This weekend, news that The Bachelor stars Matt Agnew & Chelsie McLeod had ended their relationship hit the internet. Plenty of fans were left shocked since the show ended on air a mere two months ago.
Obviously, filming wrapped earlier in the year – meaning the couple were likely together for around six months prior to this announcement. But we really don’t know, there have long been rumours that the final couple are contractually obligated to give the appearance of being together until a certain time. Maybe they split up straight away, maybe we got the news at the same time Chelsie did.
It’s not really about when Matt & Chelsie split, or how it went down though. It’s about the shock we as fans feel. Every time a Bachie couple has broken up, the fanbase lose their shit. And there have been a lot of break ups. Sam Frost & Blake. Sam Frost & Sasha. Richie & Alex. Sophie & Stu.
There have also been a lot of success stories in the Australian Bachelor/ette franchise. But what I want to talk about is how surprised we are when couples from these shows split up, when really they have some massive obstacles they have to overcome, and it’s more shocking any of these people stay together, in my opinion.
1. The Editing
Let’s start with the show itself. As fun as it is to watch real people navigate a relationship, what we often forget is that we aren’t actually watching real people navigate relationships. We’re watching EDITED real people navigate an EDITED relationship.
Take this season of The Bachelorette. Angie Kent got down to a final two, fun Timm & serious Carlin. People absolutely went to town on Ange when she picked Carlin, because he was made out to be the safe and boring choice. But watching Angie and Carlin’s Instagram posts now the series has wrapped reveals a very different guy to what we saw on TV. Carlin’s funny, he’s goofy, he’s a lot more like Timm than we realised. That’s because producers needed a story, and it’s hardly an exciting story to have two mildly polarising guys in a finale. They had to make Carlin seem more serious, Timm more quirky to make the decision more dramatic.
So with Matt and Chelsie, did we really know who they were from simply watching? Did we know anything about their chemistry or connection? Maybe somewhat – after all, you can’t (I don’t believe) edit people convincingly into something they’re 100% not. But I absolutely do think we never really know the truth with these shows.
2. The Premise
The context in which these Bachelor/ette relationships are formed – namely, in on a reality TV show set where all interactions are filmed, and everything is designed to be as romantic as possible, is important to consider. Where most 20-something and 30-something people meet in a pub or at most, a fancy bar for a first date, these guys had to endure a hyper-romantic set up for every single moment together. Imagine going on your first date with someone and it’s a champagne picnic strewn with flower petals? Not exactly chill.
Not to mention the cameras – it can’t be easy to be 100% yourself when there are three lenses staring you down at all times. How can you genuinely get to know someone when you’re dealing with that kind of pressure? I’m sure it’s possible, but god damn it must be difficult.
Then let’s add in the pressure of figuring out if you like someone enough within a specific timeframe – let alone if you like them more or less than 20 other women or men. That is a lot to take on, and I have no doubt in my mind that there would be producers putting pressure on The Bachelor or Bachelorette to make a decision. Maybe they don’t coerce them into choosing one way or another, but the simple pressure of choosing anyone at all if you’re confused is bound to see some people make the wrong decision, or a hasty decision.
And what about Chelsie’s experience? How often would you have to check yourself to see if you genuinely liked this ONE guy or if you just wanted to win? Even if you weren’t a competitive type of person, the fact you’re on a competitive dating show has to loom over your head a bit in the process. Surely some of these break ups come down to one or both parties realising their connection was more about winning or having to choose in a time frame than it was about chemistry.
Again, we simply aren’t privy to how much this pressure affected Matt and Chelsie. But I can’t see any scenario in which the weird hyper-romantic start to a relationship wouldn’t affect a couple once they’re back in the real world.
3. The Real World
So let’s talk about that – the massive shock of taking a new relationship that was formed inside a competitive reality TV dating show that’s designed to make your relationship look as “meant to be” as possible, and trying to make it work in reality.
Normal relationships are boring, at least when compared to the fairytale-esque ones of reality dating shows. For starters, you can’t just see each other whenever you want, even if you work metres from each other like Matt and Chelsie did. There are media commitments, if you come from reality TV. Work commitments. Friends and family. The fucking GYM, for god’s sake. When you form a relationship normally, these factors already exist. You work around them from the get-go and see if your lives naturally fit. I’ve absolutely broken up with and been dumped due to simply not being able to make schedules work.
But what about when you form a relationship in the context of a dating show? Your schedules worked seamlessly when you had nothing on but scheduled dates. Then suddenly you’re flung out into business-as-usual and have to see if your lives match up.
A perfect example is the horrible track record shows like Love Island have with their relationships – these people meet each other in an environment that not only allows, but encourages couples to spend every waking moment together. Season 1 of the Australian version has just one couple still going at the time of writing – Josh and Amelia. Take away the freedom to just see each other whenever and you get the complex problem of finding time to build your relationship.
Here’s an awkward one – remember when the rumour went around that Matt copped a blowie during filming of The Bachelor? Sogand ended up saying in an interview that no one was ever really left alone with Matt, so it was unlikely the rumour was true.
This is an interesting point – for most couples, the natural development of a relationship is dating… and sex. So the progression of a Bachelor/ette relationship is likely to be quite different to what anyone normally experiences, because you can only get physical with each other to the level you want filmed and broadcast on national television.
It’s completely understandable that you’d want to physically hold back a bit given that you’re being filmed at all times. But what would that do in terms of chemistry? Can these couples really tell what their sexual compatibility is until filming wraps? I’m not saying sex is key to knowing this – plenty of couples choose to abstain until marriage, for example, even if they’re not doing so for religious reasons, and form strong and healthy relationships.
But what if sex is part of your personal deciding factor around relationship compatibility, as it is for most sexually active Aussies? If you can’t have sex or even get close to that level of physical intimacy with someone, but are expected to end up in a full-on relationship with them at the end of a dating show, I can imagine there would be a huge chance things may not go to plan once you can bone.
5. So What’s My Point?
Look, at the end of the day I’m not trying to speculate about why Matt & Chelsie split. We’ll never know the 100% truth unless they both divulge it, and they’re not obligated to – just because their relationship formed on reality TV doesn’t mean they have to give us the details forever.
I’m simply outlining the incredibly intense obstacles these couples have to overcome. These aren’t regular relationships – they’re formed in strange circumstances and then elevated to god-level by the national public during broadcast. The scrutiny these couples experience both during filming, with producers and a film crew following their every move, then after filming when their relationship is given the producer treatment on screen is overwhelming. I’m actually shocked so many couples make it through the transition from show to real life.
It doesn’t mean reality dating shows like the Bachie franchise are bad, in my opinion. It just doesn’t mean Matt “made the wrong choice” or is a douchelord if he realises (or Chelsie, for that matter realises) they simply didn’t work as a couple.