The modern world is full of dating advice. And a lot of it is actually terrible. We hear about the bad dating advice men get more often lately, as it’s pretty obvious when something doesn’t work 100 times, it isn’t working. But when a teenage boy gets told that buying roses gets you sex and it doesn’t work, or that a healthy relationship means one person must dominate by force and he sees this isn’t the case he can start over more easily. With teenage girls it’s a little more complicated. One or two very bad decisions could shape a teenage girl’s dating life for a very long time, short of her changing town. And we hardly ever hear anything said against some legitimately terrible advice girls get.
So here are my top ten bad pieces of dating advice teenage girls are given that isn’t really challenged, why they are wrong, along with a few comments and suggestions straight from the horse’s mouth as I’m inviting Jon to contribute his own experience and knowledge as a heterosexual man.
A lot of this is bad advice that is also given to some teenage boys and most of it is also applicable to anyone in a long term relationship, so don’t shy away just because you aren’t straight or you’re a guy: there could still be something to learn. Just bear in mind that this is more geared towards people in long term relationships with a man.
1. Be cool and distant.
The bad advice: Try and look like much of life doesn’t matter to you, like you have so much more going off than the here and now.
Common phrases: “Keep cool.” “Try and be mysterious.” “Make him chase you a little bit.” “Don’t reveal too much too soon.”
Why it sounds right: Because many girls like the air of mystery in a guy. When he’s distracted it looks like he has a busy, fascinating life. It adds something extra when men are often a little simple (not in a bad way).
Why it doesn’t work: Because girls are already pretty mysterious to guys. We do communicate a little differently and we can change more quickly than a man can. When we’re fully present we’re already perplexing and enticing enough. Adding more distraction and layers is just confusing and possibly worrying.
From the horse’s mouth: “It can work if the person has a genuinely active, interesting life. If you don’t, it will appear forced and you will appear uninteresting. Further, more with younger males, if a female has that much more to do and he is that uninteresting, she should jog on and do that instead so he can stop wasting his time.”
What to do instead: Be friendly and open, start conversation but let him talk at least as much as you do, mention your hobbies and interests in passing and try and keep the talking flowing. Let him know you won’t bite his head off.
2. Be one of the guys.
The bad advice: Just hang out with him and his friends, have a good time, copy what they do, cultivate stereotypically masculine hobbies, drink heavily, swear a bit more than usual, show him that you’re a “cool” girl.
Common phrases: “Learn about what he likes.” “Hang out with his friends.” “Tone down your girliness.”
Why it sounds right: Because a lot of guys say that’s what they want.
Why it doesn’t work: Because what they mean they want and what we hear are two completely different things. A man wants a woman who lets him enjoy male company and his own hobbies, and who doesn’t hold him back when he wants to do something crazy or adventurous. But that doesn’t mean you should put on a butch act. He’s a straight man, he wants you to make the instinctive part of his brain think “woman”. Don’t try and force yourself to be a man.
From the horse’s mouth: “Very simple: if you are a woman, you are not a man. No amount of toning down girliness is going to change that. Also, women aping males is not only unattractive, it is a joke. There’s a lot more to being male than yelling in a weights room.”
What to do instead: Be as girly and as tomboyish as you’re comfortable with, but try and keep the edge of softness that says you’re a girl. You can still hang out with him and his friends when he’s fine with it, but a little makeup, abstaining from swearing (as best you can) and not getting drunk and rowdy is more likely to attract him.
3. He will love you for you.
The bad advice: The opposite (almost) of the above. Just relax, do whatever you like, say whatever you like, he just won’t care and if he does he should be dumped instantly.
Common phrases: “Your weight doesn’t matter, lose or gain, he should still love you!” “If a guy can’t handle you, then he doesn’t deserve you.” “You had the heroin habit when you started going out, if he doesn’t like it now, then too bad.”
Why it sounds right: Because it feels right. Many guys like a larger woman, one with a firey temperament or don’t mind one with bad habits.
Why it doesn’t work: Because it’s used to justify letting yourself go. Yes, you will go through bad patches, might have PMS and will age eventually. But you can’t just get fat and angry four months into a relationship and expect him to just live with it. How would you like someone pulling a 180 on you after they got you locked down? Besides that, if a guy loves you even when you change your body, your personality, your hobbies and everything else, then the only thing he loves about you is the only thing that hasn’t changed: that you’re a woman. If he only loves you for being a woman, then the relationship isn’t youXhim, it’s sexXhim.
From the horse’s mouth: “If there is no deception up front (hiding characteristics or exaggerating others) this advice is kind of true. However people change over time, as will you. Too often used as an excuse or as capitulation. If you are going to have a lot of kids and he is going to have a vasectomy before he has any, I don’t think love can rebalance that.”
