Gaslighting, anyone? Why Katie and Greg's fight on 'The Bachelorette' felt familiar


So, the title of this blog post (which is a long one, so be prepared) is probably nothing like you'd typically expect from me here. However, I didn't suddenly decide to turn this into a Bachelor Nation blog; I just felt so many ties from this episode to a former experience of my own -- and thought I'd share it through this lens of the show for comparison.


I've been watching 'The Bachelor' franchise shows seemingly forever; I was a sophomore in college when my mom excitedly told me about this new show she'd started watching: 'The Bachelor.' Season 2 was the first-ever season I watched, and, from then on, I was hooked. Over the years, I've even attended a casting call and met several cast members of past seasons, with my friends pretty much labeling me as a "stalker" when I approached Reid Rosenthal (runner-up on Jillian Harris' season of 'The Bachelorette') at a Philly club back in 2010.

 

Greg Grippo brought gripping drama to 'The Bachelorette' on Aug. 2

Greg Grippo on 'The Bachelorette.' Courtesy ABC/YouTube.

Fast-forward to 2021: I had mixed feelings about Katie Thurston's season of 'The Bachelorette' to start. I admit, I was still kind of down on the whole no-Chris Harrison thing (it's just a lot of change!). And I'd grown irritated from the show since social media and spoilers have taken over -- with so many of the contestants looking to gain followers and become influencers -- so I began watching this season a bit reluctantly, not willing to give it my full attention, at first.


Of course, Greg Grippo caught my eye on night one (I mean, how could he not?). But it wasn't until we got to see more of Michael (my fave!) that I was fully committed to watching. Obviously, I was super disappointed when he went home to be with his son, James, but totally understood where he was coming from. So, that left Greg, Blake, and, oh yeah, Justin, who seemingly had zero air time.


On the Aug. 2 episode, during the first of two explosive scenes, Katie and Greg chatted on the couch after his "hometown date," where Greg appeared extremely sad (seriously, between him and Michael, I have never seen men so in touch with their emotions, but I really loved that part).


Anyway, Greg looks upset, as he seemingly went into the date in a bad headspace after witnessing Katie and Blake on their date outside his hotel room window (wtf?). That seemed so totally staged.


Unfortunately, Katie and Greg's conversation gets off to a rocky start, to say the least. She can't help but notice how miserable he looks -- probably a mix of not having his dad present along with Katie and Blake's date still in his mind. Greg professes his love for her, and Katie is actually speechless for once. Their conversation doesn't go well, and they later walk off-camera, where viewers were still privy to some of the conversation.


Then, later in the episode, Greg knocks on Katie's door and gives her an ultimatum -- or whatever that was -- and we all knew this wasn't looking good. (Whenever someone knocks on The Bachelor or Bachelorette's door, is it ever good? I mean, really.)


During their conversation, Greg gives an emotional overload, putting it all out on the table for Katie, telling her that she "filled the void" after he lost his father, practically begging her for a sign that he was "the one." However, I'm not really sure that there was actually anything Katie could have said at this point that would have made a difference anyway. He was just on one seemingly never-ending emotional spew. Despite his claim that she wasn't listening to him, was he even listening to her? Or was this just some sort of planned-out monologue?


Their conversation starts off badly and just continues to go downhill. When Katie asks Greg if he was saying that he wanted to leave, Greg confirms, yes, that he was "done" and walks out. "It was never about a rose for me this week. I was never asking you to confess your love to me," he tells her. "All I was asking for was Katie."


Greg vs. Katie: The gaslighting debate

Greg Grippo, Katie Thurston talking on 'The Bachelorette.' Courtesy ABC/YouTube

Bachelor Nation has been divided over this incident since the episode aired, taking sides (#TeamGreg or #TeamKatie?), with some fans commenting that Greg's behavior was the textbook definition of gaslighting. Katie, herself, even posted an Instagram story hours after the episode aired that defined the term gaslighting as a "form of emotional abuse or psychological manipulation involving distorting the truth in order to confuse or instill doubt in another person to the point they question their own sanity or reality."


