I’ve been with my partner for 13 years. We met when we were both nineteen years old, in person, mildly intoxicated, at a bar. He was a complete stranger to me — he wasn’t a friend of a friend, I hadn’t seen him at school or during extra-curricular events and I hadn’t been exposed to his social media persona. At the time there was no Tinder, no Instagram, and Facebook was barely a thing. We met the old-fashioned, awkward sort of way where one friend pushes the other onto the dance floor.
We went from being strangers to going on one date to declaring our status as boyfriend and girlfriend. It was fast but it felt good, however that doesn’t mean we didn’t have problems.
We fought a lot in the first year, because going from strangers to a committed relationship at such a capricious age was like going from point A to Q — there were many letters that needed to be pronounced in the middle.
We learned about each other, especially about what bothers the other person, we communicated our deal-breakers, and learned how to love each other as well as like each other.
Thirteen years later and our relationship is stronger than ever … and it’s no thanks to these common pieces of advice that float from peoples’ lips whether they’re said in earnest or as a casual comment. These pieces of “advice” have never helped our relationship, they never will, and yet I see them grace the covers of magazines and pop up in random conversations. They don’t make sense to me, and I offer them up with a word of warning to those looking for help starting a relationship or “relationship goals” by which to abide.
1. The first date is everything — “You’ll know immediately if it’s going to work. Don’t waste your time on a second date.”
I’ve been seeing this piece of advice more and more; the concept that dating is exhausting and time consuming, and if there isn’t an immediate connection, it’s a curtain call, bye-bye and on to the next. If I’d based our future on our first date … well, there wouldn’t have been a future at all. First dates are usually awkward, so to dissect every moment, every bout of silence, every reaction and chalk it up to “never again” or “we’re meant to be” is absurd.
(There are of course exceptions to condemning a second date altogether, and those include the obvious reasons like physical or emotional abuse.)
It could be argued that online dating is very different than meeting someone the old-fashioned way (at a party, a store, through a friend, etc). It could also be argued that it’s not different at all since it ultimately leads to a first date and the mentality of going on a first date is the same regardless of the initial interaction. Whether it was a lingering look in the True Crime isle or a swipe to a photograph on your phone, that first attraction was enough to desire a more in-depth chance to get to know them.
The first date killer seems to come from the obsession with the concept of chemistry — if it’s not a cinematic scene of unequivocal yes, yes, YES, then it’s a hard no. Again, if the chemistry isn’t knocking your socks off on the first date, yet you were willing enough to go on the first date, then asking yourself what is different, what has changed, is probably the sanest route that will keep your heart and mind open.
Overall, it’s about being vulnerable and being vulnerable is hard. Being vulnerable is also necessary, and closing yourself off after (or halfway through) the date isn’t going to help you find a relationship or love.
I know from experience that first dates are not a reliable indicator of how the rest of the relationship could be.
With our first date the locations of the night were somewhat boring and unromantic, the conversation was awkward and the nervousness was palpable, which didn’t help. BUT, he was just as handsome as I’d originally thought (which isn’t the noblest of traits of which to admit, but the physical attraction was undeniably there), he was nice (which is a relatively bland description, but true nonetheless), and we were able to joke around (a little bit).
If we were being filmed for a dating show, post-production would’ve added crickets chirping in the background and spun it to seem like a disastrous date, even though it wasn’t. It wasn’t a scene from a rom-com, but that’s okay because it was real. If I’d had the mentality of “one shot, one try, if it’s not instantly perfect, move onto the next,” I wouldn’t be celebrating thirteen years of love.
2. Leave it up to fate — “If you’re meant to be together, you will be.”
This sounds like a lazy cop-out to me. Relationships are work, always, and you either want to do the work or you don’t. It can be as simple as that, even though implementing that realization isn’t simple at all.
This piece of “advice” could also be wrongly used in the beginning of a relationship, like after a first date that was relatively successful only to then fizzle out. Either one, or both, of the daters believed that the universe was going to coddle the fragile, new relationship, magically forcing them together without their actual energy or effort, which couldn’t be further from reality.
