Think back on the first date you went on. It goes something like this: He or she picks you up in a fancy vintage car, drives you around a foreign city, stops at a mysterious cliff where you decide to shed your clothes and romantically take a leap of faith and jump into the water below. Then he or she takes you on a candlelit dinner where you don't have to worry about getting food on your face, because you're not allowed to eat it anyway. And, in between loving glances and awkward "getting to know you" questions, you say to your date, "I love you." Wait, your first date didn't go like that? Well, you must have been dating in the real world and not on reality television! On Monday's episode of The Bachelorette, Robby told JoJo he loved her on a first date that went something like the story above.
His admission made him the first to drop the L-bomb this season, and live tweeters everywhere groaned and said things like, "He's so delusional! He's only known her for a few weeks!" Are they right about the timeline? Sure. But as someone who's been through reality television dating, Robby isn't as delusional as you might think — and when he told JoJo he loved her, he meant it in that moment.
It's almost impossible not to fall in love on the show, or at least feel like you've fallen in love with the man or woman you've set your sights on. The Bachelor or Bachelorette is a romantic, exotic experience with elaborate dates and a lack of connection to the outside world. Many of these contestants leave their jobs, families, and yes, cell phones behind to find a potential spouse, creating a greater desire for the whole process to work. How can it be worth dropping everything if you don't fall in love? Remember, this is a competition to win the lead's heart, so there's an underlying pressure to feel a certain way at a much faster pace to get ahead, and there's a strange desire to share your feelings with the lead in hopes that he or she will validate you in return. It's a psychological game that can be compared to living in a bubble.
On The Bachelorette, these guys are stuck in a mansion and in foreign hotels for days at a time with nothing to do but talk and think about JoJo. Some may be writing in their journals about her to remember the experience. Many are thinking back on the last interaction they had with JoJo, and they're wondering when they will see her next or where they might be traveling to with her. They're doing interviews with producers and being prodded about their feelings for JoJo, maybe being convinced that they feel more than they do. They're drinking constantly and making jokes about how they're all dating the same girl. They're thinking about what they'll say to her at the next cocktail party, obsessing over each detail. These guys are locked away with no attachment to the outside world, thinking this is some sort of reality, while losing touch with the notion that they might be dreaming up a love story.
That, combined with fireworks, limos, rose petals, awkward private concerts and countless make out sessions is a recipe for falling in love. Heck, it happened to me. After several over-the-top, romantic dates with Ben Higgins on The Bachelor, I felt like I loved him and like I needed to tell him. I wasn't lying, and I wouldn't have said those words if I hadn't felt a genuine connection with him. But, I would be lying if I didn't say that, in hindsight, I felt like I was living in a bubble and falling for the idea of my perfect spouse, creating a love story that wasn't actually real.
I'm a hopeless romantic with a desire to meet the right person and experience a great love story, and Robby probably feels the same way. In my eyes, I gave up so much to (hopefully) find the right person that I felt like I owed it to myself to dive right into the rushed process, obsess over my emotions and put everything out on the table because, dare I say, I felt like The Bachelor was the real world.
So, Robby wasn't lying when he told JoJo that he loved her. Yes, he doesn't know all that much about her, and it's very early in the season, but it's important to put his feelings into context. At the end of the day, no one has any right to judge Robby's feelings or call him delusional just because he dropped the L-bomb on his first one-on-one date. His feelings are his own, and it's not right to shame someone for putting themselves out there and showing genuine emotion. Robby isn't the first contestant to say the three big words early in the season, and he certainly won't be the last.
We'll just have to wait and see if he'll be the final man standing, and if JoJo will be saying the same words back to him at the end of the season.