What to do instead: Be upfront about any issues there may be in the future, so he doesn’t get unexpectedly surprised. Other than that, try and look after yourself and put some actual work into being, if not the woman he deserves, then at least the woman he started dating.
4. Put yourself first.
The bad advice: You are number one and nobody can ever forget that, everything has to be run by you, checked and vetted before anything can be done, you are the 51% shareholder in this relationship.
Common phrases: “Look after yourself.” “Look out for number one.” “You are the protagonist of your own life.”
Why it sounds right: Because it is, in fact, very important to take good care of yourself and to not get into a relationship where you are putting in 100% and getting out 5%.
Why it doesn’t work: Because it’s used as an excuse to be lazy, again. Furthermore, most women actually feel endorphin and oxytocin releases when we do something nice out of love, which means that putting him first from time to time will actually make you happier and more bonded to him than being selfish and lazy.
From the horse’s mouth: “If you are incapable of love, then by all means put yourself first. If you believe you are capable of love there will be times where you may have to put someone else ahead of you. A relationship is not a zero sum game of one side trying to extract as much as possible from the other.”
What to do instead: Put the relationship first in all matters that concern him. Sure, your haircut might not matter to him, so you don’t need to ask him every time you change it. But if you’re selling your car and planning on using his, look out for the both of you, not just your own interests. What will make you both happier and more harmonious in the future?
5. Let him have it, he deserves it.
The bad advice: If he’s upset you, you need to make sure to let all of it out and argue the problem away. Getting a little physical could help you too.
Common phrases: “Let him have it.” “He shouldn’t have angered you.” “It’s natural to argue when you’re angry.” “It isn’t domestic violence when you hit him.”
Why it sounds right: Because it feels good to let your anger out on someone who’s angered you.
Why it doesn’t work: Because you’re not fighting or competing, you’re in a relationship. If every time he angers you you are flying at him like a honey badger, he won’t get a chance to explain his side, make things right or love you. You just end up hating each other, fighting becomes a habit and eventually it will destroy most relationships.
From the horse’s mouth: “Men are normally physically stronger than women. You are trading on him not fighting back with any amount of his strength. Good luck with that. I hope you never encounter a male who treats you as the avenging warrior you clearly think you are. Also as a side note: getting angry does not give you super powers and it is not going to fix any damage done.”
What to do instead: Vent with a friend, anonymous blog or diary. Don’t go into gossip, but just explain that you’re angry and why. Maybe go jogging or punch a pillow a little to let off steam. Once you’re calm, explain the problem to him and have an adult discussion about it. Once the discussion is over, whatever the conclusion was, let it go and try and get back to normal.
6. Have sex by _ date.
The bad advice: There is a time limit on when you have to have sex by, otherwise the whole relationship is doomed.
Common phrases: “Have sex on the third date.” “If you haven’t had sex after twelve dates then you’re doomed.” “Sex before the fifth date is too early.”
Why it sounds right: Because we assume that men only want sex.
Why it doesn’t work: Because men want sex, but they also want other things. If you put a timer on your affections, whatever ones they are, from a kiss to marriage, then you’re adding pressure to the relationship. It’s probably wise to not have sex too early, to dissuade players. But it isn’t wise to assume that sex has an expiry date.
From the horse’s mouth: “LOL.”
From the horse’s mouth after recomposing himself: “What is this obsession with simple, idiotic relationship rules? Maybe I am an old romantic, who believes things should happen when they feel right, not when some magazine or dating expert has decided is the best time.”
What to do instead: Wait until you feel cool and calm before having sex. Heat-of-the-moment sex is far more regrettable and more likely to attract a man whose only intention is to have sex with you. But don’t force yourself to have sex at an exact date. Cool off, however long it takes, then make your decision. Most men won’t pass this test: either they will get bored (they only wanted sex) or you will stop liking them (you only wanted sex). Either way, this isn’t a bad thing, it’s all about building positive relationships without sex being a pressure point.
7. If he loves you he will _.
The bad advice: A man who loves you will do certain things for you and if your man doesn’t, then he’s using you.
Common phrases: “Real men propose on one knee with a diamond.” “If he loves you he will wait it out.” “A man who loves a woman will not forget her birthday.”
Why it sounds right: Because some men display their love this way and it looks charming and their partner won’t stop talking about it.
Why it doesn’t work: This had two problems. Firstly it assumes that there is only one way to love. A man who just wants sex with you loves you as well, it’s just not the way you want to be loved. So a man could love you deeply and fail to do anything to show it. Secondly, it’s good to have standards. But don’t let your standards be someone else’s. If you don’t want a diamond engagement ring, then why should the man who loves you give you one? If anything, that shows he doesn’t really know you.
