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No, The 'Bachelor' Contestants Aren't Trauma Dumping—Here's Why

the bachelor contestants
Are The 'Bachelor' Contestants Trauma Dumping?Jan Thijs

When you tune into an episode of The Bachelor, you might notice the one-on-one dates usually follow a formula: a daytime adventure followed by a nighttime dinner portion. Even if a contestant actually shows up hungry, there tends to be only two things on the menu—a vulnerable story from their past and a rose. While one doesn’t always lead to another, this season’s bachelor, Joey Graziadei, has wiped away a lot of tears before doling out his fair share of flowers, and Bachelor Nation is taking notice.

Many of these contestants (like many people!) have gone through difficult life experiences—and to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to share those experiences with a romantic interest. But after back-to-back-to-back scenes of women crying to Joey on first dates, some members of Bachelor Nation have started to worry about his mental health, too. This season has led hundreds of viewers to create memes, tweets, and TikToks with one common message: They’ve had enough of the “trauma dumping.”

“Do you think Joey knew he was signing up to hear hours of trauma dumping for weeks on end,” one viewer asked on X (formerly Twitter). “Joey just wants to get through ONE dinner without trauma dumping,” joked another post, to which someone replied back, “It’s like a requirement at this point, right?”

While some fans have dubbed Joey the show’s de facto therapist, Women’s Health checked in with actual (licensed) therapists to weigh in on these claims. Are the contestants really trauma dumping? Or are they simply, to use Bachelor-speak, “building connections” and “opening up”? The truth is, it’s complicated.

Meet the Experts: Rachel Wright, LMFT, is a relationship, sex, and mental health therapist based in New York. Sarah Gundle, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in breakup and trauma therapy.

What is trauma dumping?

Trauma dumping is not a clinical term. However, it is used in pop psychology to describe someone spitting out the details of a traumatic experience without regard, care, or attention to the impact that the dumping will have on the other person, says Rachel Wright, LMFT, a relationship, sex, and mental health therapist based in New York.

That said, simply discussing your formative experiences—as long as you’re keeping the other person’s well-being and comfort in mind, and showing an interest in their life, too—is an important part of dating. “It can be hard to get to know someone and fall in love without disclosing something that feels vulnerable,” says Sarah Gundle, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in breakup and trauma therapy. And Wright agrees, adding that a key part of building relationships is “assessing if it’s a safe space to be vulnerable.” But while venting or sharing often involves a two-sided conversation, trauma dumping is typically one-sided.

So, are the Bachelor contestants really trauma dumping?

It’s easy for viewers to claim that someone’s relationship is only built off of one person’s vulnerability when a multi-hour date is edited down to roughly 20 minutes. Due to the inherent nature of reality television, audiences only see a portion of the contestant and lead’s real connection, says Wright.

Not to mention, it’s a reality television producer’s job to create a cohesive storyline out of those hours of raw footage, so while it may seem like Joey is never opening up on his dates, it would make for a pretty boring storyline if audiences watched Joey share the same personal story with different women episode after episode.

While it's easy for viewers to accuse the contestants of trauma dumping on their dates with Joey, what they're actually witnessing is good communication, says Wright. “We’re seeing a cis man who can actually sit, listen, actively take in information, reflect, validate, and give empathy,” Wright says. “He is doing what ideally would be the bare minimum in how we show up and listen in our relationships.”

Take these examples: When Daisy Kent shares her history with Lyme disease and her experience getting a cochlear implant, he asks, “How has your health been? Are you still having difficulties with your well-being in any way?” Two-sided conversation? Check. On Kelsey Anderson's one-on-one date, Kelsey tells Joey that she would like to share a bit about her late mom. She waits until Joey responds that he “would love that,” before discussing her grief with him. Consent? Check. When Lexi Young shares her endometriosis diagnosis might affect her ability to bear children, she asks Joey about his timeline for starting a family—and when she realizes their plans aren’t aligned, she respectfully leaves the show. Regard for the other person? Check.

Is it possible that some of these conversations are one-sided, and it’s affecting Joey’s well-being? Sure. But trauma dumping, Wright adds, is a subjective experience that is up to the receiving party (Joey), not a third-party audience (fans). “Us viewers sitting at home, watching something or hearing these stories, don’t get to label that trauma dumping,” Wright says.

So, what does trauma dumping *actually* look like?

In the real world, you likely won’t have to fight 20 other women for a night alone with your love interest, and you certainly won’t fall victim to a “bad edit.” When it’s your turn to be the receiving party and not a Bachelor audience member, there are a few ways to differentiate between your partner being vulnerable versus trauma dumping on you.

Here are three common signs you might be falling victim to trauma dumping, per Wright:

  • Your date/partner is spitting information at you, without your consent or prompting.

  • The conversation feels one-sided, and there isn’t space for you to respond or be vulnerable in return.

  • You feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or agitated, and your partner doesn’t seem to realize.

If you’re on the receiving end of trauma dumping, it’s okay to take a step back and ask for space or a break. Wright suggests saying something like, “Hey, I’m really grateful you’re sharing this with me. It’s just a lot to receive at once, and I’m wondering if we can pause for a second, because I want to be able to give you my full attention.”

Because trauma dumping is typically marked by an overwhelming onslaught of upsetting information, asking someone to “slow down” might help turn that info-dump into a healthier conversation. “You can stop someone and say, ‘Listen, I hear you and that you’ve been through a lot. Maybe we can slow things down because I’d like to hear how you feel about it or how you’ve handled it,” Gundle says.

If you’re on a first date with someone and are thrown off by the amount of personal information you’re receiving so soon, Wright suggests saying, “Thank you so much for sharing with me. I would love to learn more as we continue to get to know each other, but I can’t do that right now.” Clarify that you’re asking for a “pause,” not a “stop,” she adds. While you won’t be able to control how they respond to this, you’ll be able to know that you communicated with empathy and kindness.

How can I open up to someone without trauma dumping?

First off, when building relationships, you don’t owe someone information about your past just because you’ve been on a certain amount of dates, notes Wright. After all, “we are more than our traumas,” she says—and you can choose what you do or don’t share about yourself.

However, when trying to get to know someone holistically, it is often a disservice to yourself to not share your significant life moments. Maybe you’ve gone through a traumatic experience, or—like some of Joey’s Bachelor contestants—you’re dealing with a health condition that might impact the relationship. In these cases, “you owe it to yourself” to open up once you’re ready, because withholding this information might block the relationship from growing, says Wright.

So, how do you bring something up to your partner(s) without dumping? Wright suggests “asking for a container.” And by that, she means letting someone know you have something important to share with them, and asking when might be a good time to do so. “That way, both people are entering into this space to have a conversation about something that they know is going to be challenging,” Wright says. (Cough, cough: Remember when Kelsey asked Joey if she could tell him more about her mother?)

You can also watch for nonverbal signals that your partner might be open to a deeper talk. “To be in a meaningful relationship, you have to be attuned to the other person emotionally, and paying attention to emotional and nonverbal cues that they are listening and taking in [the heavier information],” says Gundle. Signs to look for include making eye contact and waiting for, noticing, and taking in how the receiving party is responding.

And while Bachelor Nation does seem to be keeping tabs on the abundance of sob stories, they’re also taking in how Joey is responding. Just ask the user who tweeted, “Princess Joey is BACK wiping away tears with his thumb, active listening, affirming.” (Nice work, Princess Joey.) But if contestants aren’t going to touch those plates of food anyway... maybe it's time producers replace them with boxes of tissues.

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