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My Least Favorite Dating Advice on the Internet

I see a lot (a lot) of unhelpful dating advice on the internet. So much of modern dating advice over-prescribes, flattens nuance, claims to have a moratorium on "The Truth" (as if any one person, let alone a stranger on the internet, has a monopoly on "The Truth" when it comes to something as complex as human relationships), ignores social and cultural contexts, and has no basis in any kind of scientific inquiry.

So for fun, I compiled a compendium of internet dating advice that I both see the most frequently and that I find the most annoying. And because, as my partner will confirm, the best thing about me is that I can't resist disproving people I think are wrong by bludgeoning them with an accumulation of superior facts, I've also written out all of my rebuttals to the advice given in these points.

With no further ado - I present to you my list of the dating advice that I am annoyed by the most on the internet (and why I hate it so much).


1. “Love will happen when you least expect it. Trust the process.”

Why I hate it:

In my opinion, this one is the gold standard of unhelpful dating advice, which is why I’m addressing it first. Buckle up.

For some people (often the people giving this advice), love does just seem to “happen” - but for most people, it doesn’t. For most people, creating anything worth having - love, a career, getting into school - requires effort and intentionality. Like crafting an intentional career path, building an aligned and fulfilling dating life and relationship requires a degree of thoughtfulness and intention-setting. For most people, that involves adopting behaviours and habits that put them on the path of meeting other aligned individuals, and in a mindset that opens them up to connection.

Additionally - my least favourite thing about the “love will just happen” advice is that it can feel very condescending to people who are putting active effort into their love lives. So let’s just stop using this one.

2. “You can’t love someone else until you learn to love yourself.”

Why I hate it:

This one could also take the unhelpful dating advice blue ribbon (or cake, depending on whether you prefer blue ribbons or cake - realistically, probably cake . . . )

Anyway. I understand where this advice is coming from, but in practice, I just haven’t seen things work out this way. Many people learn to love themselves within healthy, supportive, consistent partnerships. Lots and lots of people love other people and still have areas where they could love themselves more fully - in fact, that’s probably most people. I do think that aspects of self-love (self-esteem, non-neediness, healthy boundaries) can help us to love others more fully - and to choose partners who are more likely to help us to love ourselves - but this isn’t a black-or-white thing. We can love others and still be working towards greater self-love.

3. “With the right person, the relationship will be easy.”

Why I hate it:

Secure, lasting partnerships do tend to have fewer of the emotional ups-and-downs that are the hallmark of insecure, volatile partnerships - but no partnership is free of emotional triggers or conflict. They can't be - the very presence of emotional triggers is part of what tends to draw us to our partners in particular - “chemistry,” is, in part, our emotional patterning recognizing other emotional patterning that can be complementary and usually triggers some of our emotional “baggage” from our pasts. The combustion when the two patterns collide can be an invitation for expansion and growth - but it’s rarely ever “easy.” Especially for insecurely attached partners, this kind of dance can actually feel very triggering and confronting. The presence of triggers and conflict, though, does not necessarily mean that the relationship is "wrong" - it could mean that it's a relationship with a lot of potential for growth.

4. “Having minimal or easily-resolved conflicts is an important part of relationship satisfaction.”

Why I hate it:

Actually, as The Gottman Institute has discovered, in the majority of partnerships (including fulfilling, long-term partnerships), around 69% of relationship conflicts won’t be resolved in the relationship - ever. The Gottman's research then goes on to determine that the differentiating factor between partnerships that last and are mutually satisfying and those that are not is not the lack of relationship conflict, but the ability to fight well - i.e., in a way that increases relationship satisfaction over time rather than decreases it. In other words - all partnerships have conflict - and the ability to negotiate, accept, and manage the presence of differences and conflict is highly correlated with relationship satisfaction.

5. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Why I hate it:

Likewise - this phrase carries the expectation that a good relationship is mistake and conflict-free - which creates unrealistic and detrimental expectations for relationships. Relationships are made up of two human individuals, who are guaranteed to make mistakes - many, many mistakes, at that. By signing up for a relationship, you are signing up to be vulnerable to and hurt by your partner. That’s part of a human, real-life partnership. Part of making your partnership strong is learning how to anticipate this - and for both partners to get good, over time, at saying they’re sorry.

