By Nicolle

I could write an entire book on the reasons why the reality TV shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have been systematically and subconsciously contaminating our relationships.

But, those books have already been written. And, despite my qualms about the shows, I recently discovered a way they could be positively impacting our relationships.

In case you’re out of the pop culture loop, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette gives one man (the bachelor) or one woman (the bachelorette) the opportunity to “date” 25 singles at a time. The bachelor/bachelorette eliminates a few singles each week in hopes of finding THE ONE. After eight weeks of group dates, one-on-ones and trips to exotic destinations, the bachelor/bachelorette chooses a “winner” – and the show usually concludes with a marriage proposal on an island with the sun setting over the palm trees and crystal blue water in the background.

As you can likely see, there are numerous inherent issues with this model of “dating”:

  • It’s too fast – eight weeks isn’t enough time to really get to know a person, especially when you’re not spending all that time with ONE person.
  • It’s unrealistic as far as number of options for potential partners goes – no one has that many people so actively and unwaveringly vying for his/her attention.
  • Contestants and the star don’t get to spend the real, mundane parts of life together when they’re constantly traveling to Spain (the destination for last year’s The Bachelorette) or walking on tight ropes strung between two high rise buildings (a date from last week’s show).
  • It perpetuates the idea of having one foot in and one foot out of a relationship, in preparation for something better to come along.

Basically, the show is contributing to the death of our relationships.

But, I declared I’d found a redeeming quality about the unrealistic reality TV show. And here it is:

The show forces its contestants to look outside their normal dating boxes.

If you’re single, chances are that you’ve got a certain “type” of guy or girl you’re looking for. Even though I’ve tried to discourage us from making checklists for our potential partners, we have to admit that we haven’t fully released the idea that whomever we date and potentially marry should live up to the standards we’ve set in our heads. Whether we include on our characteristic lists “athletic,” “likes the arts,” “has brown hair,” “makes me laugh” or “loves animals,” we’ve all got a batch of perfect-match-for-me stew brewing in our heads.

What The Bachelor and The Bachelorette actually do a decent job of is providing different types of men and women for the bachelor or bachelorette to choose from. While the singles may not always be diverse in terms of ethnicity, the candidates are usually very diverse in personality, background, hometown, looks and occupation.

Because of this diversity (especially in personality and looks), the bachelor or bachelorette is forced to reevaluate how s/he chooses a potential mate. Someone who might not have stood out to them on the street, at a bar, in a restaurant or at work might turn out to be the person with whom they fit best.

And that’s more important than our ideal characteristic list. While we don’t all get the luxury of having 25 single males or females simultaneously competing for our affection, we could all take a cue from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette when it comes to expanding our picture of a perfect match. Then we all might be a little happier in the end.