Was Greg Gaslighting? What ‘The Bachelorette’ Can Teach Us About Toxic Habits

Okay yes, we’re still talking about this. But this one has been a real journey and honestly, those of us who have committed to 3-hour, back-to-back, Greg Grippo-focused episodes of The Bachelorette have been through a lot, and the least we could do is learn a lesson at the end of all this. In case you need a reminder (you don’t), recently millions of people watched as Greg Grippo, one of three contestants remaining on season 17 of The Bachelorette, had an intense emotional meltdown when the lead, Katie Thurston, was unwilling to communicate her love to him in a way that felt reciprocal. He said, “You fill a hole in my heart.” She said, “Nice face.” I’m paraphrasing—a little. A meltdown ensued, an unexpected and painful (for all of us) breakup followed, and Bachelor Nation took to the streets (social media and podcasts, primarily), to debate: Team Katie? Team Greg? Was Greg gaslighting or having a justified emotional response? Was Katie cold and withholding? The answer, I think, is yes. Both things, all things. Whatever reaction you had to those horribly uncomfortable breakup scenes likely held some truth, because ending relationships is complicated and messy and usually pretty gross. For the record, as a Master’s-level Counselor with professional experience in relational communication, there are some specific examples of gaslighting behaviors in their interactions and I bet if we got to watch back any of our own breakups, we’d see some gaslighting there too. Humans with big emotions, especially about love and intimacy, will do some wild things to get what they want, including using tactics to confuse and manipulate each other.  

Let’s be clear about one thing, though. While we might not all agree on the level of gaslighting Greg Grippo engaged in here, he most definitely wrote us a playbook for Emotional Manipulation 101. He relies on the narrative that being with Katie is the only thing that’s made him happy in the two years since his dad died. His family and friends then come in to reinforce this, telling Katie that he just hasn’t been himself, but now that she’s here, the Greg they know is back. Yikes. 

I believe them. I believe that Greg is finding joy in this process and that he is genuinely feeling lighter and happier. I don’t think he’s acting (ahem, cue the Meryl Streep moment). I think he’s coming out of very regular, grief-induced depression because he’s had time to heal and now he’s on a TV show with a bunch of dudes he likes to hang with and a cute girl he likes to make out with, mostly in the rain. (In the desert. It’s fine.) But to frame his happiness as solely dependent on Katie is setting a fertile ground for a relationship built on emotional responsibility and caretaking. It’s so much to take on. And it’s manipulative. 

And this, my friends, is a lesson we can all learn. If watching Greg and Katie in these final scenes together felt just a little too familiar, then it’s likely you have experienced emotional manipulation. You’ve probably even done it. Honestly, who hasn’t at some point? A little silent treatment here and there can be pretty passively impactful. Or maybe using the old “Well if you don’t know why I’m upset, I’m not going to tell you!” technique when you can’t articulate the reason for your feelings, you just know you’re having them and someone needs to pay attention ASAP! Storming out of the room during an argument without telling your partner you plan to return? We’ve all done it. These are all forms of emotional manipulation we see Greg use. They aren’t healthy modes of relational communication, but we’ve all done them, haven’t we? We’re all human here. If these are your primary methods of communicating during conflict, then maybe the lesson for you here is to practice something new. Maybe begin practicing expressing your emotions directly and clearly. Maybe examine why it might not feel like you can? We could all probably work on this more, and maybe GG was sent here to inspire us. Get to work! 

Or, hear me out, maybe you watched all this go down and had an even stronger reaction. Maybe you were like me and the familiarity was TOO specific. Maybe, like me, you’ve lived it over and over again. Honestly, any moment of the GG drama could have been picked from any of my previous relationships. This is because I have spent a lifetime choosing partners out of a compulsion to be with highly emotional people who depend on me for emotional caretaking. I have been “Caught in the Grip(po)” of this compulsive cycle without ever even knowing why or how until recently.

It turns out, I have a thing called Love Avoidance. It develops through some specific childhood trauma related to family enmeshment and it manifests into issues with intimacy. There is a range for Love Avoidance, but mine happens to be severe. Unlike avoidant attachment, which people seem to be more familiar with, a Love Avoidant craves intimacy. We don’t run from it—we seek it out. But because in childhood we took on some kind of overly mature role protecting or nurturing our families, we think we can only be loved by people if they need us to manage their emotions or they depend on us to take care of their emotional needs. Like, a lot. In fact, we take this role with so much determination that we become absolutely suffocated by it. Intimacy feels like drowning. Maybe even dying. It’s called Engulfment and we engage in all kinds of avoidant behaviors to find relief from it, but because it’s a cycle, we continue the compulsive behavior of choosing people who need emotional caretaking because they will let us. And then we all end up in the cycle again. It’s pretty torturous for everyone involved.  

