My single friends and I often joke about the advice we’re constantly given by our parents, our coupled-up friends and basically, anyone who hears yes, we’re ‘still single’ and yes, ‘still looking.’ The words of wisdom are never delivered with any malicious intent and really, are meant to raise our spirits and ensure we don’t adopt a mostly-bitter attitude toward finding our life partner. But the kicker that’s humorous – especially if you’ve been dating for quite some time, like I have – is that all advice seems to contradict itself. You have to put yourself out there, but not try too hard. You should try online dating, but don’t rely on it completely. You should play hard to get, but don’t be too unavailable or you’ll come across as unapproachable…
…and the list goes on.
As an effort to approach the New Year with a refined attitude toward love and to transition our mindset in a healthy direction, it’s time to let go of some of these tired, old fashioned ways of looking at love. Therapists who are trained to help their clients work through difficult times and take long, hard looks at themselves are better equipped to offer meaningful tips for dating that could actually benefit you in the long run, instead of, well, confusing you.
That’s why, they’ve decided to officially give you permission to stop following these bad pieces of dating advice. And best of all: offer you a different solution instead.
‘Don’t get your hopes up.’
It’s frankly a mantra I repeat in my head over-and-over before any date I have. Since going into date number one, I rarely know much more than the basics, I tend to remind myself to not get too excited. Licensed family and marriage therapist Dr. Wendy O’Connor says instead of being negative, I should actually be positive. “Quit being a downer and negative! Stay positive, motivated, ambitious. If the dating style gets old, boring or just plain bad, find inspiration. Find new interests, new groups. Inspire yourself and others will quickly follow. You will see your luck shift into positive outcomes. Positive thoughts become positive actions,” she explains.
‘You have to research your date and partner, so you’re not blindsided.’
As talented as you might be at identifying someone’s full name by piecemealing the information you know about them via a dating app, therapist Dr. Nikki Martinez, LCPC says to resist the temptation. You may think that you’re setting yourself up to not be shocked when you meet this person, or discover their unruly past, but in reality, you’re taking a lot of the magic of dating discovery out of your experience. “It is not healthy, it is taking you away from doing productive things, and it keeps you stuck in a time and place that is not good for you,” she explains. The same goes for once you’re in a relationship (or about to make things official) and decide to take a joyride through their personal phone. “This is a violation of trust, and a huge question mark to your relationship. If you can not trust this person, you either have some personal work to do, or you are with someone you can not trust. Neither makes for a healthy relationship right now, so address it ASAP,” she notes.
‘Just join all of the dating apps, they’re all the same.’
Just like you wouldn’t go to a Chinese restaurant looking for Mexican food, Dr. Martinez says being strategic about the apps that you invest your energy, heart, and time into is important. Online dating can produce a relationship, but if you’re only swiping in an app that’s intent is based around casual encounters, you’re likely going to be feel disappointed. “There are many sites, and they are pretty clear what their purpose is. So, match your purpose. If you want to have fun, there is nothing wrong with that, but if you are looking for something serious and long term, don’t set yourself up for hurt and failure,” she explains.
‘Play hard to get.’
Your bestie who found the love of her life in college and your mom who stumbled across your dad at the ripe ‘ol age of 24 might offer some flirtatious advice about ‘playing hard to get’, but Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT reassures you it’s actually bad advice. (Think about it: did those ladies in your life actually play the game, or do they just think that’s how you’re supposed to do it?). “Don’t play anything at all! Be yourself and be direct. This is bad because playing games don’t work in good relationships. You are likely to turn someone off rather than seem mysterious and alluring. If you value honesty and integrity, you need to act this way as well to attract someone with those qualities,” she explains.
‘If it’s not there on the first date, move on.’
While the image of walking into a dark room and the spotlight shines down beautifully on this stranger that you just have to meet is a wonderful story line, it’s often not how dating works. We all want to feel that spark right from the get-go, but sometimes, falling in love can take time and you may need more than just one round of drinks post-work to figure out if you have chemistry. Licensed clinical psychologist, Roudabeth Rahbar, Psy.D. says a second chance is not a bad idea. “You won’t always find chemistry on the first date. Or the second. It might not be until the 5th date that you feel that spark. Sometimes it takes time. If you’re enjoying their company and having a good time when you’re together, why not give it more of a chance than just the first date,” Rahbar says.
‘Maybe you’re just too picky.’
Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by this statement. Are we all in unison? I thought so. While not meant to be an insult in most cases, hearing that your standards are too high is a tough thing to not take personally. Even though you probably just grin and bare it, you can feel reassured that it’s actually bad advice – kind of. “Although there is some truth to that, the problem is we’re all different. So if you only like a certain race or ethnicity then stick to it. When you know what you want, go after it! The more we date, the more we realize what we like and what we really can’t tolerate. At the same token, don’t have a laundry list of must haves, you will never find anyone that meets all those criteria,” Rahbar says.
‘You’ll meet your perfect partner when the time is right.’
It’s comforting to place any of the responsibility of meeting the right person out of your hands and give it to the universe, but as the experts explain, meeting a partner requires some effort. And the realization that perfection is a myth. Licensed professional counselor Crystal Bradshaw says, “By discounting potential partners who don’t check off all your ‘must-haves’, you may be walking right past that perfect partner. Instead, take time to get to know someone, even if they don’t share your views on something or hold all the same interests. The secret is that they show interest in what interest you, they respect your point-of-view on something even if it’s different from their own,” she explains. “When we get to know someone we can appreciate them for who they are and see how they can enrich our lives. So get to know someone, you may find that the closer you get to them the more attractive they become in your eyes.”
‘Really analyze the hell out of your last date.’
Okay, so no one gives you this advice but your friends will likely go down the long, treacherous, overreacting road with you if you invite them. But Bradshaw warns that over thinking every move, action, word, and facial expression can be detrimental to any relationship, especially a new one. “The clients I work with who are seeking a relationship have one thing in common: they overthink things when it comes to relationships. Why? They have been hurt by previous partners, and in hindsight see the red flags they excused away; they have become hyper vigilant to anything that seems like it could be a red flag. They don’t want to go through that experience again,” she explains. “It’s wise to think things through, to consider other angles, to question things; it’s a way to look out for yourself, and it makes total sense. But be careful, you could be taking it to the extreme and making something out of nothing, missing what’s right in front of you. Sometimes you get in your own way when you overthink things and you can come across as indecisive, insecure, not confident, and it can begin to take a toll on your self-esteem. These things can damage your chances if you are on the dating scene. And if these traits are seen by the wrong person, the person who looks for someone who is insecure and not confident, then you may not realize you’ve set yourself up to walk into a unhealthy relationship dynamic.”
‘Don’t tell them you like them too soon.”
Similar to playing hard to get, letting someone know that you’re feeling those tingly, this-could-be-something vibes from them is scary. It not only makes you feel vulnerable, but many of your friends might warn you that you’ll freak them out for coming on too strong and they’ll ghost on you. Grant H. Brenner, MD, says to engage your backbone and be honest. “For people who are serious about meeting someone special to them and nurturing a real relationship, it is important to be open and honest. Honest in the sense of speaking from one’s heart – not in the sense of using honesty as an excuse to say mean things or be critical or blaming,” he explains. “If you can’t be open with whomever you are dating, or you are worried that they are playing games or going to take advantage of you because you feel vulnerable, something is off in the relationship.”