A Psychologist Explains Why The Bachelor Finale Wasn't That Surprising

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
In case you missed it, on the finale of The Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr. proposed to Becca K., changed his mind, broke up with her, and then went back to the runner up, Lauren B. His explanation for this sudden whiplash? "For me, the more I hung out with you, the more I felt like I was losing the possibility of reconciling things with Lauren," Arie told Becca on Monday's finale. Needless to say, the Bachelor Nation thought this was cold and unfair to Becca.
While some people are calling this the most dramatic finale in Bachelor history, Arie's decision isn't that shocking when you consider a psychological phenomenon called "the paradox of choice." This theory was popularized by psychologist Barry Schwartz in 2004, and it describes what happens when people are presented with too many options: They can't actually make a decision. If you think about the premise of The Bachelor, it's actually more surprising that this type of thing doesn't happen more often.
"Human beings aren’t evolutionarily wired to have those kinds of choices, so it creates a lot of stress and complicates our world," says Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist in Washington, D.C.
To be clear, what happened on the finale is definitely a uniquely Bachelor problem, but the paradox of choice can play out in the real world, especially in online dating, where users have a seemingly endless network of dating prospects. Experts say this is why people seem less interested in having monogamous relationships nowadays.
"The apps, and the swiping, and all of that just makes it so much easier to be indecisive and try different things, but it’s actually to our detriment," Derhally says.
The problem? Perpetually feeling like there are other, potentially better fish in the sea can make you doubt the decisions you do make, even if they're "good" ones. "It prevents us from having meaningful connections with people," Derhally says. "Looking at [Arie's situation], relatively speaking, that's a really good problem to have [loving two people], but it creates stress and anxiety ultimately for multiple people."
Essentially, being excited by two prospects might seem like a great position to be in, but it may have actually held Arie back from committing and developing a meaningful monogamous relationship (which is kind of the point of being on the show, right?). Not to mention, flip-flopping like this is pretty awful for Becca, aka the woman to whom he initially proposed marriage.
In addition to the paradox of choice, Becca had another psychological factor working against her. According to Derhally, it's really common for people to feel nostalgic about their past relationships. "You can filter out your brain to remember only the positive instead of negative," she says. "If you’re not seeing someone on a day-to-day basis, you can romanticize them and you're triggered and remembering the good stuff more than the bad stuff." So, while Arie was starting a "real" life with Becca, he was remembering his time with Lauren — but probably only the good stuff.
Like all Bachelor storylines, what happened on Monday was both bizarre and oddly relatable. The events of the show may occur in a Bachelor vacuum, but if you take a closer look, you might find that the dynamics are often a depiction of what happens when we take problematic dating and relationship dynamics to the extreme. As for Becca, it's hard to say what's next for her, but hopefully she'll have some fun rebounding as the next Bachelorette.
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