The good news, for people who experience some level of Love Avoidance, is that you can recover. The first step is the most difficult one because it requires some brutal honesty about our choices and patterns. But it’s just possible that Greg Grippo can help.

Do you constantly choose a partner with high emotional needs? Are you drawn to the Greg Grippo in the room, someone who needs constant reassurance and/or attention? The person whose eyes seem to be masking something intense and mysterious? Do you always pick partners who have an emotional connection or response to every single thing that happens? Do you feel constantly drained in your relationships but still choose people who just need and take so much from you? Do I sound like a 2am infomercial trying to convince you to buy my self-help program DVD box set? Yes. I do. And I’m sorry, but this could be really important if it’s the first time you’re hearing it!

Before my recovery, I would have been obsessed with Greg. It would have become a full-blown TV crush by the end of the season. From night one, I would have chosen him. He would have had his emotional meltdown and shown his propensity for emotional manipulation, and I still would have chosen him. I would have taken care of all of his emotions and he would have let me until we destroyed each other. We don’t get “Caught in the Grip(po)” over and over again because of “fate” or “true love.” We do it out of compulsion. It took a series of devastating losses (and a lot of therapy) for me to recognize these patterns in my own life. Maybe watching Katie Thurston making a different choice this season will be the start for you.  

Image: Craig Sjodin / ABC

What’s Wrong With The Men On ‘Southern Charm’?

Southern Charm is one of my favorite Bravo shows, and I was really excited for season 6 after a spectacular season 5, where all the women seemingly banded together to take down the “good ole boys” club that pervades Charleston and the mindsets of the men there. It was an exciting time to be watching—the #MeToo movement was igniting, and for a brief moment it felt like there would finally be a reckoning for some of the more toxic men on the show. To some extent, there has been, with Thomas’ arrest and removal from the cast, but you wouldn’t know it by watching this season. The camaraderie between the women is not quite the same as it was last season, and the only woman bold enough to call out the men’s more problematic behavior is being portrayed as a pseudo-villainess. How did we get here, and are there any good men on Southern Charm?

Thomas

Although Thomas is no longer a cast member, his presence still lingers with the aftermath of his arrest for sexual assault and battery, and Kathryn’s struggle to maintain custody of their two children together. The two met when Kathryn was 21 and still in college, and Thomas was 51. I have no problem with an age gap, but a middle-aged man pursuing a relationship with a woman barely old enough to drink feels predatory and manipulative. And by Kathryn’s account, their relationship was emotionally abusive—she told People that when they started dating, “I just did what he said and took on his opinions and feelings as my own.” She also said that when their relationship started to deteriorate, she and her daughter were forced to live in the basement of Thomas’ plantation, where she felt “sad, scary, lonely, confused, quarantined and isolated.”

When Kathryn and Thomas were on the outs in seasons 2 and 3, she was a veritable pariah and excluded from just about every social function by everyone except Craig. Instead of trying to understand her perspective, she was written off by the others as gold-digging, crazy drug addict (after testing positive for marijuana, of all things) and completely disregarded in favor of a cocaine-using felon and disgraced politician whose attempts at speaking French would make the Seine run dry. Only after the sexual assault allegations against Thomas came out did cast members like Cameran and Patricia turn their backs on him and warm to Kathryn. And to that I say:

Shep

This has been a revealing season for Shep. Up until now, Shep has largely gotten away with his more problematic behavior. His attempt to grab and kiss Chelsea in season 4 was largely glossed over by the rest of the cast and referred to as an “incident” by Bravo instead of the assault that it was. The rest of the cast seems to regard his clear problem with alcohol and inability to commit to a woman or a vocation as the amusing quirks of a goofy man-child rather than glaring red flags. Interestingly, the arrival of Madison this season has exposed a lot of Shep’s more toxic tendencies. He refers to Madison as a “white trash hairstylist” despite Shep never having worked a day in his life. He shames her for sleeping with someone in retaliation after catching Austen in the middle of a threesome. Where was this outrage when he heard that Austen cheated with two other women?

