When things get tough in a relationship (or on the dating scene), it’s natural to seek out the advice of friends, family, and even experts. Unfortunately, not all love advice is created equal, and some of the most frequently-mentioned recommendations could potentially do more harm than good.
These are the little bits of “wisdom” relationship pros wish people would stop listening to immediately. And for more on what mistakes you shouldn’t make, check out the 40 Worst Mistakes Married People Make.
The problem with this advice is that very few couples have a seamless move-in experience, which means it’s easy to assume that a few hiccups along the way mean your relationship is doomed.
“Healthy, happy couples don’t start out compatible,” explains Patty Newbold, a marriage educator. “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.” And for some warning signs you should look out for, here are the 20 Surefire Signs Your Relationship Is Over.
“The vast majority of the time playing hard to get guarantees that both of you are going to end up alone,” says James Anderson, dating expert at Beyond Ages. “The dating world is competitive and few people have the time to constantly pursue someone who is not demonstrating any interest. 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.” Consider yourself warned: Here are 20 Signs You’re Dating a Commitment-Phobic Man.
It’s actually better to take some time to chill out before discussing something you’re feeling worked up about, according to Eric Hunt, a licensed wedding officiant and marriage and relationship coach based in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“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.” And for some seriously up-to-the-minute relationship advice, Here’s Why Experts Say “Micro-Cheating” Will Destroy Your Relationship.
“Forgiveness is absolutely crucial to having a healthy relationship, but forgetting is not necessary,” says Monte Drenner, a licensed mental health counselor in Orlando, FL. “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.”
There are certainly relationships with age gaps that work out beautifully, but experts say couples closer in age tend to be happier. “Age matters less as you get older—that’s true. But dating someone close to your age has huge benefits,” says Anna Wood, dating and lifestyle expert. “You’ll have the same cultural references, interests, and grow into new life stages (including seniorhood) at the same time.” And for reference, here are 20 Celebrity Couples with Huge Age Gaps.
It’s not unusual for friends and family to caution someone not to bank on a particular relationship working out, but this advice is pretty problematic for those in serious relationships. “This usually encourages couples to prepare for the end of the relationship in some subtle way,” says Natasha D. Oates, a relationship coach and licensed therapist. “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?”
Having a life partner who loves everything you might sound great, but there’s often more than meets the eye in these partnerships.
“Someone who needs to feel connected to another human being in order to survive will adapt their likes and dislikes to you,” explains Megan Hunter, co-founder of the High Conflict Institute and author. “Suddenly you’ve found a partner who also loves horses, worships your favorite sports team, has the same type of friends, loves the same movies.” They’re probably just a little bit codependent. The moral of the story? “Compatibility is great for most relationships but proceed with caution if it seems too good to be true.” And if you’re looking to hang more with your S.O., here are the 50 Best Bonding Activities for Married Couples.
“This is one of the worst things I hear from people over and over again,” says Irina Baechle, LCSW, a relationship therapist and coach. “The truth is, falling in love is merely a nature trick pulling humans into marriage to reproduce. 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.”
“This is one of the biggest mistakes in marriage,” says Michelle Afont, relationship expert and author of The Dang Factor: A 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. It is important to stay true the person your partner married: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.” Take action by trying the 40 Ways to Look Younger After 40.
No, you don’t have to be exactly alike, but seeking out someone completely different from you in every meaningful way is a recipe for disaster. “You must have some common interests and values,” says Lisa Helfend Meyer, family law attorney and 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.”
“Contrary to popular belief, getting married early is not always a good idea,” says Diann Valentine, a relationship expert and author. “In fact, I encourage my clients to wait as long as they can before jumping the broom. 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.” And yes, this is another reason why Being Single in Your 40s Is the Greatest Thing Ever.
While time is necessary to get over being hurt, “time does not necessarily heal anything,” Drenner explains. “If time heals wounds, then why are there grumpy old people? Making healthy decisions to treat the wounds heal them, not time.”
“There is no such thing as a perfect partner,” Anderson points out. “Every single person you will meet is going to have flaws, and your relationship will reach a point where it is no longer effortless. 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.”
Of course it’s true that people 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.”
“This is such a common one for women who don’t work outside of the home,” says Emily Shutt, a certified financial coach. “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. 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 tempting to split household and emotional “duties” evenly in a relationship or marriage, but getting too far into the nitty gritty of ensuring everything is equal can 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. But it only feels good if you’re giving what you feel good about giving and tackling the work that matters to you. So stop focusing on who does what. Why? Less resentment, more gratitude, more happiness, more spontaneous affection.”
