previously expressed had been met with unconditional acceptance. Because they were her feelings.

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4. There's no feelings-angel in real life. "If you base your ideal of a relationship on what you see on TV, and think everyone has a producer standing in the wings, coaxing emotion out of them, and then you don't ask the real questions, you won't know what kind of communicator you're with," notes Sussman. Ben's next girlfriend is, in fact, in luck. "I'm a more complete person because of Ashley, and because of the whole journey," Ben told Chris, noting that he'd learned to become more emotionally accessible. Which, love-struck viewers should note, means he's also empowered to have the conversations that will actually prepare him for finding his true partner.

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5. Rush-to-ring means missed milestones.
Ashley and her chosen spouse-to-be, JP Rosenbaum said last night they're moving in together soon and taking some time to adjust to their life without cameras before they plan their wedding. Which is good. Because as life happens, "eventually, something comes up that you have to talk about," says Sussman. "Even if it's, 'you were late for our date,' and you learn what kind of communicators you are." We wish them luck.
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