After balking at Madison’s admittedly inappropriate revelation about him and Danni, Shep responds by DOING THE EXACT SAME THING and telling Cameran that Austen is a “sexual deviant” because he and Madison have done “butt stuff” together. It’s unclear what exactly he is referring to, but either party being on the receiving end of said “butt stuff” is hardly sexual deviance in this day and age. You know what is sexually deviant? Sleeping with someone you call a friend and definitely allegedly giving her chlamydia. Say what you want about Madison, but I can’t help but respect her for going toe-to-toe with the resident bully of the franchise. Shep has continued his one-man white privilege parade off-camera by recently posting a story to his Instagram where he openly mocked a visibly embarrassed homeless woman collecting cans. It’s revolting enough that he found this woman’s situation humorous. But to taunt and expose her to his hundreds of thousands of followers is appallingly callous, not to mention willfully ignorant. Gosh, I can’t imagine how he is still single!

Ummmm It might just be me but I really don’t think “BUTT STUFF”equals sexual deviancy and Is Shep not drinking because he is still on anabiotic’s from the chlamydia I’m confused

— Brandi Glanville (@BrandiGlanville) August 8, 2019

Whitney

Whitney first pinged my creep radar in season 1 when he slept with Kathryn and told her to keep it a secret, only to reveal it later to Thomas without consulting her. Since then, Whitney and Kathryn’s relationship has been rocky, and Whitney has gone out of his way to sabotage her relationship with Thomas and malign her character. During season 2, Whitney convinces Thomas to film campaign videos with Kathryn’s sorority sisters that could easily have passed for Cialis commercials, and Kathryn reveals during the group’s trip to Jekyll Island that Whitney took Thomas to a strip club when she was 9 months pregnant with their child. Whitney’s obsessive insertion of himself into Thomas and Kathryn’s relationship looks a lot like Shep’s current involvement in Austen and Madison’s relationship. Is Shep so focused on what’s going on between Madison and Austen because he, like Whitney, is actually the one feeling butthurt? When we find out this season that Kathryn and Whitney have recently slept together, Whitney bizarrely denies it and attempts to gaslight her by saying, “We have a different interpretation of events.” I’m not sure how Kathryn can misinterpret your middle-aged penis struggling to find its way into her vagina, but okay, Whit.

Austen

We can now proceed to the f*ckboy portion of this article. Austen was first introduced to us in season 4 as a younger and marginally more attractive version of Shep. His behavior following the cooling off of his “relationship” with Chelsea and subsequent relationship with Madison support the comparison. He proceeded to suggest to all of his Instagram followers that Chelsea has no sex drive as well as talk badly about her to Madison, as all classy men do. When his girlfriend catches him in the aftermath of a threesome (I’m convinced hell is a persistent loop of him screaming “MAAADISEHHHN!”), he proceeds to call her “a crazy person” and threatens to physically remove her from his home. After all, it’s easier to deflect and question a woman’s sanity than to take ownership for the misdeeds that are making her so “crazy” in the first place. #JusticeForVictoria Even when he isn’t the target of criticism, Austen is reluctant to side with women. When Naomie and Chelsea rightfully called out human hemorrhoid J.D. for his philandering and grifting last season, Austen claimed he needed more proof than the claims of his friends, one of whom got her information from J.D.’s wife.

Craig

Oh, Craigy. Our favorite pillow artisan is by far the least toxic of the bunch, and he should be commended for his fierce defense of Kathryn for many seasons, but he is not completely innocent either. He lied to the entire group about graduating from law school and passing the bar, and when Naomie directly questioned him about his desire to be a lawyer, he responded by telling her she was acting dumb. I agree that at times her approach was a bit mean, but Naomie’s concerns about Craig’s ambition and general life direction were not unfounded. Two seasons later we are still watching him struggle to get his fledgling pillow business off the ground and wake up before noon, yet Naomie was deemed a bitch for having the audacity to challenge her poor, innocent boyfriend. Even after she has clearly moved on, Craig continues to disrespect her by telling anyone who will listen that she still has feelings for him despite Naomie seeming genuinely happy in her new relationship (however we may feel about Metul).

It’d be a cop-out and a vast oversimplification to attribute the toxic behavior of the men on Southern Charm solely to Southern culture. Though that’s certainly a factor, it’s a symptom of a larger and more insidious disease in our society. When we allow boys to be boys unchecked and without any accountability, we breed a sense of entitlement where, given enough time, money or even fame, a Craig or an Austen might become a Shep or a Thomas. Until we do, men like these Southerners will keep passing for gentlemen.

