Good Friends, Terrible Dating Advice
They understand the healing power of a latte. If you need feminine supplies, they will not rest until the correct product is slipped discreetly into your hand. No matter how busy life gets, they will always down for brunch. And most importantly, if you are experiencing relationship troubles, they will be there at the drop of a hat to listen, analyze and give advice.
Even if it’s three in the morning and you’re freaking out over a text message laced with mixed signals, you know that all you need to do is put out the bat signal — like magic, they will materialize, wine in hand, to help you sort through the mess. It’s a beautiful thing, really.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been the person in my friend circle who people went to for advice. Some people are blessed with athleticism or strong math skills; I guess I was just blessed with the gift of gab. And boy did I know how to put it to use (just ask my parents about the phone bills.)
As we got older and boys came into the picture, my advice was needed more than ever. And I was always happy to oblige! Still, while the fact that I had watched the entire Sex and the City series 5 times start-to-finish may have made me a love guru at age 14, I soon grew to learn that not all problems could be solved by witty one-liners and smart cocktails. Carrie Bradshaw did not have all the answers, and sadly neither did I.
Did that stop me? Of course not. I was the high chancellor of advice-giving, and I was not surrendering my seat on the small council anytime soon. In fact, it wasn’t until I moved to LA and started working for an actual sex and relationship expert that I realized how misguided much of my guidance had been.
After this epiphany, I started paying closer attention to the advice that was circulating among my friend groups. Slowly but surely, I began to see many of my own mistakes reflected in their well-meaning words of wisdom.
Women (not all women, but a lot of us) are great at giving relationship advice in theory. Why? Because we are masters in the art of speculation. Get a group of us together and we turn into a mini task force of relationship archaeologists, prepared to dig and dissect until we get to the bottom of any relationship predicament.
However, once you have reached the issue’s epicenter and the advice starts flying, this is where the trouble really starts. Mistake a friend’s opinion for expertise, and you could end up making some terrible dating decisions… And guess who you’re going to resent when it all falls apart?
Taking relationship advice from friends is like accepting spiritual counseling from your barista at Starbucks — It may feel good at first and go well with the latte, but will generally leave you with more questions than answers. No matter how helpful your friends may be, relationship advice should not be taken as blindly as a tampon passed under a bathroom stall.
Here are 5 reasons why:
#1: They tell you what you want to hear
Women, by nature, are nurturers — we mend the wounds, we comfort, we say things to keep your spirits up and help you fight the good fight. Unfortunately, the things we want to hear and the things we need to hear are not always one in the same, and this becomes doubly true when it comes to guy advice. That’s why the book “He’s Just Not That Into You” was so groundbreaking. Women had seriously never heard anything like it before!
When we ask a friend to give their honest opinion about a dating predicament, we can often sound like a lawyer leading a witness: “He’s probably just really busy with work, RIGHT?” “Doesn’t it seem like HE is being the passive aggressive one?” “TELL me I’m not totally crazy for thinking this.” It becomes clear that we are looking for validation, not the cold hard truth, and so that is what our friends provide for us: a soft, comfy, easy-to-swallow explanation that may help keep you from going off the deep end, but probably won’t lead to a realistic resolution.
#2: They are biased (In your favor, but still)
It goes without saying that your friends think that you are awesome. They’re your friends—of course they think that you’re a catch and that you can do no wrong. Herein lies the problem: because they are so firmly on your side in all things, they might not be able to call you out on your bad behaviors or patterns, which doesn’t do much to help you grow as a dater. Plus, they’re really only hearing one side of the situation, which makes it hard to give a clear objective reading. They are team YOU all the way, without really having all the facts.
So you sit and you analyze and you go over every word spoken, typed and texted together, and they give you your final verdict: Not guilty. It’s all HIM, he is in the wrong, and you are better off. This may feel good at first, to have all your friends rallying behind you, but it could also stop your from seeing the big picture. Who knows what you may walk away from, without considering all perspectives and possible outcomes?
#3: They have mixed motives
It goes without saying, your friends want you to be happy. But they are also human beings; they have their own feelings and desires that may interfere with their ability to remain objective. Maybe they’re sad they’ve been seeing you less since you coupled up; maybe they don’t like the guy you’re with; maybe they’ve been hurt recently and think that ALL MEN are the problem. No matter what their motive is, these small worries could eventually start to manifest into subtle anti-relationship sentiments.
You’ve heard it before: “Why do you put up with this? Who needs a guy in their life, anyway? This is the BEST TIME to be single! Just do you!”
Yes, they want you to find love, but they also may want you to be available every Friday night for girls night out. They want you to lose yourself in relationship bliss, but they don’t want to lose their go-to wing-woman… especially with summer coming and all. Even if it’s tucked away deep down in their subconscious, it’s possible that your friends’ fear of losing their partner-in-crime could cloud their advice-giving ability.
#4: They haven’t had the best experiences to go off of
When we hit a snag in the course of a relationship, we immediately run to our besties for help, assuming they will have all the answers. But like Samantha said in an early episode of Sex and the City, “We’re just as (messed) up as you. It’s like the blind leading the blind.”
It’s completely natural to turn to our fellow single friends who are stuck in the dating trenches as well, mainly because they know what we’re going through — if nothing else, they can commiserate! Unfortunately, if the friend you are turning to for guy advice has a string of unhealthy relationships under her belt… Chances are, her advice is not going to lead you into a steady situation. It’s harsh, but it’s true. Would you take personal training advice from a person who never hits the gym themselves? Probably not. The saying “Do as I say, not as I do” does not translate when it comes to dating advice. Get yourself a second opinion.
#5: They think their experience is your experience
Maybe it’s the fault of women’s magazines, or perhaps romantic comedies have led us astray, but women have a tendency to believe that all men—not to mention all relationships—are the same.
How many times have you opened up the latest Cosmo to see “5 Ways to Tell If Your Guy Is Cheating” or “10 Things Every Boyfriend Wants to Hear”? It creates this idea in our heads that one dating strategy applies to all men. This “groupthink” tends to bleed right off the page and into our personal lives, which leads me to my final and most important tip: Relationship advice is NOT one size fits all.
We’ve all got those friends who have had success in their love lives, and therefore think that they know it all. So when you go to them asking for guidance, they give you advice based on their experiences, communication styles, and dating types.. Which unfortunately might be completely opposite to yours. Perhaps the “hard to get” method worked with your friend’s last beau, but that doesn’t mean it will get you want YOU want. Maybe her awful ex was a cheater and a liar, it doesn’t mean that your dude is following suit. Don’t allow your friends’ pasts to influence your present decisions — Different strokes for different folks.
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In no way am I saying that your female friends are not to be trusted, or that they do not have your best intentions at heart. Your girlfriends absolutely want the best for you. They want to you to get everything that you want, and more importantly, everything that you deserve — They just might not have the know-how to help you get there.
Instead of turning to your friends for relationship advice, treat them as a sounding board — a way to externally process your thoughts and feelings. You may be surprised to find that simply verbalizing these emotions and experiences can bring you the clarity you need. And sure, your friends may offer unsolicited advice from time to time, but you can treat any outside opinions as just that. Opinions. Trust your gut and know that, no matter what decisions you make, your friends will be there to support you and catch you if you fall. After all, THAT is what they’re really there for.