Last week, in the final edition of my weekly “The Bachelor”: Power Rankings, I surmised that what dooms so many reality-TV romances (22 seasons of the show and its spinoff, “The Bachelorette,” have resulted in a whopping two marriages) is the fact that the show situates the would-be couples in circumstances that make it relatively easy to “fall in love.” Locales range from rustic to exotic (Sonoma, Belize, Switzerland), modes of transportation exceed even the most liberal definition of decadence (helicopter, hot air balloon), and the occasions themselves entail such banal activities as rappelling down a gorge in the Swiss Alps, exploring ancient Mayan ruins, and scaling the Golden Gate Bridge. And that’s without mentioning the dinners that follow: affairs invariably bathed in candlelight, stocked with enough wine for a small army, and littered with rose petals and other assorted cliches.
My theory goes that after acquainting themselves in such extravagant surroundings, it is no surprise that chemistry falters upon a return to the U.S., and with it, relative normalcy. So in the name of better preparing aspirant couples for life after the utopian environs of the show, I contend that Bachelors and Bachelorettes would benefit from going on dates certain to provoke stress and conflict, as those represent the times when you truly realize your compatibility with another human being.
With that in mind, here are eight hypothetical “anti-dates” that every Bachelor/Bachelorette should have to survive before choosing someone with whom to spend the rest of his/her life (Disclaimer: feel free to use them in your dating life as well; our research indicates they are foolproof.):
Related: The Break-Up Tipping Point
1. A “Friendly” Board Game
Everyone has a little “competitive @$$hole” in them, although it varies by degrees. Some will merely assume a standoffish nature for an hour or two upon losing; others (myself included) keep duct-tape on hand to repair damaged game-boards.
Moment Bound to Start a Fight: The one at which one of you tries to sneak “blergish” (or something) past the other in “Scrabble.”
2. A Long, Hot Car Ride
Romantic movies have a way of glamorizing the road trip: top down, hair blowing in the wind, radios that pick up a crystal-clear signal in regions of the earth once thought to be uninhabitable. The reality of this situation paints a grimmer picture, rife with unforeseen traffic delays, disagreements about the frequency of A/C usage, an unending battle for DJ supremacy, and wrong turns for which neither party is willing to claim responsibility.
Moment Bound to Start a Fight: Tire goes flat. Or, GPS won’t cooperate. Take your pick.
3. Assembling That Thing From Ikea
That über-stylish but debatably comfortable thing you ordered from Ikea just arrived! It’s really going to tie the room together! But wait, there’s more! It’s in a box. In pieces. Most of them microscopic. Commence team-building exercise.
Moment Bound to Start a Fight: The realization the instructions aren’t in English.
4. The Morning After a Good Old-Fashioned Drunk Fight
You wake up to find someone hit you in the face with a brick. Oh, wait, that’s just the first pang of a crippling hangover. Then you realize you are on the couch. Alone. Then you remember that high-volume, expletive-strewn verbal war the two of you waged on one another right before they kicked you both out of the bar. Time to look up the number of the nearest florist.
Lessons Learned (Assuming You Survive): Tequila is a dish best served in moderation; spine-tingling make-up sex is the ultimate cure for a hangover.
Related: Why I Can’t Date Non-Drinkers
5. Her/His Favorite Show Coincides with “The Biggest Game of the Season”
OK, the advent of the DVR goes a long way in remedying this one. And, yes, hardcore sports fanatics (men and women alike) abuse the phrase “biggest game of the season” to no end (though it is a flexible concept, depending on the arc of a team’s season — but that’s a discussion for a different forum).
Moment Bound to Start a Fight: One of you reverts to your ten-year-old self and hides the remote.
6. One of You Loses Something Valuable
There is no reasoning with a person who just lost a phone/wallet/camera/iPod/purse. They will insist on circuitous and often byzantine methods of inspection in hopes of retrieving that object, and there is nothing you can do or say to deter them. They will probably be curt, hostile, and venomous in their speech patterns toward any and all people they encounter. Especially you, because you get the unfiltered version. This might compel you to think it’s best if you let them search alone: don’t, even if they offer you this option. It is a trap, and will lead to far graver consequences.
Lessons Learned (Assuming You Survive): There is literally nothing you can say to make it better, so keep your mouth shut; invest in a fannypack.
7. Choosing a Restaurant/Diversion on the Fly
In the interest of sound relations, one of you should always choose the destination of your date before it begins. No matter how much you both claim to “like walking,” aimlessness and indecision will eventually devolve into exasperation. That goes double in inclement weather.
Lessons Learned (Assuming You Survive): “No, you choose” is not a warmly-received response to “You choose,” even if you use your sarcastic tone.
Related: The Top Ten Reasons Couples Break Up
8. Tagging Along with the “Guys”/”Gals”
Maintaining independence is paramount to the success of any relationship. As much as you want to prove to your significant other that you are a social chameleon capable of enhancing the well-being of any group, you should make yourself scarce when he/she is having a “guy-/girl-night.”
Having said that, a situation will inevitably arise that obligates you to intrude on the fabled territory of male/female bonding time. How you comport yourself therein will only help determine his/her friends’ collective opinion of you from now until the end of time, so, you know, don’t sweat it.
Moment Bound to Start a Fight: The one where you vociferously express your disapproval of something everyone else present clearly adores. Like football. Or Love, Actually.