Images: Bravo; Giphy (2); BrandiGlanville / Twitter

All The Terrifying Red Flags Luke P. Has Dropped This ‘Bachelorette’ Season

Every year of The Bachelorette, I swear to myself that I won’t get as infuriated by next year’s villain. And every year, they trot out a new guy who seems specifically designed to raise my blood pressure. This year, I am of course talking about the villain Luke P.: CrossFit enthusiast and walking red flag. As exhausting as it is to see Hannah not send him home week after week, I’ve been really glad to see that most viewers have shied away from actively blaming her. As the other contestants point out, Luke shows a very different side to Hannah—and for f*ck’s sake, we’ve all fallen for a Luke at some point in our lives, and under far less stressful circumstances.

So, as a handy field guide to actively dating women and future Bachelorettes alike, I’ve compiled a list of all the red flags Luke has shared with us this season. If a guy you’re considering dating drops any of the following quotes, I kindly suggest you run for the hills.

“I’m Falling In Love With You”

Ah, the first of many Luke P. red flags. To be clear, this is not a red flag when uttered at a normal time, like many months into dating (or in the case of Bachelor Nation, many weeks). When it’s said within the first 48 hours, he’s coming on way too strong, which is either a red flag in its own right or an early sign of controlling behavior.

Per a 2014 Huff Post piece on how abusive relationships can start, an early warning sign may be that your partner is overly affectionate or romantic—”he will likely be the most romantic man you have ever met,” the article claims. “He will say that it’s love at first sight, that you are made for each other, and that he can’t imagine his life without you He will insist on being exclusive right away.” Any of this ringing bells yet? Love bombing is a common manipulation tactic where the manipulator will flood the victim with affection early on in order to cloud their judgment.

“She Has Everything I’m Looking For In A Wife”

This is something Luke’s said several times over the course of the season, and it’s bummed me out hard every time. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with having a list of traits you want in a potential mate. But Luke’s aggressive fixation on how Hannah is his “dream wife”—and his mention this week of how everything he does is to be good enough for said dream wife—is a major yikes. Luke expects his wife to live up to a saintly, untouchable ideal.  He hasn’t quite grasped yet that relationships are about emotions and connections between two people. He’s just gone from objectifying women as sex objects to objectifying women as wife material.

Frankly, Luke’s come-to-Jesus speech made me feel for him, if only because he still has so much to figure out about himself. He thinks he’s made a complete 180 because the criteria he uses when selecting women is now different; but until he learns how to form a genuine connection, I’m afraid he’s still screwed.

“Everyone Loves Me”

Bless Hannah’s heart for calling this one out as it happened. To say “everyone loves me” demonstrates, in Luke’s case, an extreme lack of self-awareness. But it’s also subtly gaslighting Hannah’s experience as the Bachelorette: she knows that Luke is an unlikable person, and she’s questioning him about why people find him so unlikable. Instead of giving her an honest assessment, Luke’s saying “nothing you’re seeing is real, but I can tell you what’s really real—people loving me.” Hannah, please: trust your own eyes over what this man is saying.

“I Love Every Single Thing About You, Even Your Flaws”

Ah, the classic neg. Again, it’s something Luke says creepily early on, and it’s something that seems like a good thing, but really isn’t. Putting aside for a moment that he doesn’t know her well enough to even identify said flaws, it’s a d*ck move to call out flaws in what’s meant to be an affectionate moment. It’s specifically intended to take her down a peg in the same moment that he’s asserting he’s there for her.

It’s very similar to when he says, “even if you make a boneheaded mistake I’ll be there for you” a few episodes later. Hannah didn’t make a mistake, and she wasn’t asking for his forgiveness. He chose to bring up that hypothetical because he wanted Hannah to feel small and cornered into accepting his affection simply because he’s a safe choice.

“I Don’t Want To Know What You Do With Other Guys”

As Hannah’s relationships with other guys get more serious, we get to see a fun, new, even more controlling side of Luke! (Next week: Controlling Luke, Religious Edition.) You’ll notice that Luke’s the only guy who freaked out about her date with Garrett, but even if it did make Luke annoyed to hear, he had no right to bring that concern to Hannah. Telling her “I don’t want to know anything about you and other guys” is treating Hannah like it’s her job to ensure nothing ever mars his perfect, pure image of her—and it’s really, really not.

Furthermore: if he’s this controlling of her time when they’re not even exclusive, while cameras are rolling, what the f*ck would he be like as a husband, behind closed doors? This is a guy who would be uncomfortable with Hannah being in the same state as an ex-boyfriend. This is a guy who Hannah would hide all her male friends from, because he’d accuse her of cheating on him if he ever met them. This is a guy who would slowly close off more and more aspects of who Hannah gets to see under the guise of caring too much about her. Run. For. The. Hills.

