Relationships can be complicated in normal times, but even more so right now, because many couples were forced to stay together at home 24/7 due to the coronavirus quarantine. When we find ourselves in competition with our partners, we always ask our friends and family for advice. But not all of their warnings and so-called “wise words” should be taken into consideration.
Also, some of the most commonly cited recommendations could actually do more harm than good. To help you decide what to take to heart and what to toss out of your mind, here are some bad dating and marriage tips that you should avoid.
“Your perfect match is out there.”
There’s no such thing as a perfect man or woman or a perfect partner. “Every single person you will meet is going to have flaws,” says James Anderson, dating expert at Beyond Ages. “If you accept this fact, you may find that one of the people who you thought was ‘not so perfect’ is actually pretty great for you.”
“Play hard to get.”
Most of the time, playing hard to get just ensures that both of you will end up alone. “The dating world is competitive and few people have the time to constantly pursue someone who is not demonstrating any interest,” says Anderson. “Stop playing these silly games and show a little interest back. You will be giving yourself many more opportunities with people you otherwise might have missed out on.”
“Look for a partner who loves all your hobbies.”
Having a life partner who loves everything you love sounds awesome, but in these partnerships, there’s often more than the eye meets. “Someone who needs to feel connected to another human being in order to survive will adapt their likes and dislikes to you,” says Megan Hunter, co-founder of the High Conflict Institute in California and Arizona.
She warns that if you’ve “suddenly found a partner who also loves horses, worships your favorite sports team, has the same type of friends, and loves the same movies,” then they’re probably just a little bit codependent. So, if it seems too good to be true, proceed with caution.
“Let them make the first move.”
Sometimes you should be the one making the first move, because there are times when waiting for someone else to make it will leave you just, well, waiting.
“It is incredible how many times both people wait for the other to make the first move or demonstrate interest first,” Anderson says. “It can take a little courage to make the first move, but you will be shocked by how this will improve your dating life regardless of your gender. Fortune favors the bold in love more than any other endeavor.”
“If they can’t handle you at your worst, they don’t deserve you at your best.”
“This is the motto of every person you have ever met that draws drama to them like a magnet, but can’t for the life of them figure out why,” Anderson says. “Instead of trying to rationalize your bad behavior, spend that time actually improving yourself and your life to the point where your worst is worth dealing with.”
“Chemistry means you’ve found ‘the one.'”
Don’t be fooled, sometimes you can’t trust those butterflies in your stomach, even though it’s true that everyone wants to feel the rush of attraction, “the one” will need a little more than that.
“The brain plays interesting tricks on us, sending love glitter through our brain and body, which then convinces us that this person is ‘the one,'” Hunter says. “Some of the brightest high-intensity sparks happen with people with personality disorders who can later be harmful to us. Strong chemistry isn’t always a warning sign, but it’s a signal to take your time and proceed with caution.”
Yea, sure, it’s romantic to think that everyone has one person that is meant for them, but if you continue to believe this idea, it will cause more problems than anything else.
“How many times have you heard people say they’ve found their soulmate? Wait a few years and you may witness them finding another soulmate after the first one disappeared,” Hunter says. “We can love more than one person in life and while we do have deeper, stronger connections with some more than others, the belief that we have soulmates can be a skewed predictor of future relationship success… or failure.”
“Never go to bed angry.”
As Eric Hunt, a marriage and relationship coach based in South Carolina says, sometimes it’s better to take some time to chill out before discussing something that’s bothering you.
“When things get heated, we tend to say things we don’t always mean. Sleeping on it can give you that needed time to cool off, and in most cases, whatever it was will not seem as big by morning,” he says.
“He/she/they can change!”
It’s true, of course, that people can change over time — but only if it’s self-motivated.
“Don’t ever go into a long-term relationship, especially marriage, thinking you are going to change them,” Hunt advises. “While relationships grow and evolve, there are some personality traits and ways that will never change.”
“Forgive and forget.”
