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It’s about that time of year again- time when old man Lowe puts on his brown wool sweater, sits on his creaky rocking chair, untwists the foil wrapping of a Werther’s Original, and regales us with stories of what it was like when he was the bachelor and what today’s bachelor needs to do to have a long-lasting, happy relationship with the one he chooses.

So maybe I’m not as old as I make myself out to be, but I do feel very grandpa-ish when I try to offer wisdom to the new guy.

The truth is, The Bachelor does an incredible job of building storybook romances for both the TV audience and the bachelor himself, but there is a major disconnect that happens once the show is finished airing. After months of building one man up as the perfect guy (or the perfect Ben), after new-found fame, after winning the adoration of millions of girls watching at home on TV, after dating twenty-five women simultaneously (all of whom will stop at nothing to win your affection), after having genuine heart-felt feelings for multiple women… it all suddenly stops. The ride is over and you’re expected to live out your fairytale with the woman you chose. After months of being disconnected from the real world, traveling the globe, living a very surreal existence, you’re supposed to navigate the waters of a normal, monogamous relationship. More importantly, the woman you chose is expecting you to fulfill your promise of loving her forever and making her your top priority.

As the show’s track record will indicate, that rarely happens. Here are some of my thoughts on why I think the fairytale too often becomes just another sad tabloid headline and how Ben can sidestep these pitfalls.

1) Honor your fiancee between the time filming is done and the finale is aired. I think this is the most important thing to remember. This is when the fame really starts to kick in and the network is promoting you as America’s dream guy and you’re receiving tons of attention from women across the globe. But not so fast!  You’re engaged at this point.  You have to realize that the show comes second and your new fiancee comes first (I struggled with this at times). Always be aware of your fiancee’s feelings and ask yourself if what you’re doing is honoring her. I’ll give you an example: during interviews, everyone always asked me to take my shirt off and show off my abs. After all, I was “the shirtless bachelor” (one of the top five worst nicknames ever – click HERE to find out how I really felt about that). At the time, I viewed it as playful and silly, but looking back at now I know I was only harming my relationship with Catherine. I should have been building her trust and confidence in us but instead I was achieving the opposite. Make your woman feel like you are hers and no one else’s.

2) Don’t believe the hype. Right now you’re probably feeling pretty darn famous, because well, you are. Millions of people are watching you on TV every Monday night and you can’t walk down the street without getting mobbed. Here’s what you need to know though: it fades fast. As soon as the next bachelor is announced, he will be the center of attention and you will be lumped in with all the bachelors who came before you. I think the sudden fame has gone to the heads of some former bachelors and the bright lights of Hollywood seem more appealing than working on an actual relationship. Well those bright lights fade fast and you’ll be left wondering what happened when it’s all over. Give your relationship the attention and it will be so much more rewarding than anything fame could ever bring you.

3) Empathize. Admittedly, empathy is something I’ve always struggled with, and it’s probably the one thing Catherine needs the most. I’d like to think that I’ve made some strides in that area over the past few years.  But, looking back, I can see how badly Catherine needed empathy during the first few months of our relationship. For months, she shared me with other women, she watched me date them on TV, she waited on standby as I traveled the country promoting the show.  All the while, I didn’t stop to think how hard that must have been for her. Looking back, I wish I would have thanked her for being so gracious, and I wish I had told her that I understood how tough that must have been. I failed in that regard but, hopefully, Ben can learn from my mistakes.

4) Change your psyche. Being the bachelor can really mess with your head. You’re thrust into this weird world where it’s okay to date multiple women and where you’re the person being chased. I think a lot of bachelors have had a hard time post-show making the woman feel sought after. A man should always be the pursuer and not the one being pursued. Since that’s not the dynamic on The Bachelor, sometimes the chosen woman can be left feeling unfulfilled. She’s put so much effort into loving you and winning your affection. Yet, she’s left with a giant void because that energy hasn’t been reciprocated. If you want any chance of success, you must flip the script.  Chase after your woman.

5) Commit. I’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating. Your relationship will not last unless you both commit to making it work. You’re going to find out really fast that making a relationship born on realty TV work is really difficult. You’ll be pulled a hundred different directions, you’ll be faced with a whole bunch of reasons as to why your relationship shouldn’t work and you might start to think how much easier it would be if you just threw in the towel. But if you both commit to putting each other first, to working out the details of leaving families and jobs behind, and to growing your relationship stronger every day, you will be rewarded with the most beautiful thing in the world: a loving wife.

Buy my New York Times Best Selling Book For the Right Reasons: America’s Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First to learn more about how Catherine and I met!

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