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If you’ve been reading this column for a while, it’s no secret that one of my favorite past times is analyzing popular Netflix dating shows – the more absurd the premise, the better. Give me all the questionable plastic surgery, men dressed in animal costumes, sensory deprivation pods, and unhinged emotional outbursts, please, and thank you!

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about The Ultimatum: Marry Me or Move Onthe latest take in Netflix’s ever-expanding library of outlandish reality shows to capture my attention and invade my social media timeline.

to recap, The Ultimatum follows six different couples where one person is ready to get married, while the other is on the fence. An ultimatum is issued – in just over two months, they must commit to marriage, or move on. In a weird game of switcheroo, each will choose a new potential partner from one of the other couples and move in with them for three weeks. The result is a show that truly excels at being messy. But, in the words of Marie Kondo, “I love mess!”

There’s something oddly soothing – not to mention illuminating – about watching a bunch of physically attractive strangers try and solve their relationship problems while under the influence of network-supplied Tequila. In the case of The Ultimatumif you scrape beneath the spray tans and non-stop drama, the show actually has a lot to say about how we, as a society, envision marriage and approach conflicts in our relationships.

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If you’re not ready to commit 10 hours of your life to this “experience” (the cast members’ words not mine), here’s what we can learn from these partner-swapping lovebirds.

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It’s unfair to expect one partner to “fix” the relationship.

In many cases, the partner who issued the ultimatum positions the other person as the one who is responsible for changing their own behavior to improve the relationship and ultimately, propose. However, asking one person to do all the heavy emotional lifting simply isn’t fair or realistic. Relationship growth is a group project that requires shared effort.

As a cast member, Jake tells his girlfriend in one of the initial episodes making the relationship work shouldn’t require “dropping everything I’m passionate about.” If you’re asking your partner to fundamentally change who they are as a person, you might want to ask yourself, do you even like them in their current state?

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Listening is sexy.

Nearly all of the relationship issues that we’re privy to on The Ultimatum boil down to communication issues. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many of the castmates either became better listeners and/or expressed a greater sense of feeling heard by their new trial partners. Forget a killer six-pack or a 14-karat emerald cut diamond, one of the things that’s most attractive in a partner is the ability to actively listen and communicate effectively.

This brings me to my last point…

Bring in reinforcements.

If you’re struggling to communicate with your partner in a way that doesn’t lead to tears or an argument, it’s worth bringing a third person into the relationship: a licensed therapist. As my friend who is a therapist noted in a recent Instagram story, “these people need therapy, not a TV show!”

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While the couples from The Ultimatum kind-of-sort-of find their way through their collective mess at the end of the series, I can’t help but wonder how beneficial it would have been for them to work with a therapist – both separately and together – throughout this journey .

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Therapy can provide you with a better understanding of your own thoughts and actions – both inside and outside the relationship. It can also help you break old patterns and learn how to handle conflict in a way that doesn’t involve the throwing of beverages or all-night drinking binges designed to antagonize your partner.

Measured introspection doesn’t make great reality TV fodder, but it might just save you and possibly your relationship in the long run.

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