The Bachelor and all of its spinoffs might be the only show on TV that some people *actually* feel guilty about when they watch. That’s understandable. The show is problematic and silly, and it’s hard to believe that people really get married — and stay married — after appearing on it. But sometimes (and this is why we keep watching), it’s also full of great plot twists and scandal. And this season’s scandal might be the biggest yet in Bachelor Nation’s storied history, as host Chris Harrison reassured all of us over and over again this week. Fans of the show, and even a lot of former Bachelor cast members, are really upset that Arie changed his mind on the Bachelor this season, but that shouldn’t be the reason that fans are mad at him. It’s a lot more complicated than that.
Just in case you’re not a Bachelor fan, here’s what happened.
Arie Luyendyk, previously called the most boring Bachelor ever, proposed to Becca Kufrin, one of two finalists. They lived happily engaged for an entire month and a half before having to film a little segment for After the Final Rose. It’s usually a package that the new couple films showing how happy they are together to air on the reunion-type show each season. But that’s not how things went this time. Instead, Arie sits Becca down and tells her that he had spoken to Lauren, the other finalist, and decided that he wanted to give it a second shot with her. He breaks up with her on camera. Like a class act, Becca retreats to another room, crying, and asks him “just leave.”
Bachelor fans are a certain kind of wonderful, so over the course of two live specials in which this all played out, people took all kinds of sides on social media. Twitter was lit. Some hate Arie for dumping Becca. Some hate Lauren for taking Arie back. Some are mad at host Harrison and ABC for deciding to air all of the drama for ratings when it could have been done privately, since it was revealed that he and Lauren had privately texted about getting back together and him breaking up with Becca.
But we’re skipping over one really important plot point: That right after he broke up with Becca, she walked away from him and asked him to leave the house.
That conversation went on for about a half an hour of television, with Becca crying off camera, begging to be left alone, and Arie wandering around the house, attempting to get some kind of “closure” for the breakup. She continues to tell him to leave and he continues to sit on the sofa, watching her cry into the off-the-shoulder top she pulls over face in an attempt to hide from the cameras.
“I’m not going to, like, hug you,” she says, sniffling in a doorway she moved to in order to get away from him, as he stood there staring at her with his best puppy dog eyes, asking to be forgiven.
The creepiest thing about Arie isn’t that he wear cardigans or can’t make up his mind — it’s that he’s demanded forgiveness from Becca and he was sort of pissed that he wasn’t getting it. Really, the fact that he wouldn’t just leave the house when Becca asked him to is a great example of a man expecting a woman to eventually come around to his side of things, even though she had no obligation to. It also appeared like he was getting some emotional thrill watching Becca break down over him and was waiting for her to beg him *not* to go. The cameras would only keep rolling as long as he was in the house, we have to assume, so it’s particularly cruel to not have just given Becca a break and let her do her thing privately instead of attempting to come off as a “nice guy.”
Even on Tuesday, before he proposed to Lauren on national television, Arie seemed more upset that he wasn’t going to get his “closure” than he was about understanding why Becca and her fans were upset about his behavior. He kept insisting in one way or another that Bachelor fans just “didn’t get” his choice. No, we got it, we just reserve the right to not like you because of it, plain and simple. You don’t get a hug and a parade kiss sometimes for doing you, Arie.
It’s one thing for a guy to linger around and watch a woman cry with a handful of producers in a room armed with cameras. But in the real world, there are way too many men who do this to women, and it can feel manipulative and threatening. A man’s desire to wait around and be told that they’re somehow a hero for “being honest” is twisted. That kind of refusal is often a catalyst for more drama that can get out of control. (Some of us would not have been as quiet as Becca, for example.)
Closure is not a thing that another person can give to you — it’s up to each person in a relationship to move on for themselves. We talk a lot about consent over here, but the only time a person doesn’t need to get a consent in a relationship is when they want to end it, or cut a person out of their lives when it’s over. That hurts sometimes, but both people don’t need to agree that a breakup should happen or that splitting up is, in Bachelor parlance, for the right reasons.
Persistence and a stubborn desire to make things “OK” when you’ve hurt someone is not romantic. It’s scary. A person can change their mind about a relationship. It sucks but it happens. No one should be too mad at Arie for that. But you should be vigilant about guys like Arie demanding that they be absolved of the hurt a person says they caused them. Becca finally just told him he was forgiven, but he really yanked that out of her.
Arie seemed to expect Becca (and viewers) to tell him that his change of heart was acceptable to her, insisting that if she would only try to understand his motives, she wouldn’t be so mad or sad and know that deep down, he was a “good person,” as some of his friends insisted on stage Tuesday night. But that’s not how it goes in real life or on the Bachelor. No one owes anyone anything and a good person doesn’t make demands.
You’re allowed to be upset at someone if they hurt you. Likewise, if someone doesn’t forgive you for something, you have to just swallow it and move on. Everyone’s allowed to have their experience, even if you don’t like the way it looks. Don’t be mad at Arie for choosing Lauren. Be mad at him for not respecting Becca’s wishes to be left alone and untouched after he rejected her. Sticking around wasn’t sweet, it was just creepy.