This season’s Kaitlyn Bristowe has polarized Bachelorette fans into two camps: those who think she is the messiah of feminism and those who send her death threats on Twitter. Beyond what social media, Bachelor Nation, and I think of this season, the only people who need to approve of Kaitlyn’s behavior are Kaityln and her fiancé.
Kaitlyn appears very comfortable with her sexuality and is unapologetic about her desires to test driving her relationships. This openness appeals to many of her fans, but is she on the show to gain fans or a fiancé? I wonder if Kaitlyn’s open sexual behavior produces positive results for her. Assuming she hopes to leave the show engaged and eventually get married, has she set herself up for success?
The jury is out on the long-term effects of Kaitlyn’s behavior. It’s safe to say Kaitlyn will pick Shawn Boothe, who got the first impression rose, and Nick Vail will go home. Assuming Kaityln and Shawn are happy in their engagement, will Shawn be secure enough to move forward or will his anxieties get the best of him? Forget Shawn! Can a man be secure enough in his relationship to avoid jealousy when confronted with evidence that she has been with other men?
Shawn has his own share of anxieties, as witnessed in his fidgeting behavior on group dates and his frequent assurance seeking. We don’t know whether Shawn is a wildly jealous, insecure guy or is acting like a man in love who wants to defend what is his. You could argue that Shawn’s insecurities increase dramatically because he is told in private that he is “the one” but sees his competition in public. With Shawn’s prior insecurities, has Kaitlyn’s strategy as the Bachelorette helped or hindered Shawn’s feeling secure in their relationship?
While there isn’t a lot of hard science on the neurology of jealousy, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D. reports that emotionally, men are often the more fragile and the more volatile of the two sexes when it comes to relationships (at least in the early stages). Studies show that sex triggers the release of testosterone, also known as the ‘lust’ hormone. Testosterone floods the hypothalamus region of a man’s brain and drives his desire to reproduce. Unfortunately, testosterone also cranks up aggression and possessiveness in order to scare away other suitors, Fisher says.
So what can we learn about jealousy and trust from the Bachelorette? It’s one thing for final contestants on the Bachelorette to be aware that sex is happening in the privacy of the fantasy suite. It’s another when this information is aired too soon. Kaitlyn herself worries that she may have pushed it too far. Her tearful musings show her in conflict with her own behavior.
When helping married couples cope with an affair, psychologists used to believe it was helpful to the victim to hear the details. We have since changed that line of thinking. Originally, we believed that revealing details would restore trust. However, this sharing only created new images for the victim that are nearly impossible to overcome. The brain obsesses over sordid details. Add in visual cues such as texts, emails, and videos and you create a minefield for anxiety and insecurity post-affair.
The lesson for all of us in dating and long-term relationships is that both parties are responsible for creating trust. What makes for great TV doesn’t necessarily make for great relationships. If you are going to date multiple people, hopefully, you are not doing it on national TV or making it visible to your partner. In real world examples, monogamous partners who leave their online profiles up create unnecessary feelings of insecurity. If you feel strongly about someone, wouldn’t you want to protect them from negative emotions?
I am a romantic at heart, but I am also a psychologist who knows what works with successful couples. We all want to believe that love conquers all. I want to cheer for Kaitlyn and Shawn I think that if you can make it past the cameras you might have a chance to make it in the real world. What do you think of Kaitlyn’s dating strategy? I’d love to know.