40 Relationship Tips That Are Actually Terrible Advice
"It's a good sign if you don't argue," said no successful spouse ever.
Relationships can be hard, and when we find ourselves at odds with our partner, we often seek out the advice of friends, family, or even experts. However, not all the advice one receives is necessarily pertinent to them or their situation—and even some of the most frequently-mentioned recommendations could potentially do more harm than good. So, when it comes to outside advice, these are the little bits of “wisdom” relationship pros wish people would stop taking into consideration. And for more relationship mistakes you should avoid, check out these Expert Dos and Don’ts for When You and Your Partner Need a Relationship Break.
“Living together is a great way to test the waters for the future.”
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 keep a keen eye out for, check out the 17 Relationship Trouble Signs You Should Never Ignore.
“Play hard to get.”
“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.” And for some surefire dating tips, check out the 50 Best Tips for Dating Over 50.
“Never go to bed angry.”
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 marriage and relationship coach based in South Carolina.
“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,” says Hunt.
“Forgive and forget.”
When it comes to any relationship, forgiving and forgetting don’t have to be a pair. In fact, Monte Drenner, a licensed mental health counselor in Florida, says it’s best to separate the two.
“Forgiveness is absolutely crucial to having a healthy relationship, but forgetting is not necessary,” says Drenner. “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.” And for more tips on how to have a happier relationship, check out 30 Ways to Have a Happy Long-Distance Relationship.
“Age is just a number.”
Sure, 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.”
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
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?”
“Look for a partner who loves all your hobbies.”
Having a life partner who loves everything you do 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,” says Megan Hunter, co-founder of the High Conflict Institute.
She warns that if you’ve “suddenly found a partner who also loves horses, worships your favorite sports team, has the same type of friends, and loves the same movies,” then they’re probably just a little bit codependent. So, proceed with caution if it seems too good to be true. And for fun ways to bond with your partner, check out these 20 Cute Fall Date Ideas Every Couple Needs To Plan.
“If you fall out of love, you should just get divorced.”
North Carolina relationship therapist Irina Baechle says this is probably the worst advice she’s come across over the years. “The truth is, falling in love is merely a nature trick pulling humans into marriage to reproduce,” she says. “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.”
“Your appearance doesn’t matter as much once you’re married.”
Effort shouldn’t stop once a wedding ring’s involved, 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,” she says. And if you’re looking for ways to boost your marriage, check out 40 Fascinating Marriage Tips From People Who’ve Been Married for 40 Years.
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, 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.”
“Get hitched in your 20s for a long, happy marriage.”
“Contrary to popular belief, getting married early is not always a good idea,” says relationship expert Diann Valentine. “In fact, I encourage my clients to wait as long as they can before jumping the broom. Who you are in your twenties is not who you’ll be in your thirties or forties, 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.
“Time heals all wounds.”
While time is sometimes necessary to get over being hurt, even time cannot necessarily heal just anything. “If time heals wounds, then why are there grumpy old people? Making healthy decisions to treat the wounds heal them, not time,” says Drenner.
“Your perfect match it out there.”
“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.”
“He/she can change!”
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.” And for more telltale relationship red flags, check out these 10 Real-Life Wedding Moments That Proved the Couple Was Seriously Doomed.
“If you’re not the breadwinner, but cautious about spending money.”
According to certified financial coach Emily Shutt, this is a common one told to women who don’t work outside of the home. “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,” she says. “Believing that you shouldn’t—or don’t deserve to—spend any money if you’re not the primary earner is ridiculous and outdated.” And for more outdated dating practices, check out 20 Hilarious Things Girls Were Told About Dating 50 Years Ago
“Each partner should do their fair share.”
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 actually 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.”
“The guy should pay.”
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.”
“Give it time, he’ll propose eventually.”
“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, he warns that “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.”
“The secret to a happy marriage is compromise.”
Making concessions works well for nations or political parties, but not for couples, says Newbold. “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,” she says. “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.”
“A comfortable life is worth a lackluster relationship.”
Money should never be 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.”
“Children will save your relationship.”
If your relationship is already on the rocks, having a child will not make those problems suddenly go away. “While issues may be masked by the excitement of a baby, they will resurface, and when they do, will be amplified,” Hunt warns.
“A woman who earns more can be threatening to a male partner.”
The number of women still being advised to keep their success under wraps while dating is surprisingly high, says Oates—even though many earn more than their male mates. Plus, some guys are just 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,” she says.
“Leave the past behind you.”
It’s important not to get too hung up on the past when you’re in a relationship, but there are some serious topics that are still worth discussing.
“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,” Caudle says. “There are some things in the past that you need to discuss, like past debts, past relationships, or even past children.”
“Cheating means your relationship is over.”
“Many a person has taken this advice from well-meaning family and friends and lived to regret it,” says psychotherapist Toni Coleman. “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.”
“If you don’t like them on the first date, give them another chance.”
First dates can nerve wracking—but don’t be afraid to trust first impressions. “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.”
“The kids should always come first.”
“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.” And for more tips on maintaining an empty nest, check out The 30 Hardest Things About Becoming an Empty Nester.
“The person who earns the most should always pick up the tab.”
“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.”
“You need to leave.”
“Only you can decide if a relationship works for you,” points out 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.”
“If they can’t handle you at your worst, they don’t deserve you at your best.”
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.”
“Don’t let him/her treat you that way.”
“Friends and family do not see your part in a destructive relationship dance,” 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.”
“He/she will work less once you’re married.”
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. If your partner was a workaholic before you get married, chances are, they’re still going to be one post-wedding.
“Chemistry means you’ve found ‘the one.'”
“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.”
“Always communicate your needs.”
This one is only half-true, according to Newbold. Of course, 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,” she says. “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?'”
“It’s better to keep your finances separate.”
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.”
The idea that everyone has one person that is meant for them is surely romantic, but in the end, that idea may cause more problems than anything else.
“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.”
“You don’t need an equal partner.”
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?
“Let them make the first move.”
“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.”
“It’s a good sign if you don’t argue.”
You may think a lack of disagreements means everything is great—but that may not actually be the case. “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.”
“Better communication is the key to wedded bliss.”
“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,” Miles says. And if you’re worried about your relationship, check out the 27 Subtle Signs That Will Predict the End of Your Relationship.
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