The 6 Relationship Lessons You Can Learn from 'Bachelor In Paradise'

You may need to ask your partner more than just, "will you accept this rose?"

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Photo: Courtesy of Disney / ABC

Bachelor Nation, it's finally that time of the year again! Bachelor In Paradise is back following a near two-year (!!) absence.

For those needing a quick refresher, Bachelor In Paradise is the beloved spinoff of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette that centers on former contestants looking for a shot at love with fellow past contenders in Mexico. Upon their arrival (which are staggered throughout the show for maximum drama), Bachelor and Bachelorette alums mingle with one another in hopes of forging a connection, or, in some cases, scoring a rose to survive the weekly elimination ceremony. (See: 'The Bachelorette' Is Schooling the Masses In Gaslighting 101)

In past seasons, the pairs left standing have either gotten engaged, split up, or given their relationships an actual go in the real world.

But let's not jump too far ahead, as Season 7 of Bachelor in Paradise is just starting — and with it, so is the drama. And while you may not be looking to some contestants for dating advice, the series itself can provide a unique perspective on relationship dos and don'ts.

Let's face it, being in a relationship can be hard, and learning from other people's mistakes can be a helpful guiding point. So as you settle in for the latest episode of Bachelor In Paradise, you may want to take stock into what an expert has to say about the relationships unfolding on-screen. As a mega Bachelor fan and a sex, relationship, and mental health therapist, I have some thoughts. Here's my take.

Lesson 1: Express Your Hopes and Expectations

Unlike The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, where contestants are vying for the heart of the show's star, Bachelor In Paradise is for people who want to date around — which is a fabulous way to meet people.

And, if someone is coming in with the hope of finding long-lasting love, they need to understand that this might not be everyone else's intention — and that's okay. Sometimes, our culture can make it seem that "not being ready for something serious" means we must not be mature. As a relationship therapist, I think it's quite the opposite.

Knowing what you want and communicating that is an excellent sign of maturity. On the other hand, leading on someone whose expectations are different from yours can lead to hurt feelings and confusion. It's 100 percent okay (and will likely happen many times in your life) if you like someone, you likely want them to be with you, and it's just not a good timing or fit for this phase of life.

It's not always as personal as it seems — but it's also okay if it feels personal because anytime our feelings are involved, the ~feels~ can be too. Try to always be honest with yourself and the people with whom you are exploring a relationship. (See: 50+ Flirty, Romantic, and Sexy Questions to Ask Your Partner)

Lesson 2: Define the Relationship (Even If That Definition Is 'Open' or 'Flexible')

Bachelor In Paradise is a hotbed of jealousy, and here's why: it's common to attribute your innate value with being chosen by someone else.

Let's think about that. Our brains do some incredible gymnastics to get to: "I'm jealous because they picked that other person because their value is higher than mine." In reality, who you choose to pursue almost always has to do with who you end up "clicking" with the best — not because one person is straight-up better than another. (

The problem arises when you don't communicate this to budding partners. For instance, suppose someone is hitting it off with someone else in Paradise, and a newcomer arrives whom they find irresistible. In that case, it's best for the interested party to have already defined the relationship with their initial connection. And given how new cast members arrive each week, it's best the remaining contestants figure out where they stand with one another early on. (See: How to Build Intimacy with Your Partner)

If you're in a budding relationship (I'm not even just talking about Bachelor In Paradise, I'm talking to all the dating humans out there), define your relationship. The easiest way to do this is by saying:

  • "I'm really enjoying getting to know you. If you feel the same, I would love for us to talk about closing the relationship and making it just the two of us."
  • "I'm really enjoying getting to know you. I'm not ready to be in a committed relationship, and I would love to continue exploring relationships with other people while furthering ours. Where are you at with our relationship?"

See how easy it is? It might feel uncomfortable, and that's okay. Remember, uncomfy doesn't have to mean bad.

Lesson 3: It's Possible to Be Attracted to and Like Multiple People at Once

SHOCKING. I KNOW.

If there's one thing you can learn from watching Bachelor in Paradise, it's that it's absolutely possible to be attracted to more than one person at once. You've likely even seen how likely it is for people to be in love with more than one person at once, too.

Here's the deal with Bachelor In Paradise — everyone is around the same age, in swimsuits all day long, feeling the pressure to couple up to remain in Paradise, and most likely consuming alcohol relatively consistently. This is often a sure-fire recipe for spiciness. (

Plus, in Paradise, people are constantly being introduced to new people, making it difficult to solely focus on the first person they may have clicked with upon their initial arrival.