Forgiving and forgetting don’t have to go hand in hand. In reality, it’s best to distinguish the two, according to Monte Drenner, Florida’s licensed mental health counselor.
“Forgiveness is absolutely crucial to having a healthy relationship, but forgetting is not necessary,” he says. “I have worked with many couples that made forgiving each other way more difficult than it already is because of the forgetting clause in the statement. ‘Forgive and let go’ is better advice.”
“Time heals all wounds.”
One thing is true, it takes time to get over being hurt. Sometimes it can take hours, days, months, years, and not even then, no one can guarantee you that you’ll be fine.
“If time heals wounds, then why are there grumpy old people?” asks Drenner. “Making healthy decisions to treat the wounds heals them, not time.”
“Children will save your relationship.”
If your relationship is already on the rocks, having a child doesn’t make these problems go away all of a sudden.
“While issues may be masked by the excitement of a baby, they will resurface—and when they do, [they] will be amplified,” Hunt warns.
“The kids should always come first.”
Don’t get me wrong, focusing on your children isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but “it sets the couple up for a great deal of difficulty throughout the relationship and especially once they become empty nesters,” says Drenner. “The relationship needs to be the priority, not the children. If the relationship is strong, the children will prosper. Putting the children first often leads to resentment in the relationship and entitled children.”
“Living together is a great way to test the waters for the future.”
Very few couples have a smooth move-in experience, but if you follow this advice, you might believe that these hiccups along the way mean that your relationship is doomed. But this is far from true.
“Healthy, happy couples don’t start out compatible,” explains marriage educator Patty Newbold. “They build their relationship skills dealing with the small differences so that they’re ready for the big ones that come along later. Create a lifestyle and a home you’re both compatible with, and do it together, so you’re ready for whatever illnesses, losses, disabilities, career changes, lapses in character, and childrearing challenges might come up later.”
“Each partner should do their fair share.”
I understand the need to divide both household and emotional “duties” evenly in a relationship or marriage. But going too deep into the nitty-gritty of making sure that everything is equal can potentially cause more trouble than it’s worth.
“Whether it’s the emotional work of a relationship or those awful chores, no couple can split them fairly,” Newbold says. “And there’s no reason to. People in love give generously, not because they’re told to, but because it feels good … So stop focusing on who does what. Why? Less resentment, more gratitude, more happiness, more spontaneous affection.”
“The secret to a happy marriage is compromise.”
According to Newbold, making compromises fits well for nations or political parties, but not for couples. “It’s like saying, ‘I’m willing to accept some disappointment and pain as long as the person I love most in this world suffers, too,'” she says. Instead, you should be looking for “third alternatives.”
“That’s when you each let go of your first idea and look together for a third option that makes both of you at least as happy as your first one made you,” she says. “You get to give your partner in life the moon and the stars without becoming a doormat, and in the process of laying out the requirements for your third alternative, you learn so much about each other.”
“Always communicate your needs.”
Of course, if you need something, you should certainly let your life partner know. However, “this in no way obligates your partner to do something about your needs, not even if you keep communicating your need over and over and over,” says Newbold.
“You may find you get a whole lot more if, instead of ‘I need this’ or ‘You should do this,’ you ask for help. ‘I’m dying to go see Europe, and I know you don’t like to fly. Can you help me think of another travel companion and a good time to schedule a trip?’ Or ‘I really need to talk over this decision with someone. Will you be available for an hour or so in the next two days, either to talk with me or to stay home with the kids while I go have lunch with a friend?'”
“Age is just a number.”
Sure, there are relationships with age differences that work out perfectly, but experts claim that people that are closer in age appear to be happier.
“Age matters less as you get older—that’s true. But dating someone close to your age has huge benefits,” says dating and lifestyle expert Anna Wood. “You’ll have the same cultural references, interests, and grow into new life stages (including seniorhood) at the same time.”
“If you don’t like them on the first date, give them another chance.”
First dates can be uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to trust first impressions. If you don’t like that person, don’t force yourself to go out with them again. “Dating is time-consuming and sometimes exhausting, so use the time to meet someone new instead,” says Wood.
