Hey Felicity, I have a confession: I watched The Bachelor this season. And while I adore Ben, I was never down with him telling two women he loved them. Especially because neither women knew it was being said to the other until the end. Because I am a woman, I know that those words are powerful to hear and can play into the choices we make. Curious about your thoughts on this?
Oooh, great question! I think part of why that show captivates such a wide audience is that we get to play voyeur to the dating process (albeit a very fast-forwarded and manufactured one) and possibility of two people falling in love.
And romantically riding off into the sunset together.
The reality, as we’ve now seen over 20 seasons of this show, is very few of these couples actually wind up getting married. Once they are out in the real world, and the TV cameras have been replaced with paparazzi, those happily-ever-afters come to a screeching halt.
Each season, the audience plays armchair cupid through each episode and beyond. And we ask ourselves, if there were a camera following my romantic life, would I be shocked to see what truly took place when I wasn’t there?
Because just the thought of discovering that the man who just professed his love to you had just professed his love to another woman is one that makes most of our stomachs burn with nausea.
Having millions of people witness your humiliation is just salt in the wound.
But your question is something that has kept droves of single women up at night, full of anxiety, wondering…if he says he “loves” me, does it mean I’m the only one? And does it mean I’m The One? And are we now talking about a definite future together?
So first, let’s unpack the extremely powerful word L-O-V-E a bit.
What does LOVE mean?
This seemingly simple 4-letter word is packed with more meaning and unique interpretation than most people realize. Men and women both.
To some, LOVE is a state of thinking.
And the word means an overall feeling of compassion and positivity toward all living things. To these people, it’s possible to genuinely love many, because love is so much bigger than just romantic love.
To others, the word LOVE is interchangeable with forever.
And in any remotely romantic context, it is nearly a pledge of fidelity, monogamy, exclusivity and a future. It is a completely sacred word that should only be used when you are absolutely certain you know you have found The One.
Then add in the mix that many of us confuse the overwhelming chemical firestorm of a new romance with love.
When really, it’s like 95% lust…and probably 5% hope. And when someone says the L-word in this exciting time period, what it generally means is they feel like they are FALLING in love.
So you can imagine if you get two people together who carry slightly different interpretations of what LOVE means (and what, if any, promises or strings come with that word) you have the makings of some potentially big misunderstandings.
And hurt feelings.
I want to point out, that this confusing situation happens to men, too. Women aren’t the only ones who attach tons of meaning to the word!
Recognize what loves means to each other
In the context of The Bachelor, it seem irresponsible (and unfathomable) that Ben could say he loves two different women.
Knowing they will SEE his declarations later on but can only choose one of them seems almost duplicitous.
To answer your question regarding the show, I think the more responsible option would be for him to say he was “falling in love” rather than saying he was in love.
But integrity and caution don’t always make for great ratings in reality TV-land.
For us normal-non-TV-folk, I think it’s important to use care when dealing with matters of the heart.
I recommend discussing what love means with the person you are having these warm feelings toward.
Ask each other about those scary topics of commitment, monogamy, and what you each want from a long-term partner.
And take the other person at their word.
What I mean by that is if the guy you are dating says he doesn’t want an “exclusive relationship” yet he professes feelings of love, understand that the two concepts can be mutually exclusive.
Just because he loves you doesn’t mean he has changed his mind about exclusivity.
That might be YOUR definition of love, but it isn’t necessarily his.
Follow your heart, but take your brain along for the ride
I don’t want to be the party pooper on anyone’s big love party. Because the exhilaration of saying “I love you” and hearing “I love you” for the first time from someone special is one of life’s most memorable moments.
For your heart, consider dropping the strings that you might attach to the word. Enjoy feeling wrapped in the embrace of love in the present moment rather than jumping ahead to what comes next.
And for your brain, I encourage you to examine your own definition of love and seek to understand your beloved’s definition, also.
Practicing some objective thinking regarding a highly emotional topic can save you both from potential misunderstanding.