Lessons from TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, Part 1

On a cold, miserable, gray Cleveland weekend, my daughter introduced me to the highly addictive reality show 90 Day Fiancé.

I know.

I don’t know what came over me.

But I was hooked, and we binge-watched 2 seasons before she went back to college.

What I’ve come to see is that the show is a wonderful medium for learning how to live with uncertainty — or maybe it’s just my justification for watching it. Either way, there are lessons to be learned. Today, we’ll discuss two of those lessons.

I’m going to take some liberty in assuming that most of the couples portrayed struggle with excessive worry and anxiety when it comes to relationships. Why else would they be looking for (or jumping into) love in such an unorthodox way? I could write about other lessons like the obvious don’t put your kids on tv or in the middle of your love-life drama or don’t marry someone after 90 days.

But I won’t go there.

No, we’re going to focus on how we can use the show to learn something about tolerating uncertainty and learning to live with discomfort. These are, after all, the 2 pillars of my work with people.

Are you ready? Here we go …

Lesson #1:
Setting boundaries is about having the willingness to tolerate your own, as well as the other person’s, unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions.

Whether it’s threatening to leave the relationship or leave the country, threatening it multiple times is completely ineffective. People often do this to try and get the other person to change (not likely to happen) and manage their own anxiety and discomfort about the relationship, their worthiness, and their fears. We must be willing to tolerate being uncomfortable rather than resist it or try to escape it.

Lesson #2:
Sitting with uncomfortable feelings like uncertainty sucks, but it doesn’t last forever (unlike the commitment of marriage).

Wouldn’t it be preferable to learn to ride out uncomfortable worry? To have the courage to leave an unhappy relationship rather than be hostage to your fears of being alone? Many times, what holds people back from leaving a relationship is the fear of being alone. Said another way, it’s the fear of the unknown — will I be alone forever? Will I meet someone better? Will I be happier? Instead of learning how to lean in and tolerate feeling uncomfortable, people seem far more comfortable avoiding the feelings (discomfort) by staying in relationships, even if it means avoiding clear red flags …

(like your fiancé kicking your daughter out of the apartment while spewing hate and insisting that she be a higher priority than your children. Just saying.)

I have 3 more lessons that I think you’ll find helpful. Next week, I’ll publish Part 2 of Lessons from TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé! Make sure you’re following me on Facebook or Instagram so you’ll know when it’s live.