6. “True love is unconditional.”

Why I hate it:

No. Adult love, by definition, is conditional - and should be. If our partners don’t treat us well, and if we don’t treat our partners well - we can and should consider leaving. Adult partnerships are comprised of two consenting adults who choose to be with one another because being together makes them happy. If they aren’t happy - they can leave. The partners may still care about each other if they choose to leave, but they may also choose to leave the partnership.

The concept of “unconditional love” as “unconditional partnership” is a sort of parentification of our partners - we needed and expected to be loved unconditionally as children - if we weren’t, our survival and quality of life was in literal danger. As adults, we’re generally capable of taking care of ourselves (excluding, to some extent, people with disabilities). In an adult partnership, we are responsible for ourselves, and our overall well-being does not depend upon our partner’s ability to care for us. We therefore play a central role in whether or not the partnership is mutually satisfying and nurturing - if it isn’t, and if our partners are dissatisfied in the relationship, we or they have full agency to choose to leave. This agency is part of being a self-sufficient adult in a consenting partnership.

7. “Chemistry is trauma bonding.”

Why I hate it:

This theory was kind of trendy in the dating coaching sphere for a while, and like pretty much everything on this list, it has truth to it, but it needs some nuance. Chemistry is a beautiful thing, and it brings “magic” to the beginning of a relationship; it’s also different from compatibility, and doesn’t correspond to two people having enough in common to sustain a long-lasting partnership.

“Chemistry,” is, in part, our emotional patterning recognizing other emotional patterning that can be complementary and usually triggers some of our emotional “baggage” from our pasts. That said, “triggering” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” - the combustion when the two patterns collide can present an invitation for expansion and for healing.

8. “Sexual compatibility should be a dealbreaker.”

Why I hate it:

Sexual compatibility is complex - two partners can enter a relationship with a high degree of sexual chemistry and/or compatible preferences, or they can enter with more or less of these things, and choose to learn more about and adapt their sexual connection over time. Sexual compatibility is not static - it can change, grow, adapt, and atrophy over time, depending on how the partners own desires/preferences/circumstances change, and how open the partners are to putting in effort to transform their connection into something mutually beneficial. There are partnerships whose sexual relationship isn’t able to get to a place that’s mutually satisfying over time - but overall, a couple’s sex life, like their relationship, is more like a quilt that's pieced together over time as a mutual project than a duvet cover that arrives ready-made from the beginning.

9. “The best relationships are ones where both partners are independent.”

Why I hate it:

Nope. Dependency is actually a natural part of human relationships - fulfilling needs, sharing our lives, and being emotionally affected by our partners are all completely normal and healthy. Depending on our partners to fulfil all of our emotional needs and surrendering responsibility for ourselves is less so.

10. “If my partner is threatened by my independence, they are jealous and something is wrong.”

Why I hate it:

No. Jealousy is a normal human emotion, and insecurities are part of the human experience. Some people tend to feel jealousy more that others - in these cases, it can be helpful to reassure our partner who is feeling jealous. They are still primarily responsible for managing their emotions, but being empathetic and considerate is also our job as partners who care. Jealousy is also an excellent opportunity for us to practice that healing within partnership stuff I mentioned before.


Before I go, a disclaimer - in this post, I've pointed out where self-help truisms may fail to capture the completeness and the complexity of real-life human relationships. In some, I point out where things that may feel triggering can be an invitation to go deeper into our expansion and our growth.

That said, I do want to point out that the topics I've covered here (like most topics involving human behaviour) are very nuanced - and that it takes practice and experimentation to know when and how to explore our triggers safely. To be clear - I am not advocating that you read this blog and then enter into or stay in an abusive situation in an attempt to “heal your triggers.” Don’t do that - go to therapy instead.

As usual - please try to read for what’s helpful to you, and to leave the rest.

That’s all. Lots of love. Bye.


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