“The guy should pay.”
There’s an easy alternative to this outdated dating advice. “Whoever asked for the date should pay,” Wood explains. “The other person should always offer to pay—or split! It’s a nice gesture that goes a long way.”
“The person who earns the most should always pick up the tab.”
“There’s this belief that one person—traditionally, the one who earns more—should always pay for every date,” says certified financial coach Emily Shutt. “Once you’re in a more committed relationship, it’s a good idea to start talking about how you want to use your money as a team, and expecting one person to pay for the dates every time usually doesn’t make sense, no matter how much more money they make.”
Alternatively, she suggests thinking about a “date budget,” and how you can fund it together. “It doesn’t sound romantic, but blow-ups over long-term money frustrations are even less romantic,” Shutt says.
“If you’re not the breadwinner, be cautious about spending money.”
According to Shutt, this is a common piece of advice given to women who do not work outside the home.
“They feel controlled, restricted, and guilty when it comes to doing anything with money because their partner is the sole source of income for the family,” she says. “Believing that you shouldn’t—or don’t deserve to—spend any money if you’re not the primary earner is ridiculous and outdated.”
“It’s better to keep your finances separate.”
Yeah, it’s probably a smart idea to have an emergency money stash in case the worst-case scenario happens, but having all your funds separate might be a mistake.
“When you’re first dating or in a newer relationship, of course keep your bank accounts separate,” Shutt says. “Once you’re married or in a committed long-term relationship, however, I find couples are most successful when they can combine forces and have real conversations about how they’re using their money as a team. Having separate accounts that the other person isn’t allowed to touch—or worse, doesn’t even know about—is just a way of avoiding the difficult conversations about trust, respect, and boundaries in the relationship. Eventually, that issue will manifest in another way.”
“A woman who earns more can be threatening to a male partner.”
The number of women who are still encouraged to keep their success under wraps when dating is shockingly high, says Natasha D. Oates, a relationship coach, and licensed therapist in North Carolina. Nonetheless, some men are better suited for household roles.
“Many men are much better at cooking and cleaning than their mates,” Oates says. “Today’s couples find that flexibility with gender roles is helpful and that the most important factor is that the couple is working as a team.”
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
It’s not uncommon for friends and family to advise someone not to bank on a specific working relationship. Nonetheless, this advice is very troublesome for couples who are serious.
“This usually encourages couples to prepare for the end of the relationship in some subtle way,” says Oates. “All it really does is point to the insecurities and trust issues in the relationship. Who can really make a happy home with one foot in and one foot toward the exit?”
“It’s a good sign if you don’t argue.”
You might assume that lack of disagreement implies that everything is fine, but that may not necessarily be the case.
“The truth is that if couples don’t have disagreements, they’re likely not expressing important ideas or needs,” Oates explains. “It’s important to have discussions about your relationship needs and concerns. No two people have the same needs and goals, so it’s normal for disagreements to occur. When couples remain silent or agreeable with important needs and issues, they can easily begin to resent the relationship, because their needs and viewpoints aren’t considered.”
“Your appearance doesn’t matter as much once you’re married.”
Effort doesn’t end once a wedding ring is involved, says Michelle Afont, a relationship expert and author of The Dang Factor: No-Nonsense Lesson on Life and Love.
“Getting too comfortable and taking your partner for granted is when the problems and resentment begin to mount in the marriage,” says Afont. “It is important to stay true to the person your partner married: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.”
“Give it time, they’ll propose eventually.”
“They might. And then again, they might not,” Afont says. No one can predict what a person will do, or don’t do, and that’s the beauty of life.
When you want to remain in a relationship given the fact that marriage doesn’t happen as easily as you want, she advises that “you need to be able to live with the consequences if you give up too many years of your life to a relationship that doesn’t move forward.”
“Better communication is the key to wedded bliss.”
