5 Common Reality TV Dating Mistakes We Can All Learn From

Reality TV has been around for nearly 30 years now if you accept the premise that MTV's The Real World was the show that launched the entire genre (via USA Today), and for its entire existence it's been a guilty pleasure born of schadenfreude. It's quite a relief, after all, to know that even wealthy, good-looking people make even bigger messes of their lives than you've ever managed, and they do it in front of a much larger audience, as well.

One of the most popular types of reality show revolves around dating — specifically, the unlikely premises that two people thrown together by central casting will somehow manage to form a more perfect union than ... well, whichever couple failed to make a go of it on the show's last season. Is it possible, though, that these kayfabe romances could be hiding any lessons in there for us to learn as we're entertained? Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, seems to think so. In fact, in an interview with The List she broke it down for us into five different dating show takeaways we can use to improve our own love lives, or at least to avoid making such epically awful mistakes as our favorite reality stars seem to specialize in.

Dating in close quarters

You know what they say, don't poop where you eat. Or, in Trombetti's more polite phrasing, "don't date too close to home." As she pointed out, many reality shows focus on people all living in close quarters, as was the premise for the OG Real World as well as Jersey Shore, Love Island, Temptation Island, and numerous other shows "Many times," she told us, "this can lead to hook ups and couples being formed very fast." And coming unglued equally fast, needless to say.

Her advice is that you not date anyone that lives nearby, such as someone in the same building or even the same neighborhood, and this could also extend to avoiding dating coworkers as well. If you do start dating someone who's swimming in the same fishbowl, Trombetti says you'll need to accept the fact that there will be risks involved. She says you'll have to set some boundaries such as maybe just seeing them once a week instead of every day (difficult with a coworker, true, but maybe this could be interpreted as "seeing" them rather than just running into them in the break room). As she warns (and reality shows reinforce), "Too much time together right away can overall just be too much and cause a breakup." Not only that, but the closer your proximity to your ex, the more awkward things are going to be after the split.

Narrowing your options too soon

While the whole premise of shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette involve the titular participant dating a whole series of contestants competing to win his or her favor, every once in a while you get somebody who wants to rush through the selection process and declare a favorite ahead of time. Trombetti told the cautionary tale of Clare Crawley, a woman who for some reason really felt as if she would find true love by appearing on The Bachelorette. Once she thought she'd found "the one," however, she pretty much shut down all the other candidates, and, shocker, things didn't exactly work out with her temporary true love, Dale Moss.

"I always tell my clients," said Trombetti, "remember to date multiple people before becoming exclusive!" This will allow you to retain some perspective while you decide whether your favorite really can meet your long-term needs. Trombetti's standard suggestion is that you date someone (preferably multiple someones, should that option be open to you) for 90 days before locking them down and making things official.

Ignoring obvious warnings

Red flags, red flags, everywhere, so why are they only visible to the viewing audience? Because that makes for a more compelling TV narrative, that's why. Trompetti mentions a show called Dirty John that told the story of a real conman. Although it wasn't a reality show per se, it was still based on true events. According to Harper's Bazaar, the real John turned out to be nothing like the person he'd presented himself to be when he romanced his wife-to-be online, and after she married him, her life turned into a nightmare of domestic abuse ending with his attempted murder of her adult daughter.

While it's to be hoped you're not so unlucky as to find yourself dating a homicidal sociopath, Trombetti warns that you should still make sure to recognize any red flags when they do pop up in your relationship. She says that these need to be addressed with your partner, but depending on how they answer, "it may be time to take a step back from the relationship."

Taking on a fixer-upper

Fixer-uppers are a staple of another type of reality show, the kind that airs on HGTV — but these are fixer-upper homes, and in need of nothing that a good carpenter (plumber, electrician, decorator, etc.) can't remedy. Fixer-upper relationships, on the other hand ... well, nobody can really "fix" anyone other than themselves.

As Trombetti told us, "Sometimes the saddest mistake we need to learn from [is that] in life, people need to be able to work on themselves prior to being in a relationship." As an example, she gives Kourtney and Scott from Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Her take on the twosome is that the reason why things didn't work out there is because "although Scott loved Kourtney, he did need time to work on things himself prior to being in the relationship." To give Mr. Disick his due, though, being a Kardashian plus-one doesn't seem to be an easy task for anyone. Although Khloe and Tristan are back together again (at least temporarily), none of the other Kardashian sisters appears to be boo'd up at present. That could be another lesson right there: don't date a Kardashian. But then, if you're not an A-list celeb, that's probably not a temptation you'll ever have to resist.

Hanging on when you should be letting go

Trombetti told us she's all in on the concept behind Love is Blind, since she believes that "connecting with someone and loving someone without factoring in physical appearance can bring forth beautiful love and relationships." (Of course, it probably helps if you can rest assured that only the truly telegenic will have been cast, as was the case with Netflix's entirely Quasimodo-free series.) Still, even this show can have some life lessons for the rest of us. Case in point: Jessica Batten and Mark Cuevas.

In case you haven't been following the show, Trombetti says that Jessica, while accepting Mark's proposal, was still pretty clearly not over Barnett. While able to recognize and acknowledge the issues in her relationship with Mark, she was hesitant to break it off with him, possibly thinking that a bird in the hand, or a ring on the finger, beat holding out in the absence of a sure thing. (Spoiler alert: she eventually did ditch him, but he's got a new gf now and a baby on the way.) As Trombetti tells it, "If you know that someone is not the one for you or are having major doubts like Jessica, it is best to end the relationship." Not only is this best for the other person (nobody, after all, wants to feel they're someone's second choice), but it's best for you, as well. Better to be single than to settle for something you don't really want.