‘The Golden Bachelor’ Divorce Has Killed My Belief in Love

Like the rest of groggily caffeinating America, this morning I woke up to the wild news that Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist, the first Golden Bachelor couple, have decided to divorce. The news comes just three (yes, three!) months after ABC’s first-ever “Golden Wedding” aired. And listen: That special was not short.

Viewers have been left utterly stunned. “I still have milk in the fridge from when this was on,” one comment on an article about the split posted to Instagram read. As a faithful viewer myself, I am right there with the rest of Bachelor Nation. Shocked. Mystified. Feeling a little… uh, dare I say, duped? Even if it is reality TV, which, at the end of the day, is made for our entertainment, it is spectacularly tough to wrap my head around just how short-lived this marriage was. I’m not saying seventy-somethings should stay in unhappy marriages just because they are, ya know, so old. But I am also saying: What in the fresh hell happened?

That stunned feeling is absolutely ringing through the internet today. It’s especially boggling, perhaps, because The Golden Bachelor’s first run was exceptionally full of hope—far more than previous seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Women fell in love with Gerry, and he fell in love with them. And the recurring line we heard over and over again was also an optimistic one: “You can find love at any age.”

The fact that the show ended in a marriage had us really believing in that tenet—or, at least, hoping it was true. It had the divorced (like myself), the widowed, and even the elderly feeling hopeful that their chances at love hadn’t faded as the lines around their eyes deepened. Sigh.

Hope wasn’t the only reason why the show was so massively popular in its inaugural season. The older, wiser women were far more enjoyable to watch than the young contestants we’re used to seeing; they were mostly kind to one another and full of class and wisdom. They had interesting jobs and lives and seemed to know what they wanted. Even the ones who didn’t make it anywhere near the final rose ceremony have been so well-received that they have their own podcasts and projects that are being widely followed.

Viewers unquestionably loved The Golden Bachelor, but they also had a lot more faith and trust in the contestants, and therefore, the experience of watching the show felt different. Maybe even more authentic. It made it hard to hear when rumors about Gerry came out around the time of the final episode. And when runner-up Leslie Fhima whaled into him on the “After the Final Rose” special about essentially lying to her during their final dates together, it felt ickier than on previous seasons of The Bachelor. “Gerry should know better,” many viewers were thinking (and vocally speaking out about on the internet). And, I mean— YEAH.

Gerry proposed to Theresa—only for them to break up after 90 days.

Gerry proposed to Theresa—only for them to break up after 90 days.

John Fleenor

Still, while rumors about Gerry dimmed The Golden Bachelor’s glow, the bigger disappointment now is that the cheery discourse about late-in-life love just got totally dismantled. Ripped apart. Decimated. Absolutely no one was anticipating a Britney-length marriage from seventy-somethings (okay, except maybe Leslie Fhima). Yet, just three months in, Gerry and Theresa are no more. While they vowed, before the entire country, to love each other until death, to stand by one another through thick and thin, it took a mere 90 days for them to completely change course. And it almost feels like, while attempting to prove you can find love at any age, and perhaps even a deeper love, born of wisdom and knowing yourself better later in life, they proved… exactly the opposite.

Relationships are tough, no matter how old you are. That much is true. But there’s no question that some struggle with commitment more than others. And honestly? If you’ve been alone for many, many years, maybe melding your life with someone else’s is simply an impossible task. As a divorced, single mother, who has been alone for the better part of a decade, and more and more often feels like my life is better spent not searching for the perfect relationship, I feel this on a personal level.

I’ve had a few short-lived relationships in recent years; the compromise is always too great. These days, I often wonder if efforts to find a partner are pointless because, in the end, I am a committed mother with a teenage daughter and a 10-year-old son. I have a full-time job and worries and pets and a home to take care of. Partnering at this time seems like it would be tough for everyone to swallow. But maybe, more than anyone, for me. I love sleeping alone and sprawling out in my bed each night. I am becoming a creature of habit even more than I’d like to admit. I’m solid in my solo life, and it would take a lot—maybe a level of perfection that doesn’t exist—in order to change that.

While the entire charade feels nothing short of shocking, Gerry and Theresa said this morning that, while they’re still in love, it was their “commitment” to each of their families that made their marriage a dead-end. It’s a bit of a strange excuse given that their kids are grown, and they should be free to enjoy their lives however, wherever, and with whoever they want. Still, while I don’t fully understand going through with the entire thing from final rose to wedding, I do understand that relationships might get tougher with age.

Coupling certainly was too big a task for Gerry and Theresa. Maybe it is for me—and for many of us post-first-marriage singles, too. And while maybe you can find love at any age, the truth is, you probably have to give up a lot in order for it to stick. And there is nothing golden about that.

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