From the horse’s mouth: “Clearly written by women who have no idea or interest in what’s going off in men’s heads.”
What to do instead: Set your own standards for how you like to be loved and tell him about them. If you like daffodils and not roses, tell him “Daffodils are my favourite flower.” If he forgets, mention it again, after all, he may not have much of a memory for flowers. Don’t hold him to some arbitrary standard. And if you’re just not compatible, it wasn’t that he didn’t love you, it was that he didn’t love you the way you wanted him to love you. He probably did and still does love you in his own way, so be gentle with him.
8. Your sexual prime is after 30.
The bad advice: You are far hotter, sexier and more voracious at some point after the age of thirty, so that’s when you want to start having your fun before getting married.
Common phrases: “Life begins at 30!” “35 is your sexual peak.” “You don’t want to be married before 35.” “40 is the new 30!”
Why it sounds right: Because many women of that age are saying it. Also, a childless woman at thirty can experience a boost in libido.
Why it doesn’t work: Because nature disagrees. The peak of your sexual appetite might be around thirty or thirty five, but your best fertility window is actually from your late teens to your mid twenties. 16-25 is when you are most likely to reproduce successfully. Which means that, to most men, you are more attractive then. Yes, even men in their thirties, forties and fifties. So holding off serious relationships until you are forty could seriously harm your ability to settle down with the sort of man you like. And that sexual appetite boost? Completely wasted if you have nobody to share it with.
From the horse’s mouth: “Being trendy and stylish doesn’t concern biology. However much noise is made, the biological reality is still a reality.”
What to do instead: Try and find a stable partner in your early twenties, when your teenage hormones are cooling off and you’re still pretty and fertile. Having children when nature intended doesn’t hurt either, just make sure you get that stable relationship first.
9. If you feel _ he should _.
The bad advice: He should work hard to calm your moods and adapt his behaviours around your feelings.
Common phrases: “If you feel insecure, he should stop seeing those friends.” “If you feel sad, he should get you something nice.” “If you feel angry, he should explain himself to you.”
Why it sounds right: Because we’re used to having our feelings matter, especially in childhood, and we’re used to friends who can easily spot and work with our changes in mood.
Why it doesn’t work: Because if every time you mood changed, he had to react, your life would be chaos. Try keeping a diary of every time you feel something. Every half hour for a day, write down what you feel. Can you really expect someone who isn’t telepathic and who has known you for a few weeks or a year to be able to guess what you’re feeling every minute of the day and guess what he needs to do about it?
From the horse’s mouth: “Unfortunately males do not have a telepathic link to your brain stem. To assume they will act a certain way to a certain thing is ludicrous. If we can acknowledge even a well trained dog can miss a cue, or react differently occasionally, why are we assuming a human with all their intelligence and all their skills will react in a way a separate person wants?”
What to do instead: Your feelings are part of you. They aren’t a physical mark on your body that everyone can see and that everyone knows how to deal with. You need to try and work with your feelings on your own and only bring them up with him once you’re 100% sure that there is a problem that he can help with. When it comes to venting, choose a close friend, a diary or an anonymous blog instead. It works better and doesn’t interfere with your relationship.
10. You are a prize.
The bad advice: You are something amazing, special and unique and he needs to know that he is replaceable, that he needs to be number one to win your heart.
Common phrases: “He needs to earn you every day.” “He’s lucky to have you.” “He doesn’t deserve you.”
Why it sounds right: Because we like ourselves and like to think of ourselves as important.
Why it doesn’t work: Because you wouldn’t be dating him if he wasn’t also amazing, special and unique. It’s like ordering a plain pizza when you prefer a four cheeses pizza and have the money to buy one. If you could do better, you wouldn’t be with him. And developing the attitude that you’re somehow ten times as special as he is will just make you feel like he’s a loser, however great he is. Even worse if you display it.
From the horse’s mouth: “No, you’re not a prize. No one is, unless they are a supermodel millionaire scientist who has fallen head over heels in love with everything about you as you currently are and everything you ever will be. The prize is the compatibility. If you are compatible with someone you have much more worth as a potential partner than someone who is not compatible. You’re not better than them just because they like you. On the flip side, do not undervalue yourself. If you’re having to ‘low balls’ or ‘slum’ it, you’re probably looking in the wrong crowd.”
What to do instead: Just because you love yourself doesn’t mean putting yourself first and him last. He is the best you can do, so show him the love and respect that he deserves. After all, isn’t that what you want from him?
What other bad pieces of dating advice did you get, or have you heard given to girls? What other incorrect facts are being spread around? Be sure to mention your personal peeves when it comes to dating advice!
TTFN and Happy Hunting!