In the midst of watching the episode, the term "gaslighting" didn't cross my mind, though I'm very familiar with the term. I'm a lover of psychology and can spend hours reading about psychological topics online. I especially became familiar with the term "gaslighting" after I began Googling about narcissism. I became intrigued with these topics because of one past relationship of mine, in particular, as well as a couple of friendships over the years, after I questioned some of their behaviors I'd witnessed.


I hate choosing sides and doing the whole team so-and-so thing, since there is always more to the story -- not to mention that this was edited by production. In fact, I never really blame anyone for how they come off on this show because it's just an odd situation to be in. You put a bunch of people together, isolate them from their regular, everyday lives, and it's pretty easy to get in your head and show off a side of yourself that's not your best.

Katie Thurston crying on 'The Bachelorette.' Courtesy ABC/YouTube.

In defense of Katie, in her position, I can understand her not knowing exactly what to say. Though you could argue that Greg just wanted some greater show of affection to show that they were on the same page ... I don't buy it. I am certainly not one to think well on my feet when caught off-guard, so I couldn't really blame Katie for the pile of mush that came out of her mouth -- not to mention the fact that cameras were present. And, in defense of them both, we have no idea what their shooting schedule was like and how many hours of sleep they'd gotten. That can totally mess with a lot. The whole process, itself, seems physically and emotionally exhausting, and they're in this sort of strange bubble, with their emotions at an all-time high. We also really don't know what she could say and what she couldn't, when it comes to the rules of the show and their contracts. She clearly knew, in my opinion, that she was going to move on with both Greg and Blake. Did she know which one was her final pick? That I'm not sure of, but can we fault her for that? Isn't that the whole point of the show (even if some leads know it long before)?


My main thought while watching was "Wtf just happened?" Though I wanted Katie to say something more because I, as a viewer, wanted to see more of Greg, I can't blame her for not. Because I could strangely connect with her. As much as Greg claimed that Katie didn't say the right thing, my feeling is there was nothing she could have said. His mind was made up, and that was it -- maybe before he even walked in the room. There are even theories that he was looking for a way out, that he got further along in the process than he had intended, and, so, he basically staged the whole thing as an exit strategy (something we'll explore a bit later). Stranger things have happened before -- even to me.

 

Reflecting on my own past experience

A wilted rose on blue background. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash.

This scene brought me back to one of the worst moments of my life: a Sunday night in December of 2006 when my then-boyfriend of three years practically barged into my house (with his dad, no less) after a bizarre phone conversation that somehow bubbled over into an argument, where he revealed he had purchased an engagement ring for me and claimed, after showing my mom a picture of the ring, that she expressed to him that it wasn't my taste.


Umm, can you say caught off-guard? I didn't even know about any of this. Though I had my suspicions, this was the first I was actually hearing of it and in such a non-celebratory way. He literally lost his mind over a comment, and, honestly, even if she did stick her foot in her mouth and offend him, well, so what? But what did I do? To come over my house with his dad and demand that she show me some "picture of the ring," that he'd apparently given my parents when presenting them with the insurance papers (also weird), a ring I didn't even know existed, was just insane. I remember feeling like I wasn't even totally present, like this was happening to me, and I was watching from the outside -- like I had no voice and no control over what was happening.


I watched someone I cared for deeply have some sort of emotional breakdown in my house and reveal to me his whole plan to propose to me at a Flyers game we had tickets for later that month (which, honestly, would've meant much more to him than to me because I'm not a sports fan, and he'd never even taken me to a game before, but, according to him, he wanted to make my first experience super special). Everything about him and this was just over the top: He had planned this whole spectacle, for our proposal to be shown on the big screen. But a proposal is supposed to be between two people, not a spectacle, not an event -- and it seemed as if this "event" and these symbolic items were more important to him than us.


Not only was I speechless, I was angry. Angry that he ruined this moment for me, that he had to reveal this all to me before it actually happened, that he couldn't just keep his mouth shut. And, why in the world would he need to show my parents a picture of the engagement ring? The whole thing was so freakin' insane. So, he shows it to me, and I know what he wanted me to say. That it was the most beautiful ring in the world and that I couldn't wait to be his wife. But I couldn't say that because he flipped his shit in my living room and made a mockery of this instead of just doing it. Because, had this whole debacle never happened, and had he just gone along with his plan and proposed, I would've said yes and would've told him I loved it.


