We’ve all had our share of dating advice, whether from friends, family, or strangers. But while it’s always well-intentioned, telling the good from the bad can be tricky.
Relationships can be challenging enough to navigate on their own. So how do you know what advice to take on board and what to ignore?
I have compiled some of the worst dating advice people have received over the years to help you know who not to listen to.
1. Don’t Text Back Right Away
This is an old but terrible piece of advice passed on by friends through the ages. It’s entirely possible that back in the days of Jane Austen novels, when young women flirted with a fan, it was a good idea, but it hasn’t held up in more recent years.
Admittedly, you don’t need to text back right away. That’s one of its great virtues. Regency ladies left calling cards, modern young people text.
For the modern dating couple, that means that if you do want to text back right away, you can. Or you can leave it for 15 minutes. Or an hour. It’s entirely at your discretion. There’s no right or wrong time to answer a text.
2. Love Will Happen When You Least Expect It
Presumably, whoever coined this particular piece of dating advice meant to imply that the swelling of string orchestras and that flash of instant recognition were not guaranteed.
This is true. But the advice that love will happen when least expected has morphed. It’s done an about-face and unwittingly champions the fairy-tale romance because, for many, it now implies a complete lack of effort to find love.
But love does need effort. It’s grown over time, as you come to know a person’s values and idiosyncrasies, their likes and dislikes.
Ideally, it’s also a shared experience, and sustaining love requires attention on both sides, as well as commitment. If it were as easy as cartoon birds and swelling strings, we’d never say ‘For better or worse' about it.
So, relax by all means. Get to know the other person. But don’t expect that cosmic click or lightbulb moment, either. Like all the best things in life, love requires work. And when done well, it’s worth that effort.
3. Play Hard to Get
This is another prevalent but unhelpful piece of dating advice. Like the advice to hold off on texting, it stems from believing that you shouldn’t appear over-eager.
But the point of relationships, and romantic relationships especially, is to foster love and affection between people.
That’s not to say that the art of the chase can’t be enjoyable for a couple. But for it to work, you do have to clearly indicate how you feel about the other person.
4. Let Them Make the First Move
Likewise, the advice that you let the other person make the first move is similarly unhelpful.
As long as you’re not texting too soon, not admitting to liking your prospective partner, and waiting on them to make the first move, you’re unlikely to advance the relationship very far. If at all.
All that comes of waiting for someone else to make the first move is the romantic equivalent to a game of chicken. That’s because it’s a safe bet the other person also got told to wait for you to make the first move.
5. Be Your Best Self
As with so much dating advice, the idea that you be your best self is well-intentioned but not great in practice.
That’s because it encourages people to present an inaccurate version of themselves to others. People are fallible. Sometimes you get it wrong. Suggesting otherwise encourages your partner to fall for a version of you that sets an impossible standard.
That can be frustrating. It also means that when your faults and frailties emerge, neither of you is prepared to tackle them.
The best relationships are about longevity. That means you see each other at your best and your worst. Accordingly, you want someone who accepts you for who you are, not who you feel compelled to be.
Rather than be your best self, focus on being honest instead.
6. Lying Is Okay
Not if you’re aiming for open and honest communication, it’s not. While it may be true that other people do it, that’s no guarantee it works.
As with presenting an idealized version of yourself, lying about your age or your dating profile offers an inaccurate version of you.
While it might work in the short term, when those lies emerge, they undermine future communication. That’s not what you want from a stable relationship.
7. Chemistry Equals Soul Mates
This is one of those misconceptions that television continues to foster. There’s a significant difference between chemistry, or attraction, and love.
Writing about it, C. S. Lewis distinguishes between ‘eros’ or romantic love, ‘philia’ or friendship, and ‘storge’ or empathy.
Chemistry and eros are exciting, but love comes in all kinds of shapes and colors.
Love stories do not have to be romantic, and romances are not always love stories. In fact, chemistry can be dangerous. You’re more likely to experience chemistry around people who, if you get involved, could put you at risk.
Chemistry by nature engenders feelings of:
It can be powerfully attractive, but it can also be your body’s way of warning you to tread cautiously.
That’s not always true though, and a little chemistry can go a long way to starting a relationship. But it’s a delicate balancing act between high-caliber attraction and the things that ground a long-term relationship, like:
8. Opposites Attract
While this dating advice can be accurate to a point, it’s more usual for couples to get along better when they’ve got a healthy amount of common ground between them.
Importantly, shared beliefs, interests, or hobbies give you things to connect over in the early stages of a relationship.
However, that’s not to say you need to do everything with your partner. Nor do you have to share their every interest. Too much reliance on each other can be equally problematic and risks codependency in couples.
9. Forgive and Forget
People are, as discussed, imperfect. Consequently, it’s not unusual to advise people after an argument to forgive and forget.
But as dating advice goes, it’s not much help. Forgiving certainly is crucial if you want to move past the argument.
However, it’s also worth remembering that people don’t change overnight. If you forget the cause of your argument, then you’re liable to be disappointed as and when it happens again.
Better advice is to forgive and let go. Understand that whatever the irritant is will likely recur, but don’t hold a grudge about it.
Instead, strive for tolerance and an awareness of your potential failings. Everyone has them, and to be human is to err.
10. Good Relationships Are Easy
Is anything good easily sustained? It’s true you probably don’t want to be fighting over everything from which way the teapot faces to where to store the car keys.
On the other hand, expecting relationships to be uncomplicated is asking for trouble. People are complicated. That makes the transition from single status to team likewise complicated.
That means that as you navigate a new relationship, you should expect to invest a certain amount of extra effort in it. It’s part of the getting-to-know-you process.
However, you can expect to relax once time has passed and you’ve got a sense of how you work as a team. It might not always be easy, but it should feel more natural than when you started dating.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking out dating advice, but take it with a generous portion of salt.
Some dating advice can be helpful. All of it is well-intentioned. But separating the wheat from the chaff can be challenging.
Instead, trust your instinct about a relationship. And be prepared for a few hiccoughs along the way. As a famous writer once said, ‘we none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.’