Why It’s OK If ‘Bachelor’ Nation Couples Stay Together & Don’t Get Married Right Away

There’s a lot for Bachelor Nation fans to discuss right now, but I want to talk about a topic that often slips through the cracks. Namely, that it’s just fine and dandy if Bachelor Nation couples don’t get married right away. My reasoning for this could honestly just be the sentence, "They are human beings and they’re entitled to do whatever they want to," but A. that wouldn’t be any fun at all, and B. there’s a lot more to it than that, so keep reading.

There are currently three Bachelor Nation couples who are engaged but not yet married. They are Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth, JoJo Fletcher and Jordan Rodgers, and Rachel Lindsay and her fiancé, whomever that turns out to be. (And congratulations to newlyweds Carly Waddell and Evan Bass, whose June 2017 wedding in Puerto Vallarta pulled them off this list!) Obviously, each couple’s season ended at different times, so their engagements are of varying lengths. But the couple at the furthest end of the spectrum, Bristowe and Booth, is actually the one I feel most confident in, so this is something to pay attention to. What I think it comes down to is that the structure of the franchise actually gives us more reasons for a long engagement, not less. Even if it may feel like the opposite.

In the real world, a long engagement is often — and perhaps unfairly — viewed as a bad sign. The implication is that the couple isn’t enthusiastic about each other, or that they have cold feet. But we aren’t working with the real world here, we’re working with reality television. The average season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette takes just two months to shoot, and it’s even shorter for Bachelor in Paradise. In Viall’s most recent season of The Bachelor, for example, Business Insider reports that filming began on Sept. 24, 2016 and was wrapped by Nov. 27.

That gave Viall just two months to get to know his then-fiancée Grimaldi before proposing, which is a strikingly short amount of time. And that’s before you even consider that they spent most of it surrounded by other women vying for Viall’s affections. Awkward. But what’s more, Grimaldi actually stood out as a front-runner because she got two one-on-one dates before heading into hometowns. It’s almost no time in an off-screen relationship, but it’s double what the other contestants on Season 21 may have felt lucky to receive.

So going into the most important decision of their lives as a couple, Viall and Grimaldi could count their one-on-one dates on one hand. (And their camera-less nights together on one finger.) And just to throw one more obstacle into their paths, once they did get engaged, they had to go straight into lockdown to avoid spoilers. According to Business Insider, their engagement took place on or around Nov. 27. And promptly after the question was popped, Viall and Grimaldi then had to stay separated for longer than they’d been together as a couple.

Let me show you my math: The Bachelor‘s Season 21 didn’t even premiere until Jan. 2 of this year, at least a month after the engagement, and didn’t finish airing until March 13. Immediately after that show, Grimaldi and Viall made their first appearance as a couple on After the Final Rose, but that was already four months after the finale proposal. So they’ve been engaged and sequestered for longer than they spent together on the show, and our first question is, "Have you set a date?" Whoa.

When the whole process is televised, it’s easy to lose sight of our place within it. As a viewer, you feel so involved in the courtship and engagement process that it’s tough to keep perspective. But our experience doesn’t always match up with that of the people onscreen. As an audience, we’re feeling all this momentum after well-edited months of episodes that help us fall in love with the winner, and we’re chomping at the bit to see more of their story. We want to move their whirlwind romance straight to the altar for a whirlwind wedding.

But before you start tapping your foot for a wedding date within months of a finale, just be aware that even in the real world, the average engagement is over a year. That statistic comes from wedding website The Knot, which places the figure at 14.5 months. And that’s for couples who knew each other first.

Relationship expert Ian Kerner told The Knot that he sees the most success with couples who date for one to two years before getting engaged, so these reality TV couples have a lot of catching up to do. And we as an audience can do our part, too. For a Bachelor Nation relationship to transition successfully to the real world, we need to change the way we think about their engagements.

When you take away the whole "ring thing," the finale episode is less of a proposal, and more of an agreement between two people to start dating exclusively. Up until literally that exact moment, there have been between 1 and 29 someone elses in the picture. So the final episode of the season isn’t where the dating stops, it’s where the dating starts. Once you work your brain into that perspective, it starts to make a lot more sense that Bristowe and Boothe just celebrated two years together without putting a date on the calendar. Or that Fletcher and Rodgers are a year in, and trying out a dog and a working relationship before they take that next step.

As far as I’m concerned, taking a second to get to know each other before they walk down the aisle is actually the most responsible thing a Bachelor Nation couple can do. It proves that they’re ensuring that they can make good on the promise that they made to each other and America before jumping in. Call it "cold feet" if you want, but I actually see it as a mark of respect for the franchise. I appreciate it, because it feels like they’re taking their engagements seriously and investigating how they work as a couple before walking down the aisle.

At the end of the day, a lot of milestones get skipped during these shows. Couples don’t get a chance to date exclusively, live together, or have privacy until the season has wrapped. So it only makes sense to try to knock those experiences out before making things official. Building a foundation with real world experiences, both positive and negative, gives couples a greater shot at success. And the only way to get those experiences is to log the time. So I endorse any and all Bachelor couples who are taking their time on the way to the altar. In the long run, I think it will make them way happier.

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