But, why show me a picture of it? I was angry that this was happening, totally blindsided, and, so, no, I didn't say "the right thing" that he wanted me to say in that moment.


Additionally, there had been a ton of red flags from him over the years -- from the get-go and, especially, in the weeks leading up to this moment -- and this was yet another. I couldn't find the words to say that I thought he wanted to hear: that I would forget this moment and just move on. Is that what he even wanted?


During this conversation, he expressed to me all these crazy things: like if we had a wedding, that he wouldn't want to accept gifts from anyone -- because he wanted to work for everything he has. Huh? Isn't that kind of what happens at weddings? It made no sense. It was as if he was saying whatever he could to get me to break up with him, so he didn't have to do it or so he could play the victim.


After going back and forth for what seemed like hours, I said that we would need to take a step back and figure things out. I wasn't telling him to walk away, though; with all the red flags he had shown over the past three years, I just couldn't ever say goodbye. I was tongue-tied.


After he left that night, I had no idea where we stood, but it definitely wasn't looking good. I remember calling his dad the next day and being told that his son was "broken." Two days later, my now-ex called to tell me that we needed to take "a break." Then, the following day, came the dreaded breakup call: an hour-or-so long conversation that left me sobbing, speechless, and utterly confused as to what the hell had just happened?


Afterward, he treated me horribly, painting me as this awful, selfish gold-digger, seemingly placing all the blame on me, when, in reality, there was a lot more to our breakup, including his own fears and insecurities. At the age of 24, we were both still really young and lived with our parents. We were only two years out of college (though I was finishing up a graduate program that I loved but which left me further confused as to my next steps), still figuring out our next moves. Life responsibilities, like a mortgage and kids, were scary, as he didn't have his career figured out and wasn't goal-oriented, like I am. The truth was that he was terrified he couldn't make me happy in the long-term, but he had too much pride to admit this. He couldn't show his vulnerability; that would be like admitting his weakness. So it was easier for him to convince himself that I was terrible and block me from technology and his life.


After all his declarations of his affections and his love for me over the course of the three years we spent together, there was mounting pressure on taking the next step in the relationship. He had gotten really far, telling everyone that I was the girl he wanted to marry, even asking for my dad's permission to ask for my hand in marriage. Was it all just talk? And now he seemingly needed to find a way out. Without the pressure, I'm sure we would've just kept going for another couple of years. It's funny, though, I'm certain that if we ever did make it down the aisle, we would've gotten divorced like 10 times over for various reasons.


Afterward, when others asked me what happened, I didn't even know what to say. It felt like everything seemingly happened to me. Like, was I even there? It was so confusing because his reasoning for what happened was not the actual truth that I knew in my gut.


His actions in the weeks that followed just continued to show his immaturity. Prior to the breakup, we had plans to double date with friends of ours (who were really friends of mine), and I found out from my friend later, after the breakup, that the three of them were still meeting up that night -- while I, of course, sulked at home alone. Wtf? Wouldn't you think that those plans would just be completely thrown out the window? Nope. Then he apparently hit on my "friend" and would continue to call her -- which I obviously had a problem with. When I put it to her that she should be there for me, not him, she couldn't seem to understand what she did wrong, saying that she was an adult who could do whatever she wanted. Sure, she could -- but I didn't have to continue having her in my life.


So, within two weeks, I basically lost my partner and my best girlfriend at the time. I'm so fortunate that I had just finished grad school when this all went down — because many of the days that followed I spent in bed, wanting it all to just disappear. In hindsight, I realized they were so not worth crying over. I deserved way better and refused to let them continue to occupy space in my mind.


FYI: There was never any sort of relationship between them, I later found out. He tried, but she turned him down, then pleaded with me for our friendship back. I, embarrassingly, let myself be walked on and met up with her -- really just out of curiosity and loneliness. But after several more months of this so-called "friendship," I had had enough.

 
Greg Grippo, Katie Thurston. Courtesy ABC/YouTube.

In my eyes, the similarities between my past heartbreak and this gut-wrenching scene between Greg and Katie were blatant. At any point, I was expecting Greg to pull out the receipts to show her all the money he'd spent on her during their relationship -- yes, my ex actually did this during one of our previous breakups earlier on.


