No matter how many times Chris Harrison wants to tease fans with the word "historical," The Bachelor is a show rooted in tradition. There are limo arrivals, there are rose ceremonies, and after the finale airs, there is always an after show, where the leading man and his future wife sit on the couch and gush over each other on national television for the first time. But on Monday night, Nick Viall and his new fiancée, Vanessa Grimaldi, didn't quite give that to us, and it already has people talking. Even so, Nick and Vanessa's behavior on After The Final Rose isn't an accurate predictor for their post-reality show relationship, despite how awkward they might have seemed.
As soon as Nick and Vanessa started talking to Chris about what their engagement has been like in private — particularly, the struggles of being in hiding and doing the long distance thing — a lot of people raised an eyebrow, and Twitter blew up with Bachelor fans pointing out their miserable expressions and weird body language toward each other. The way Bachelor nation's newest couple acted on camera that night was interpreted all kind of ways, but it came together to draw one sweeping conclusion: There's no way Vanessa and Nick were actually happy, right?
Some fans chose to use this incredibly popular meme to express their feelings:
And another fan thought that Rachel Lindsay meeting her first few Bachelorette contestants early was meant to distract viewers from the how weird Vanessa and Nick were being:
While still others opted to let screen grabs of the couple speak for themselves.
Based on their ATFR appearance alone, it would seem like these are two people who could potentially be unhappy. I mean, their faces do say it all. But their time on stage with Chris was such a small fraction of their time together in such a truly strange situation that it's impossible to make an assessment based on that alone.
I mean, think about it — you get engaged to someone after knowing him for a few weeks in the middle of this crazy adventure you've never experienced before. You can't wear your ring in public or tell anyone you know that you're engaged, and all the while, you have to sneak around to see him and the world is watching him fall in love with several other women on TV. Now, you can finally be with him, but you have to go and talk about your relationship for the first time in front of a live audience. Who would find it easy to be themselves on camera at that point?
There's nothing normal about finding love on The Bachelor, so the way Nick and Vanessa experience their relationship afterwards isn't going to be like a couple who met in a more traditional sense. Millions of people have seen Nick get rejected on The Bachelorette twice, so right off the bat, there's this enormous pressure for him to make this time last. The stakes are so high for both of them, and I certainly don't envy their position... especially with everyone watching at home issuing their take on it, too.
Besides, if Nick and Vanessa were really trying to mask an unhappy relationship, would they continue to call attention to the way they acted? In an interview with People from Tuesday morning, Nick said that while he hoped they looked "in love and passionate" on ATFR, he also pointed out that their relationship has so far been totally based on stressful situations, and that makes a lot of sense. I can't see where they would have found the time or the opportunity to have much fun together, so they're probably just not in that place as a couple quite yet.
In the same interview, Vanessa also responded to the criticism. She said:
"You can never make people happy. At the end of the day, we are focusing on our relationship. It’s easy to focus on the negative, which sometimes I do, and Nick tries to get me out of it. But it’s the world that we’re living in.”
There are so many possible explanations for why Vanessa and Nick seemed to act the way they did, and they don't necessarily have to do with a breakup happening behind the scenes. I'm sure they feel like they need to appear like the happy couple America wants them to be, and if they aren't grinning the entire time, we're all going to judge them for it? That doesn't seem fair.
And honestly, the way they behaved could even be seen as an indicator that their relationship will last. They were honest and upfront about a situation that obviously can't be easy, and it's good to see that they're being realistic about things. Anytime two people are trying to combine their lives, compromises need to be made and arguments happen. Ignoring that reality doesn't make it any less true.
Love post-Bachelor is a tricky situation to navigate, but hopefully, Nick and Vanessa can make it work. It's tough, but that forever love they're both looking for is worth it.