Practice makes perfect, so perfecting your communication skills is important. Nevertheless, just because you know the steps to “good communication” doesn’t mean that you’re always going to go without complications.
“Couples can definitely learn and practice good communication skills, especially when they feel close, secure, and generally happy in the relationship,” says Irina Baechle, a relationship therapist based out of North Carolina. “However, research shows that these skills do not work when couples are in distress and arguing … We are creatures of habit, so we quickly lapse back into our old negative patterns when things go south.”
“If you fall out of love, you should just get divorced.”
“The truth is, falling in love is merely a nature trick pulling humans into marriage to reproduce,” Baechle says. “The trick always goes away because ‘falling in love’ is temporary. However, it does not mean that we stop loving the other person; it’s just the ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience that goes away. And that’s usually when the real love starts to begin.”
Dating someone who is completely different from you can turn out in a disaster.
“You must have some common interests and values,” says Lisa Helfend Meyer, founding partner of Los Angeles-based family law firm Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers. “If you don’t, there is no glue to bind the relationship.”
“You don’t need an equal partner.”
Of course, it would be difficult to find a partner that is actually your exact equal in every way, but it is important to recognize that whoever you end up with is a worthy partner.
“Communication and respect is what it is all about,” Meyer says. “If you don’t feel like you can communicate and respect each other on a level playing field, then what’s the point?”
“He/she/they will work less once you’re married.”
That is almost never the case, according to Meyer. Marriage is life-changing, of course, but it doesn’t change who you are as an individual. If your partner was a workaholic before you got married, there’s a chance that they’re still going to be the same after the wedding.
“A comfortable life is worth a lackluster relationship.”
Don’t see money as a reason to stay. “Most relationships fall apart over lack of communication and issues involving finances,” Meyer says. “Just because someone is wealthy doesn’t mean that she or he has the other qualities that you are looking for.”
“Leave the past in the past.”
While it’s crucial not to get too caught up on the past while you’re in a relationship, there are some serious things that are still worth addressing.
“You should share health issues, or issues that may affect having children, or debilitating illnesses that can impair your ability to do certain activities,” psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina tells Bustle. “Also, your partner is entitled to know if old financial problems are liable to haunt your relationship.”
“Lie a little when it comes to how many people you’ve slept with.”
Once it comes to past relationships, many people feel reluctant to admit the true number of people they’ve been with because they’re afraid that their new partner will judge them or leave them. But integrity is still the best policy in this case.
“Any relationship that is set to last is built on two fundamental things—trust and respect. I think that comes with sharing as much about you as you possibly can, inclusive of sexual history,” dating expert Sarah Ryan tells HuffPost. “If you are in a relationship with someone that you want to run the distance then why hold back on previous partners and experiences? Holding back on things in life actually takes more energy than sharing and letting it go.”
“Cheating means your relationship is over.”
While many people are taking advice from friends and family and never look back, many come to regret it, says psychotherapist Toni Coleman, LCSW.
“There are many factors that can contribute to infidelity and set a climate where it is more likely to flourish,” she says. “Before walking away and giving up everything you have together, get counseling, figure out what wasn’t working and why. Examine the reasons for seeking something from a person outside the relationship rather than your spouse.”
“You need to leave.”
“Only you can decide if a relationship works for you,” points out psychotherapist Linda Miles.
“Don’t let him/her/them treat you that way.”
It is normal for people who know and love you to believe that you are a victim, but it is likely that you are contributing to the tension in your relationship just as much as your partner is.
“Friends and family do not see your part in a destructive relationship dance,” Miles points out. “Look at the part you play in negativity and then decide what behavior you will settle for in a partner.”
Love doesn’t hurt, people are the ones who make you suffer. “Love should make you feel better, not worse,” Miles says.
“Love comes when you least expect it.”
Sure, it’s romantic to think that the love of your life could unexpectedly appear in front of you in a cafe or lock your eyes as they keep the door open, but this fantasy may actually be troublesome.