There’s a simple 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.” Remember: Picking up the check at least some of the time is one of the 40 Best Dating Tips for Women Over 40.
“He might. And then again, he might not,” Afont says. No one can predict what another person will do. If you do decide to stay in a relationship despite the fact that marriage isn’t happening as quickly as you’d like, “you need to be able to live with the consequences if you give away too many years of your life to a relationship that does not move forward.”
“Making concessions works well for nations or political parties that disagree, but not for couples,” Newbold says. “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.’” 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. 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.”
Money is never 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 for the potential of long time happiness.”
“For a relationship that that is on the rocks, children most definitely will not make things better, Hunt says. “While issues may be masked by the excitement of a baby, they will resurface, and when they do, will be amplified.”
The number of women still being advised to keep their success under wraps while dating is surprisingly high. “Reality check: Many women earn more than their male mates,” Oates says. Plus, some guys are better-suited to household roles. “Many men are much better at cooking and cleaning than their mates. 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.”
It’s important not to get too hung up on the past when you’re in a relationship, but “there are some things in the past that you need to discuss, like past debts, past relationships, or even past children,” Caudle says. “While I do believe your past shouldn’t dictate your future, it’s important that you know who you’re getting into a committed relationship with before it’s too late.” And for more great relationship inspiration, here are 50 Relationship Quotes to Reignite Your Love.
“Many a person has taken this advice from well-meaning family and friends and lived to regret it,” Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, a psychotherapist and relationship coach. “There are many factors that can contribute to infidelity and set a climate where it is more likely to flourish. Before walking away and giving up everything you have together, get counseling, figure out what wasn’t working and why. Examine the reasons for seeing something from a person outside the relationship rather than your spouse. By doing so, you will be sure if you do decide to call it quits and won’t be one of the many folks suffering from divorce remorse.”
“The chemistry is either there or it’s not,” Wood says. “Dating is time consuming (and sometimes exhausting), so use the time to meet someone new instead.”
“Although this sounds like good advice, it sets the couple up for a great deal of difficulty throughout the relationship and especially once they become empty nesters,” Drenner says. “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.” Yikes, no one wants those.
“There’s this belief that one person (traditionally, the one who earns more) should always pay for every date,” Shutt says. “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.”
Instead, she recommends talking about a “date budget,” plus how you might fund it as a team. “It doesn’t sound romantic, but blow-ups over long-term money frustrations are even less romantic.”
“Only you can decide if a relationship works for you,” points out Dr. Linda Miles, a psychotherapist. “Also, this advice can be dangerous. In the case of domestic violence, the most dangerous time is when a person leaves. You should have a safety plan and use caution.”
You’ve heard it before—maybe even seen it as a meme on Instagram. “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. “What many proponents of this advice fail to realize is that often ‘you at your best’ isn’t worth having to handle you at your worst. 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.”
“Friends and family do not see your part in a destructive relationship dance,” Dr. Miles points out. It’s natural for people who know and love you to assume you are the victim, but chances are you may be contributing to the strife in your relationship. “Look at the part you play in negativity and then decide what behavior you will settle for in a partner.”
Nope. This is pretty much never true, according to Meyer. Marriage is life-changing, but it doesn’t change who you are as a person.
“Everyone wants to feel the rush of attraction and love, but it should be assessed with caution, as it can be a red flag in many cases,” Hunter says. “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.’ 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.”
This one is only half-true, according to Newbold. “If there’s something you need, you should definitely let your life partner know.” But that’s not the whole story. “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. 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?’”
Yes, it’s definitely a good idea to have an emergency stash of money in case the worst case scenario happens, but keeping all of your money separate could 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.”
“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.”
This advice makes pretty much zero sense, but it’s often heard when someone is struggling to find a mate who matches their intelligence or success. Of course, it would be impossible to find a partner who is literally your exact equal in every way, but it’s important that you consider whoever you end up with to be 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?
“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.”
Not so much. “The truth is that if couples don’t have disagreements, they’re likely not expressing important ideas or needs,” Oates explains. “When you’re in a relationship, 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.”
“Couples can definitely learn and practice good communication skills, especially when they feel close, secure, and generally happy in the relationship,” Baechle says. “However, research shows that these skills do not work when couples are in distress and arguing. These ‘skills’ simply do not last because we are creatures of habit, so we quickly lapse back into our old negative patterns when things go south.”
It might sound romantic in a melodramatic way, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. “Love should make you feel better, not worse,” Dr. Miles says. For some seriously happy marriage advice, check out these 13 Best Marriage Tips from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.
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