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What I Learned from 'The Bachelor': Week 3

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Friday night I turned on ABC, and was momentarily confused: there was Chris Harrison surrounded by beautiful, intelligent, fiercely competitive women in swimsuits and cocktail attire. I thought to myself "What was "The Bachelor" doing airing on a Friday"? Then, I quickly noticed that actually, they were all wearing sashes with States names on them and that this was actually the Miss America pageant. (Spoiler Alert: Miss Wisconsin takes the whole thing!)

In seriousness, I DID watch both shows this weekend and was mildly shocked by the similarities between them, with one marked difference: the pageant girls all openly acknowledge that they want to win a crown and title, while "The Bachelor" contestants have deluded themselves into all thinking that they are in love with a virtual stranger.

But, the point of this isn't to judge: it's to see what gems for the real world we can pull from this FASCINATING program. So, here we go:

Lesson #1: Being Open to Trying New Things Can Go A Long Way. Last night we saw Emily and Ben climb the Oakland Bay Bridge together. Emily was terrified of heights and Ben did what he always does when "he doesn't know quite what to say": he slipped her the tongue. Now, that the snark is out of the way, it actually WAS a great bonding experience. It reminded me of something that it took me a marriage and several bad "relationships" to learn: trying new things and stretching yourselves together is really, really a great way to connect with someone.

How many times has someone you are dating (or even you yourself) grimaced at trying a new cuisine, or going camping or something else they aren't comfortable with simply because they are afraid of looking silly or reacting badly? The person rejecting the suggestion seems close-minded, while taking the chance creates the impression of being open-minded.

Additionally, as we saw with Emily last night, being a little uncomfortable allows you to show vulnerability without pouring out your soul about every bad relationship you've ever had (you can fast forward to a little later in the episode to hear about the poor girl who tells Ben she was dumped via text message.)

Finally, the point of being with someone and "searching for love" is to hopefully find someone who makes you a better version of yourself and expands your world. I think Ben and Emily helping one another overcome their fears of heights was a great (albeit extreme) example of how being open to new experiences can symbolically say a lot about how you would be in a relationship.

So kudos to Emily for showing some great dating "can do" attitude last night! Thankfully, she was rewarded with a rose and some fireworks.

The second lesson goes back to my Miss America point: when setting "goals" for oneself while dating be sure that your focus on achieving "success" isn't overshadowing your enjoyment of WHO it is that you are dating. Just like the Miss America pageant, "The Bachelor" has women vying against each other in pursuit of "winning". The difference here is that "winning" on "The Bachelor" seems to be defined as obtaining a life-altering relationship with Ben (that will hopefully lead to marriage), while the girls on Miss America are just going for a crown that they'll put in their Great Room one day. But, are they really any different from any of us ladies (or men) who, in pursuit of a committed relationship, get so focused on winning the prize that we ignore the details of what that prize entails? How many duds have I dated myself, knowing it wasn't right, just to feel that I was "moving forward" with someone.

In that respect, I give a lot of credit to last night's "quitter" Britt, who left because she just didn't feel "that this was right for her." I put "quitter" in quotes because, sure, if she was a contestant in a Game Show or a Marathon or Miss America, I might think less of her for not "sticking it out to the end." But, she is a contest to be in a relationship with someone and realized she wasn't all that interested in the prize. Good for you, Britt!

This lesson is about bowing out gracefully. Years ago, when teen hormones were still in a rage zone, I had a girlfriend whose boyfriend was about to break up with her and she jumped onto the hood of his car to try and stop him. I never understood that, since not only was his mind already made up, BUT I didn't think that kind of behavior was something that would make him change his mind.

The reality TV equivalent was on display last night as Erika and Jaclyn could see "The Hammer" was coming down... likely for one, or both, of them and Erika threatened to vomit before she fainted while Jaclyn stared straight ahead while making "Ugly Cry" face. I wasn't quite sure if Ben's mind was totally decided as he stood there with the last rose, but, ultimately he decided neither of those was a keeper. Lesson 2: If you feel it's about to end, just allow it to happen gracefully... or at least until the guy has left, or the cameras stop rolling.