February may be the month for lovers, but it’s also the month for on-screen relationship drama. Love Island UK is heating up with the boys just back from dating temptation at Casa Amor (cue tears and broken hearts), while closer to home Married at First Sight has swung into another crazy season.
If your teen is interested in these programs, rather than banning try watching with them. They can provide useful moments to launch importnat conversations around relationships and respect.
Last year, in the post below I turned my critical gaze on to Bachelor in Paradise – there was much to unpack!
On a recent episode of the reality show Bachelor in Paradise, Ivan Krslovic showed us that we don’t just need to teach our boys how to cook, but we urgently need to help them learn how to read the signs when a girl is just not that into them.
Ivan entered the dating reality show referring to himself as “that avocado guy”; a reference to the fact that last year he stunned both audiences and his Bachelorette crush Ali Oetjen by attempting to make her a mousse by blending two whole avocados. Seeds, skin and all.
Note to producers — there’s probably limited opportunities for a cross-promotion on MasterChef with this contestant.
But in comparison, this culinary chaos looked rather charming as this year his reality TV blunders were less cooking-clueless and more man-baby tantrums.
You see, the object of Ivan’s affection, Tenille Favios, just wasn’t that keen. After she told him it was time to put an end to their week long poolside romance, he began what’s best described as a campaign of intimidation towards any other board-short wearing beefcake who may have wanted to date her too.
There were threatening stares. Walls were punched. He used all 199cm of his intimidating frame to stand over any “dog” or “snake” who may have wanted to so much as speak to her.
And, in what was possibly the most bewildering scene of all, he stared furiously off at the sea and did some angry dance moves.
Tenille finally exclaimed to camera, when trying to express how frustrated she was with his possessiveness: “You don’t own anyone!”
Right on, sister.
In fairness to Ivan, it can be hard to accept that someone we like doesn’t feel the same way about us.
But it’s not just poor form to attempt to isolate someone you like from others, it’s also bullying behaviour and a form of harassment or stalking.
He has since apologised for his behaviour, and says he wants to “grow”.
For us parents, how can we use this episode as a teachable moment to help all our boys grow?
Here’s the beginner’s guide to knowing when she’s just not that into you (and for responding respectfully to rejection).
1. A “yes” on day one is not an open invitation. She may have initially been keen to hold your hand and have a cheeky kiss, but later, may feel more distant. It’s important to never assume.
2. In any real-world interaction, it’s not just about what people say to each other but also what their bodies are saying.
Body language green lights include leaning in and occasionally touching you, nodding in agreement and smiling.
If she appears tense and nervous, starts playing with her phone, or avoids eye contact, you may be making her feel uncomfortable. However, no-one expects you to be a mind-reader.
It’s OK to ask: “Would you like me to talk to you?” or “Is it OK if I sit next to you?”
3. Read between the lines. It can be difficult for women to be direct with men. Since childhood, they’ve been encouraged to be seen (ornamental) yet rarely heard (sugar, spice and passively nice).
Women also know all too well that a direct rejection may expose them to aggression (the period of greatest risk for intimate partner violence is during a relationship breakup) and so will “play along” until they deem it safe.
Women who wish to back away may say something that she hopes is less likely to hurt, or invoke anger: “I’m just not ready for a relationship right now” or “I want to focus on my work.”
If you see her dating someone else a few days later, it doesn’t mean she’s a liar. It may mean she was trying to either be kind, or stay safe.
4. Realise that just because one person rejects you, this does not mean you’re unlovable. It’s OK to be hurt. But it’s not OK to be a jerk.
Cry, go for a run, chat to your mates — even bust some furious dance moves if these help.
Then move on, knowing that how you handle the rejection will speak volumes about you. Not only to the crush that has left but to future ones too.