The other night I got some rather strongly worded and completely unsolicited dating advice from a male acquaintance. It was less than appreciated, for the record. And pretty much boiled down to me having to alter some core things about myself in order to “find and keep a man”.
No thanks, I would rather be single for forever than fundamentally change me.*
The advice we don’t ask for is easy to ignore and write off. (And get justifiably annoyed at too.) It’s the advice we request that I think may be more damaging and harder to process.
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Do a quick Google search for dating advice and your browser may straight-up shut down.
There are countless articles under the titles of “The 6 Things Guys Wish Girls Knew about Dating” and “10 Things To Never Say on a First Date” and “The One Dating Mistake You Keep Making Without Knowing It” and similar click-bait full of advice either so specific to one individual or so general to be rendered meaningless.
Yes, I know guys wish girls would say what they feel vs saying “I’m fine“. And yes, I know not to talk incessantly about an ex on a first date. And I’m sure whatever particular obscure dating mistake I’m making will work itself out in time or with the right person. It’s not as if all single people are also socially incompetent, as many of these posts seem to indicate.
But even if advice is actually universally accurate and important to know, I’m starting to think we still shouldn’t listen.
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It’s natural and we all do it. Crushes are the worst… they are stressful and fickle, particularly in the easily distracted modern dating pool. You are trying to figure out how to interpret a text message or what to say to someone to sexily yet casually send the message that you dig them. You ask a close friend to give input, then maybe one or two more. And as more advice flows in, your own confidence trickles out. Too many opinions are overwhelming and often worse than none.
Because all anyone else call tell you is what they would do.
No one, no matter how close to you, can tell you how to be you. We spend so much time and energy holding back, second-guessing, then filtering and editing ourselves into this magical perfect version of us in the pursuit of a second date or a reply text. It’s exhausting.
And to be frank, I’m starting to think it’s self-destructive.
Look, it is not your job to get someone to like you. That is not the definition of dating. Dating is for getting to know another human being and deciding if you are interested in spending more time with them in a romantic sense. It’s about determining if you want the same things and are compatible. It is the search of finding someone you want to hang with and make out with all in one package.
Dating shouldn’t be about games and tricks and “Four Ways to Get Him to Fall for You.” Dating should be about finding a long term, monogamous friends-with-benefits, in the best definition of that term.
(Or whatever your personal end-game dating goal is.)
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Will I still ask for dating advice from my nearest and dearest?
I’m sure I will, just as I’m sure I will give it back. It’s not inherently unhelpful. It has value.
But I need to get better at believing in my own decisions and thoughts and feels as well. I need to trust in my words to reflect me, versus being wrong based on some arbitrary advice column written by someone who doesn’t know me. Relationships are personal, between two people. No one other than you can ever tell you what is the right way to do something. (Barring anything extreme or totally idiotic or crazy-town, though maybe that works for the right person?)
My dating advice to everyone? Be you.
They will either like you or not. It will either work out or not. If you feel like seeing them, then call or text them. Reach out or don’t, no matter how many days it has been. Be bold or be shy or be patient or be decisive. Make your own rules and regulations which reflect what makes you happy and comfortable.
At the end of the day, one text, one topic, one moment, one date will not make or break a relationship. (And if it does, good riddance honestly.) Aren’t we at the point where we need to stop analyzing every single word in a text and just actually date? And just be ourselves?
For better or worse.
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* To briefly explain, said unsolicited advice was that I was too independent, liked being in control too much, and would need to learn to recognize that a man was the man, smarter than me, and submit to him in order to get and keep a boyfriend. I will pass and live in content solidarity with my cat for the rest of my life before doing any of that, thanks.