Last night, I half-watched The Bachelor finale in real time and half-watched on Twitter — which almost immediately and unanimously lambasted the final couple, Nick Viall and Vanessa Grimaldi. Admittedly, it was hard not to.
Even as Chris Harrison did his best to bring some crazy-kids-in-love energy to the stage during the post-reveal interview, Nick and Vanessa stuck to a more subdued script, discussing how “difficult” and “hard” working on their relationship has been at times. At one point, Harrison says, “I know you are extremely happy,” to Nick, to which Nick replies, “😐”. Viewers wanted to hear “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” but the final couple kept giving us Gregorian chants.
So, gleefully and probably a little meanly, I asked my dad (a long-time resident of #BachelorNation, seriously!) what he thought. He quickly and firmly announced that he thought the couple would go the distance. It was like a record scratched.
What I and others had read in Nick and Vanessa as hesitancy, lack of enthusiasm, and a contractual obligation to not tell the public that they’ve already broken up, my dad read as honesty and maturity. Where I saw Vanessa giving up a career she is great at and obviously loves (seemingly more than she loves Nick) for a dude who is a professional reality television star living in a country without universal healthcare, my dad saw compromise.
“She’s not giving it up completely,” he offered, quoting Vanessa’s assurances that she’ll “take [her] life from Montreal with [her],” creating a charity for people with learning disabilities. While there's something to be said about compromise, I’m still not convinced it's an even one. Still, in reality, couples don't usually have to explain their choices to a TV audience in the millions. An overall willingness to give and take is what most people go for, and most of that can’t happen onscreen.
On Twitter, I quipped that Vanessa and Nick sounded like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in the last stages of their relationship — and I wasn't being totally cynical. In 2013, Affleck made headlines at the Academy Awards when he thanked Garner for “working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s work, but it’s the best kind of work,” he said. Whether someone thinks a speech like that is perfectly normal or sadly groundbreaking, Affleck (like other male celebs), was not only praised for publicly acknowledging his wife and partner, but also for being honest about the hard work that relationships entail — especially when millions of people you don’t know are scrutinizing your every gesture.
Garner made waves two years later while promoting her film Danny Collins, declaring, "It's my turn," after a few years of staying home, supporting Affleck's career, and raising their kids. The next year, after their separation was announced, she told Vanity Fair, “It was a real marriage. It wasn’t for the cameras. And it was a huge priority for me to stay in it. And that did not work.” Marriage is tough enough without high-profile, competing careers. It doesn't matter if you're part of a celeb "power couple," a TV-orchestrated romance, or in an off-camera everyday relationship — making it last is hard. Trying to decide whose career takes top priority, and when, is something almost every couple will grapple with at some point. My dad could be right: Vanessa and Nick could be taking the less glamorous, but mature route by being open about their struggles.
In their upcoming People magazine exclusive, Nick says, “I don’t think you have to pretend what this world isn’t and what it is. We’re okay with saying we still have a lot to learn about each other and that’s okay." Vanessa adds, “There’s no reason of speeding up the process. We’re still in the process of getting to know each other outside Bachelor world.” As Nick heads to Dancing with the Stars (… 😐 …), the cameras will keep following them, but only they know for sure what happens when they're alone.