“I Know Hannah’s Really Excited To Spend Alone Time With Me”

Per Allure‘s piece on signs of an abusive relationship, a partner speaking for you is bad news—but hey, we could have all learned that just from watching this one Luke P. clip! Do we hear any of the other Bachelorette contestants saying what Hannah is excited to do? No, we do not. We hear them talking about their own emotions, and—dare I say it—staying in their own lanes. Luke is totally a guy who would order for Hannah at every restaurant they go to without even knowing her dietary restrictions (“oh no Hannah, my dream wife doesn’t have a peanut allergy, you must be mistaken”).

Luke’s been working overtime to convince Hannah (and everyone else) that he knows her better than she knows herself, that he’s her soulmate, and that she’s totally mistaken about everything she’s seen gone down in the house. No wonder Hannah’s so confused: he’s selling her a completely different reality from the one she’s experiencing, and he came on so strong in the beginning that her gut is still confused by early romantic feelings. Thankfully, it looks like Luke makes his true colors known next week—and I can’t wait to see that f*cker get kicked to the curb.

Images: Giphy(6)

How To Subtly Manipulate Your Boyfriend Without Him Knowing What’s Going On

If you’re reading this, congratulations. Somewhere in the horrifying shit show of modern dating, you found a guy you actually like enough to hang out with sober call your boyfriend. That being said, it definitely sucked when you realized this relationship stuff doesn’t automatically turn you into a “people person”—meaning that your boyfriend, like 99% of the population, definitely has some habits that make you want to rip his fucking throat out destroy his credit score seriously reconsider the whole monogamy thing.

While past me would have advised you to dump any guy who seems a little too happy to let you pay, or is emotionally attached to his video games, I’ve recently realized that there can be some really great stuff hiding behind this idiot boy behavior. And if Angelina Jolie can get Brad Pitt to stop drinking, you can definitely change those 759 two or three things that bug you about your guy. Here’s what I’ve found works:

1. Focus On ONE Habit

I know, I know—how will you choose between smashing his PS4 and blocking half his Insta feed??! A modern day Sophie’s Choice, my friends. But honestly, boys are kind of stupid and there’s a fine line between making six tiny suggestions at once and being the “crazy ex” who was “impossible to please.” If you focus on one thing at a time, it’s much harder for him to turn around and call you demanding. If anything, he just looks weak for not being able to accommodate your super simple request.  (Side note: calling him weak at this point is not effective. Just heavily imply it.)

Flaws

2. Don’t Expect Him To Read Your Mind

Case in point: maybe two months into dating my boyfriend, and in a pretty naked compromising situation, I suddenly half-yelled, “so do you just HATE giving head?” While the bewilderment/fear on my boyfriend’s face was pretty fucking funny, this was poorly thought out for a couple reasons. If my boyfriend didn’t have the patience required to date me supernatural levels of chill, this would’ve turned into an extensive conversation about how exactly he was supposed to know I had an issue in the first place, rather than the issue itself. Do yourself a favor and bring this shit up early.

3. Use “I Feel” Statements

Hear me out. I know this is a staple of every suicide how-to guide self-help book, but this is legit helpful for avoiding the kind of conversation I was just describing. Like, rather than telling your boyfriend “you never do anything to make me feel special” and having him list off every date he’s ever planned, be specific and give him something he can’t argue with. Instead of snapping “you don’t compliment me enough,” maybe go for a wide-eyed “I don’t even really know if you think I’m pretty sometimes.” If he tries to call you out for being manipulative, then TBH you’re not a good enough liar.

I Have A Lot Of Feelings

4. Blow Jobs

If all else fails Before anything else fails, maybe take advantage of the fact that you hold the keys to the thing guys want more than literally anything else. You can use it explicitly (e.g. “hey babe if you pick up food on the way home and clean your room before I get there…”) or keep it your own little secret (every time he listens patiently and agrees that Karen from work sounds like a scheming bitch, commence blowjob sequence), but this is a very effective reward system that your boyfriend is basically guaranteed to get on board with. Slight warning if you go for the “subtle” approach: remember again that boys are dumb and you may have to eventually clue him in. Otherwise, he might just start getting a confusion boner every time you mention work nemesis Karen, and you definitely don’t want him to try and figure that one out on his own.

If these tips don’t work, just remember that you probably give shit blow jobs every guy is different. Don’t give up, and happy training!

Read: How To Give A Good Blow Job Without Any Weird Tricks