Both things can be true: That they have had an immediate connection AND they don't want that first connection to end, but they are also interested in someone new.

Most of the time, it's not one or the other. It's typically another one of those "and" situations.

This is true for everyday life as well (surprisingly, and not so surprisingly). We were all brought up in a society that pushes monogamy and doesn't make room for many other relationship types. So people who may fall into more of a non-monogamous relationship experience a lot of confusion. (See: How to Have a Healthy Polyamorous Relationship)

You could also be monogamous and still meet multiple mates at once and not know what the heck to do. The answer? Communicate with the interested parties. Tell them exactly where you're at and exactly what you're feeling.

Lesson 4: Don't Confuse Drama with Passion and Passion for Love

Mhmm, you probably know where this is going.

The Bachelor franchise is notorious for creating a romantic atmosphere where it's nearly impossible not to feel a little somethin' somethin'. They pull out the stops when it comes to romantic dinner dates, personal concerts, and elaborate sightseeing… I mean, I'd be infatuated with anyone after an experience like that too.

Not only that, but the idea of someone "fighting for you" or "choosing you" or "giving you their rose" is… very dramatic. This can potentially feel inherently passionate, which can then (especially in this Bachelor In Paradise culture) confuse passion for love. Being entranced by a heightened environment (think: one that could feel like a twisted rom-com), it's easy to get caught up in emotions that may not totally reflect how you're feeling at your core. (

Lesson 5: If Someone Shows You Who They Are, Believe Them

Thank you, Maya Angelou, for this little nugget of wisdom.

I think this is an important reminder for Bachelor In Paradise contestants and people who are currently dating because I believe this — people do show you who they are right off the bat.

Now, you are all complex individuals with many different facets to your personalities — but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about how people make us feel. Dating is weird, but there are ways to date that still make people feel loved, seen, and respected.

If an experience with someone is ever the opposite, maybe they just showed you who they really are. Second and third chances are kind of silly to me. Forgiveness is real, and we all deserve love and belonging — but giving second chances to people who don't deserve them? That's taking a gamble with our own needs.

Let me explain further. If my partner of many years hurts my feelings, I know their heart and inventions. So, I forgive them. If a new potential partner severely crosses my boundaries or doesn't respond well to me in a vitally important way, maybe we just aren't compatible. (

And that's okay.

Now hear me out again — if a new someone cancels on you for dinner by saying, "Hey, I'm having a rough mental health day and need to reschedule. Can we connect tomorrow and plan a new time together?" — it's okay to be disappointed that someone can't hang. But also, notice if someone is genuinely trying to be honest with you vs. just disregarding your feelings and needs.

Essentially, if you feel someone is being sincere and making a genuine effort, that might be an instance when they do deserve that second chance. (See: Why This Therapist Thinks It's Okay to Ghost People Sometimes)

Lesson 6: Be Prepared for That New Relationship Bliss to Fade

This is not just true in Bachelor In Paradise but in everyday dating as well. The relationship bliss we feel is a combination of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals in the brain and comes out in ways in familiar ways. You know, that couple that can't keep their hands off each other, sees their every quirk as adorable, spends all their time together, and appears to be in some sort of la-la land? That's the "bliss."

Typically in this bliss state, couples are just present in the moment and enjoying every minute. On Bachelor In Paradise, contestants could potentially decide whether or not an engagement is in their future on day one. So, while in this bliss state, they're also strategizing on how to extend their stay in Paradise and get a rose. That said, it's really challenging to be present and to try to get to know someone (let alone talk about the future) if you're worried about a budding relationship growing stale.

The truth is, it's okay for that "newness" to fade away with relationships, but there are things you can do to keep that blissful feeling fresh. For instance, you can schedule time for intimacy, venture out of town together, or even go back to the basics with a simple handhold during a walk. These gestures can help keep that "new" feeling very much in the present.

Overall, you can continue to learn tons from the content you consume, including that gift that is Bachelor In Paradise (which, for the record, airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC).

Rachel Wright, M.A., L.M.FT., (she/her) is a licensed psychotherapist, sex educator and relationship expert based in New York City. She's an experienced speaker, group facilitator, and writer. She's worked with thousands of humans worldwide to help them scream less and screw more.

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