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What Went Wrong With the 'Golden Bachelor' Marriage

The five key lessons learned from the couple's bust-up.

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photo illustration of a torn wedding photo with a dead rose
Paul Spella (Getty 3)
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It took just 100 days for The Golden Bachelor to tarnish.

That’s how long Gerry Turner, 72, was married to Theresa Nist, 70, the woman he swore he “could not live without” when he handed her his final rose, a 3.15-carat Neil Lane diamond ring — and a promise to “choose you, every day, as the one I love.”

What he didn’t mention was how numbered those days would be.

Their extravagant spectacle of an ABC-TV wedding on Jan. 4 of this year dazzled 7 million viewers. Their divorce announcement on April 12 set social media aflame. “Maybe Gerry’s not as golden as we hoped he would be,” speculated Nick Viall, Season 21 Bachelor contestant. Were red flags ignored in the rush to wed? “I truly tried to tell you,” fellow contestant April Lynn Kirkwood told Theresa in an Instagram post, “but this was your lesson to experience.”

Gerry and Theresa are now poster oldsters for shattered promises — proof, as the Today show’s Al Roker quipped, “that old people can be just as stupid” as young ones.

“I truly thought it was going to last forever,” Theresa posted on Instagram. “It turns out, even at the age of 70, you don’t know everything.”

But what do we know? What should we all learn from this Golden Bachelor bust-up?

No. 1: You can’t hurry love, even when you’re old. “They met on a show. That’s like meeting on (Richard) Branson’s 'Vomit Comet'," said Andy Levine, half of the duo that hosts “Dear Shandy." This is the dating-advice podcast where Gerry and Theresa first revealed the “hurdles” in their marriage: the distance (Gerry lives in Indiana and Theresa in New Jersey), the fact that Theresa still works and Gerry wants to have fun and the fact that so many people wanted to butt into their business.

In a podcast made on March 15, Gerry admitted “It’s been good but not a cakewalk,” and he mistakenly assumed he was old enough to know better.

I had a belief that at an older age, falling into a relationship like this would be easier … (ours) was made a little more difficult because we got married and then we started the process of knowing each other, which is backward from what 99 percent of people do.”

No. 2: Even old people can get swept away by romance — until responsibility sets in. If your prospect for forever love woos you with a flash mob at a diner during a televised contest, that’s a stunt for ratings. The milkshake had barely melted when Gerry referred to Theresa as “this person” in the divorce announcement. “I still love this person. There’s no doubt in my mind, I still am in love with her. I root for her every day,” Turner told Good Morning America. Theresa admitted, “I still love him.” Gerry filed divorce papers the same day, claiming the marriage was “irretrievably broken.”

It doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to see they’re not telling the whole story.

Love does not conquer all. As writer Joseph Campbell said, “A love affair has to do with immediate personal satisfaction. But marriage is an ordeal; it means yielding, time and again.” (This is also why there’s no show called The Bachelor Marriage.)

Andy Levine’s theory: “It was a sham marriage … but not a sham relationship.” In the Bachelor bubble, it worked, he said. “But as soon as their bubble burst, they had to face it … At that age, you don’t want things to be really hard.”

No. 3. Don’t say you’re in love unless you mean it. Reality TV is not real, and text messaging is not true communication. “We as a culture have lost the beauty of flirting, the essence of seduction, the essence of words like love, cherish and devotion,” said contestant April, 66, who is a mental health counselor with a master’s degree. She’s also a former Miss Ohio who lost her virginity to singer Frankie Valli when she was 16 and he was 39. (She wrote a book about it, Big Girls Do Cry.)

Both her late husband and her late longtime partner looked like Valli — and she confesses, it’s easy to fall for “the rock star or the beauty queen — but you can’t make it work because it’s not real. You can’t fulfill your life with what’s on the outside.”

No. 4. Your first vow is to yourself. “This show helped all of us,” April said. “It helped me get over Ralph (her partner of 20 years, who died three years ago). It helped me remember who I truly am. And it showed me where I still need healing … That was worth a billion dollars.”

No. 5. “Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned, and that’s okay.” Theresa posted that piece of wisdom on Instagram three days after the divorce announcement. Here’s the beauty of being “golden”: even if you get burned at 70, you’ve already survived many difficult things. And you are more skilled at mining the good from a painful situation.

It appears Theresa and her fellow contestants took away serious relationship lessons that have nothing to do with Gerry, and so can we.

When you’re heartbroken, it’s the women in your life who will circle to lift you.

“I take so many positives away from this experience, most importantly and above all, the incredible friends I now have in all of these amazing, wonderful women…” Theresa posted on Instagram. Runner-up Leslie Fhima posted to her: “I love you, my friend. I’m so happy to call you that — you’re beautiful inside and out.”

April said she talked to Theresa on the phone, expressing her support: “You stay in the light. You stay bright. Grieve, cry, scream, do whatever you need to do, then pull up your bootstraps and get back on the horse.”



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