“Love isn’t just some magical feeling that happens randomly,” health and wellness expert Caleb Backe tells Bustle. “It’s built on dedication, connection, and effort. Likewise, people don’t just fall in love after a certain period of time. That’s why love doesn’t come when you least expect it; in truth, it’s the product of a shared existence and commitment to similar values.”
“Always date down.”
Many people believe that if you date someone who doesn’t look as conventionally appealing as you are or isn’t as popular, that person will treat you with respect. But, according to Elite Daily’s Paul Hudson, dating down just leaves more room for potential trouble.
“Many, if not most, relationships reach a point at which one or both individuals begin to nitpick and find reasons they should not be with this person,” Hudson writes. “The more unequal the relationship feels to those within it, the more unlikely it is to last.”
“Relationships should always be easy.”
Yeah, there’s truth to the fact that you’re not supposed to be arguing with your partner every single day, but believing that every relationship is “easy” is a dangerous way of thinking.
“[Relationships] shouldn’t be relentlessly difficult, at least not on a permanent basis,” Linda and Charlie Bloom, authors of Secrets of Great Marriages, write in an essay for Psychology Today.
“The bad news is that some degree of effort and agony is inevitable in most relationships. The good news is that it doesn’t have to last forever; it is generally a temporary, not permanent condition.”
“Just avoid fighting with them.”
It ‘s certainly not healthy to bite your tongue around your significant other if you disagree with them. So, instead of remaining silent, change the way you fight.
“All couples fight,” licensed relationship counselor Rebecca Nichols tells PsychCentral. “The difference is that healthy couples fight with respect. [They] use disagreements to understand each other better and make changes to ensure the health of the relationship.”
“You can do better.”
Your friends and family normally mean well when they say this, but sometimes their advice can actually be less supportive and more inappropriate. When they tell you that you can do better than your current partner, you can feel insecure and unsupported — especially if you want to spend the rest of your life with your current partner.
“Your friends and family aren’t obligated to like your boyfriend, but they should support you and be able to interact,” Canadian dating coach Chantal Heide writes. “You need to make it absolutely clear that respect is of the utmost importance.”
“Always trust your friends when it comes to your relationship.”
“Often times, it comes down to the fact that a friend just wouldn’t choose a romantic partner like yours for themselves and they are simply projecting their own feelings onto you,” therapist Miriam Kirmayer tells The Zoe Report.
Therefore, instead of accepting their remarks at face value, Kirmayer recommends that you find out exactly where your friend’s criticism is coming from and going from.
“You have the right to read their personal messages.”
If you feel the need to read your partner’s messages, that actually “says more about you than it says about your partner,” psychologist Mary Lamia tells Health.
“If you have to ask to see your partner’s texts or email, you have crossed a line,” she says. “Take a serious look at your own insecurities or admit to yourself that you are with someone you do not trust.”
“Their jealousy just means they love you.”
A little jealousy here and there doesn’t necessarily hurt, but if your partner has a habit of turning green-eyed, it could be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
“Jealousy can turn into abusive behaviors,” relationship counselor Ammanda Major tells Cosmopolitan. “Take someone feeling jealous and then preventing you from seeing family and friends, or feeling jealous if you go and have a coffee with a work colleague. Those sorts of behaviors can become extreme and lead to abusive situations.”
“You should get married.”
When you have a caring partner and a stable relationship, a lot of friends and family will encourage you to put it on lock with a wedding— even if that’s not what’s right for you.
“There’s an expression: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” says psychologist Paulette Sherman, author of Dating from the Inside Out. “Some people feel that if their relationship is happy and works, they don’t need to complicate it with legal repercussions and a ceremony that validates their relationship from the outside.”
“Get hitched in your 20s for a long, happy marriage.”
Despite popular assumption, getting married early is not always the best idea, according to the relationship expert Diann Valentine.
“In fact, I encourage my clients to wait as long as they can before jumping the broom,” she says. “Who you are in your 20s is not who you’ll be in your 30s or 40s, so spend time getting to know yourself before jumping into a marriage that was designed to last forever.”