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What We Can Learn From “The Golden Bachelor”

couple walking on the beach, like the golden bachelor
We rooted for the show's lead couple, but discovered that age and relational experience don't guarantee marital success.

Many years ago, I watched several seasons of “The Bachelor.” It was a social experiment that offered lots of drama, entertainment, and opportunity to judge others’ poor decisions. So much of reality TV isn’t “real,” so I eventually lost interest in the spectacle. Obviously, reality TV wasn’t the place to find lasting love and it didn’t feel like the show was offering my heart much that was wholesome or helpful.

Last year, when I heard the network was launching a new variation of the show, “The Golden Bachelor,” I was intrigued. Featuring contestants in their 60s and 70s, the premise of the show is to help a bachelor in his golden years find love. Some friends who watched the show told me it was “heartwarming” and “sweet.” They found themselves rooting for the gray-haired bachelor, Gerry Turner.

At the end of the season, Gerry seemed to have found his perfect match in Theresa Nist, and they married soon after in a glitzy TV wedding. It seemed they would live happily ever after … until a few weeks ago when they announced that after only three months of marriage, they were getting divorced. Turner cited the “irretrievable breakdown” of their marriage as the reason.

The beginning of the end

Since most relationships formed on “The Bachelor” fail, perhaps the only surprising thing about this situation is the speed of the breakup. A Yahoo Entertainment article explores the factors that led to the couple’s divorce despite the pair being “older and wiser” than younger contestants:

“While Turner and Nist may have approached the relationship with more maturity than their younger TV counterparts, they still ‘came together in an artificial context,’ relationship expert Heather Dugan tells Yahoo Entertainment. ‘It’s very easy to fall in love with the hypothetical. If your need, desire, loneliness or, in this case, the pressure and competition of a reality TV phenomenon are especially great, it’s easy to toss your own hopes and dreams onto the other person and they look perfect for you.’”

Following the wedding, Nist and Turner struggled to compromise on a place to live together. They each had lives in their respective states of New Jersey and Indiana. They had no experience navigating together through the daily aspects of life. Merging their individual lives may have proved to be too big an obstacle.

“Ideally, you go through at least one cycle of seasons [together],” Dugan says. “You see how one another manages day-to-day decisions, ongoing pressures and crises. Having a burst water pipe or airport layover is not a bad thing. I doubt that they experienced that together before they made their commitment.”

Lessons from “The Golden Bachelor’s” mistakes

Most of our readers will never go on “The Bachelor” or any of its various spinoffs. But are there takeaways from this cautionary tale? Here are a few:

Age does not equal maturity. While the contestants on “The Golden Bachelor” were older than typical contestants, they did not necessarily exhibit wisdom. (I suppose you could question the wisdom of going on a reality TV show to find love in the first place, but I won’t.) Once the cameras stopped rolling, the couple should have intentionally explored if the relationship would work before hastily getting married. Life experience may have helped them cut their losses more quickly, but those losses could have been avoided with greater prudence.

Getting to know someone in a real-life context is critical. Part of evaluating a potential mate is observing how they handle day-to-day decisions, ongoing pressures and crises. Rushing into marriage or conducting a relationship by long-distance only (or in another artificial context) carries some inherent risk. If you can’t initially observe the person in day-to-day life, get to know his or her friends and family to gain a fuller picture of what life with that person will be like.

Marriage requires flexibility and compromise. In the end, it appears “The Golden Bachelor” couple wasn’t willing or able to merge their two lives. Dugan notes,

“If one of you is always bending, or if neither of you can, it’s going to be hard to get into a comfortable zone where you can simply enjoy life together.”

Individuals seeking a life partner should expect to flex and surrender their own way of doing things at times. We talk about the dangers of “getting set in your ways” for a reason. Those who hope to marry should nurture flexibility in their lives as much as possible by trying new things and looking for settings (the workplace, extracurricular activities, etc.) to practice cooperation and collaboration with others.

Reality TV shows may not be the best place to go for relationship insights, but the unfortunate, if not expected, outcome of “The Golden Bachelor” does reveal some basic truths about building healthy relationships. For greater relationship success, exercise wisdom and prudence, build connection in an authentic setting, and expect to flex to create comfort and camaraderie. The best part is, you don’t have to go on TV to try any of these strategies.

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Copyright 2024 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved. 

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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