Another thing that Greg said that rang the alarm? His comment about "only doing this once." Yep, I heard that one, too. I get that you want it to be special, but things do happen in life, and it's okay.


Honestly, Greg still has a lot to unpack regarding his father's death, and looking to Katie to fill this "void" in his life isn't healthy. I lost my father, too, so I know the feeling all too well. (I feel for Katie's loss, too, but she's had much more time to process and grieve it.) His looking to her to fulfill that void was way too much to put upon a person, especially one whom you haven't known all that long -- and, let's remember, that it is a TV show, and she was still dating other guys. He seemingly decided that Katie was "it" and put her on a pedestal (another example of a narcissistic person's relationship tendencies, also known as "love bombing") -- his expectations were somewhat unreasonable, and when he got the slightest inclination that she couldn't fulfill this need, he was done.


I think, for Greg, going on this journey was an escape. And I can't blame him for that. I went through the same thing after I lost my own father: I even almost picked up and moved to Missouri for a guy I only dated for several months who, despite being a good person, presented a ton of red flags. It was a distraction for me. And, so, I feel that the two of them were not really suited for each other in the end. There was physical attraction, there was chemistry, there was a bond over their shared losses, but after witnessing this scene, I'm sure she'll be better off without him, and he'll have no trouble finding his person one day.


Or, as this tweet from ex-Bachelorette contestant Luke Stone, claimed: "He didn't expect to get that far in the process and needed to make an exit." Maybe, as much as I didn’t want to believe it, there is truth to the reports that Greg wants to pursue acting and that this served as his monologue, his audition. If so, he deserves an Oscar for that performance. I don't want to seem so negative and dark, but I've been blindsided before. Usually, it's the most charming people who pull the wool over your eyes. Maybe he wasn't there for the right reasons, after all.


It sure seemed like there was nothing Katie could say, that Greg's mind was made up, leaving her feeling confused and "helpless," seemingly questioning what had just happened and where things went wrong -- gaslighting, in a nutshell. And it can have devastating long-term effects.


By telling her she was "filling this void," Greg was seemingly playing on her emotions to give her a guilt trip. Regardless, I don't blame Katie for not saying the right thing in the moment. How many of us don't say the right thing in the moment? Hell, I never think of the best comebacks in the moment. But the fact that he shut down and wouldn't give her a chance to even explain further is where the manipulation comes in, whether he was aware of it or not.


Despite my opinion, I don't dislike Greg; I don't think he's a bad person. I feel bad for the pain he's dealt with. But there was a whole lot of emotional unpacking to do here -- better for a therapy session than just prior to a potential marriage proposal.


Had I not had my own personal experience with a similar situation -- as weird as that sounds because we're talking about a reality TV dating show here -- I probably would've seen what was presented on the surface -- and sided with Greg, thinking that Katie had messed up. But, as I know, things are not always what they seem to be. Witnessing their interaction actually made me feel validated in a way -- because, nearly 15 years later, I was able to see for myself what this behavior looks like to an outsider. To have blame shifted to you so you are filled with guilt and seemingly question your own reality and sanity? It's a totally mind-fucking situation that I don't wish on anyone. And I'm ashamed to admit that, as screwed up as that situation was, for years I would've probably taken my ex back -- out of habit and familiarity, I even kept looking for the same type of person for years. Finally, I reached my breaking point in 2014 (about eight years later!): I had this moment of clarity after another bad experience that I would stop being a doormat -- because I deserved more.


A little over a year later, in 2015, after that next eye-opening experience, I met my husband. These days, I've fully moved on from my past. Though our relationship is far from perfect, we have deep love, trust, respect, and support for one another. I know that the side he presents to me is who he really is. But it took me some time to even fully trust him, and, even now, as a person prone to anxiety, my traumatic past experiences (including losing my father suddenly 10 years ago) still affect my outlook on different situations that occur in my life -- as I never know when the rug might be pulled from under me.


This saga is over for me, but for Katie, however (at least to viewers), it's not. What will happen on Monday's episode of 'The Bachelorette: After the Final Rose?' Word is that all of Katie's final three men will be there to face her and the audience. I'll be watching, that's for sure!


Have you ever experienced gaslighting? Maybe you have but, as in my case, just never applied a label? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me privately at hotmessonahealthquest@gmail.com.


Thumbnail Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

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