Who doesn't love a good ol' reality tv romance?
From The Bachelor to Married at First Sight, to The Courtship and Love is Blind. There is no shortage of reality television shows to show us the good and the bad aspects of dating and falling in love.
I've been watching these series for years, from the heyday of VH1 dating shows to the Netflix originals of today. And with each new show, I've realized there are some fundamental lessons I've learned about love. Perhaps these are some lessons you've also gleaned while watching strangers search for that all-consuming love.
Never Ignore The Red Flags
Look, we've all been there before.
You meet the perfect person, and maybe for a while, everything is great. You're happy and content, and you feel like your relationship is growing and heading in a positive direction, but along the way, you notice a few things that just aren't right.
When I think of red flags, the inaugural season of Love is Blind comes to mind. It's the one where couples met without seeing one another and then were suddenly engaged and living together shortly after seeing what color the other person's eyes were for the first time.
It's a wild experiment, but when the couples finally linked up, it became clear that people were getting cold-foot about the finality of getting married.
For example, Jessica was wishy-washy about a future with Mark from the onset, but he promptly ignored all the red flags she threw his way, and in the end, he was left brokenhearted.
Sometimes red flags aren't as in your face as they were in this scenario, but if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
And when it comes to matters of the heart, it's essential to understand that even though you may love someone and they may even love you back, if a person is exhibiting red flags, you have to take them seriously.
If you ignore them, it will eventually come back to bite you.
You could be standing at the end of the altar wondering where it all went wrong when the signs were there all along.
Listen To Your Friends and Family
It's always wise to heed the advice of the people who know you best.
And sure, you can argue that maybe your people won't approve of ANYONE because they think no one is good enough for you. But frequently, our family and friends tell us the things we are too afraid to tell ourselves.
On The Courtship, Nicole Rémy embarks on an epic journey to find love in the Regency Era. And as she's transported back in time to try dating in a different time, her best friend, sister, brother, and parents are right beside her every step of the way.
At first, I was super curious how that would work because who wants to date a bunch of men with your dad looking over your shoulder? But it works here because it genuinely helps Nicole throughout her journey in finding out which man will truly fit best in her life.
No one knows you better than the people who love you unconditionally, and if they're telling you Joe Schmo isn't the greatest guy, they're probably telling you that because it's true. And on the contrary, if they're waxing poetic about someone, they're probably the real deal.
Ultimately, it's up to us to decide how to live our lives and who to love, but our friends and family always want what's best for us. And after watching The Courtship, I'll most certainly be listening closely to what the people who love me have to say.
Give The "Underdog" A Chance
Honestly, every reality dating show I've ever seen has told me to give everyone a chance.
The Bachelor franchise is a prime example of making sure to never judge a book by its cover and to give everyone an equal chance to impress you and connect with you.
How often do we see guys and girls on the series float through the early rose ceremonies because they don't do anything to get sent home, and then weeks later, the lead gives them a chance and realizes they've been missing out on getting to know them better all along.
I don't even like the word underdog because it implies that someone is at a disadvantage, usually for no good reason.
But relationship shows continuously show us that sometimes we're looking for love in all the wrong places.
And it's the one you'd least expect who's ready to sweep you off your feet.
Exes Are Exes For A Reason
This one would seem to be a given, but life is never that simple!
I often think about Flavor of Love when I think about this frankly cardinal rule because reality TV mainstay Tiffany Pollard went on the series to find love with Flavor Flav, and the two had an insane connection.
But in the end, Flavor Flav chose someone else, leaving Tiffany in the dust.
But when the inevitable Flavor of Love 2 came around, Tiffany was back, fighting for Flavor Flav's heart only to be rejected again.
It's always appealing to reconnect with someone who once meant so much to you, but there's a reason things didn't work out the first time. And putting yourself back into the same circumstances as before is a recipe for disaster and a surefire way to get your feelings hurt again.
Leave that ex in your memory bank where they belong.
Fight For What You Want
Most reality television shows require some form of competition. And that may mean stepping outside of your comfort zone to interrupt someone else's date or putting on a ridiculous outfit to compete in a physical activity that yields you a date with five other people.
But there's a valuable lesson here: you have to fight for the things you want in life. And that includes love.
It needs to be reasonable, of course, and as hard as you're fighting, someone should be fighting just as hard for you. But relationships take work, and you have to put in that work every day.
Rarely are things easy in this life, and you have to be willing to get your hands a little dirty to get the things you want.
Follow Your Heart
When push comes to shove, sometimes all you can do is let your heart lead the way.
How many times have we watched the leads on The Bachelorette agonize over who should get the final rose and give them their happily ever after?
Our hearts and minds will often be at war with one another, each one battling to win out and help guide you toward the best decision. But if there is one thing I've taken from years and years of watching those final rose ceremonies, you have to let your heart tell you what to do.
The heart will always want what it wants, and we're often powerless to stop it. And you owe it to yourself to follow it and see where it takes you.
But we're not giving our hearts the walking red flags, people! Remember that!
It's Okay To Make Mistakes
Even if you follow every single rule, you're still going to make mistakes. And that's okay.
I've got a whole list of lessons here, and I guarantee I'll screw something up one day!
From 90 Day Fiance to Are You The One, how often do we sit on our couches and watch people make mistakes?
Of course, it's easy to judge from the outside and critique every decision when it doesn't involve us.
But at the end of the day, it's okay to mess up because that's a part of being human.
We follow our hearts, and it doesn't work out sometimes. Mistakes will always happen, but it's how we deal with them that really matters.
Love is messy (hello, we've all watched Love Island!), but it's also beautiful. And we're all praying that we get it right someday!
So, let's keep watching all the relationship shows they throw our way and keep working on creating our own happily ever afters in whatever way that looks like for each of us.
Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.