Don’t leave it up to fate, leave it up to your feelings.
If your feelings are telling you that you like the person and you want to at least go on a second date, do it.
There seems to be a fear that this level of honesty will come off as creepy or aggressive. If someone reacts negatively to something as simple as “I’d like to see you again,” well, maybe they’re not looking for a relationship. Acting with sincerity always reveals the truth.
Flirting is of course fun and encouraged, but flirting is also coy and cloudy, which could be problematic. If it’s allowing your true feelings to take a backseat to fate or a backseat to nowhere, you need to double check what it is that you want before you miss an opportunity or hurt someone (yourself included).
3. Talk about your relationship with friends, colleagues and family
This is not to say that you should never seek advice, support or a different perspective from people you love and trust. This comes from my experience of watching Sex and the City and thinking how odd it was that the characters, especially Carrie, spoke their true feelings about their relationship to their friends more than to their partners. The scenes would go from Carrie revealing her wants and needs to Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte to a longing silence around Mr. Big. Eventually she’d explode because nothing was getting better or changing in the relationship. Sure, this format might’ve been used for a more interesting story line … but it’s still worrisome. To this day viewers idolize and normalize the characters and the relationships.
Following these four points could be a good guide when you come across a glitch in the relationship:
- Issues and concerns should be talked out, first and foremost, to the other person in the relationship
- Nothing should be swept under the rug. It will seep out and be an even bigger mess than before
- A person’s understanding or perception should never be assumed (i.e. “He knows I was really upset when he didn’t come to my work dinner” … Does he? Did you speak your true feelings? Or did you give him a “look” of disapproval and say nothing?)
- Drama should never be the focus or goal
Talking-it-out can be tedious, especially when emotions run high and reactions aren’t calm. It may start off as yelling-it-out, which is fine as long as it doesn’t turn insulting or off-topic, and as long as the passion mellows and a real conversation can occur.
Communication with your partner is the only solution to a problem, though talking it out shouldn’t be a one-sided conversation or rant.
Talking it out should be filled with:
- Questions (i.e. why didn’t you come to my work dinner? Did you know that it meant a lot to me?)
- Statements about how you feel (i.e. it made me feel like I couldn’t count on you)
- Accountability of actions and reactions (i.e. I didn’t tell you how much it meant to me, but I will next time)
- Sincerity to solve the issue and move on (“talking it out” does not include guilt trips or winners of the argument)
4. Swearing and/or speaking rudely to your partner
Swearing and/or speaking rudely to your partner is obviously not a piece of advice that is recommended, rather a piece of advice that is rarely addressed. I witness it all the time: couples speaking with hate to the person they supposedly love.
I’m a big believer in social etiquette and polite manners — it’s not difficult to not be an asshole — so I’m all for people showing general everyday respect. Of course there are going to be a select few who find the concept too complicated to implement, and you have to simply brush them off and carry on with your day, but there is something particularly jarring to see such rude, disrespectful behavior between couples.
Swearing is meant to be hurtful, yet I often hear couples mumble and spit “f*ck you.” Sure, they may contest that it’s said jokingly, but I am a firm believer in not swearing at your partner ever — yes, that’s right, ever. If harsh language can so easily be used in everyday conversations and situations then imagine the harshness and disrespectful language that could be used in arguments.
My partner and I do not swear at each other, ever — yes, that’s right, ever.
We don’t even tell each other to “shut up.” It’s difficult to do, especially during an argument, but we’ve also never said anything truly unforgivable. This unwritten rule hasn’t kept us from arguing or disagreeing — that’s not the point of it — but it has kept us from crossing a line. When you can’t simply spit out “F*CK OFF,” it forces you to think about what you really want to say instead.
Swearing and speaking rudely can be a form of emotional abuse, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I believe there are two common reactions to this type of negative communication: One is a complete silencing and suffocating of one partner, and two is the defensive backlash in which both partners create a toxic combination of derision and resentment. Neither of these results are healthy nor should they be continued.
No one deserves to be treated like that.
I should’ve mentioned at the beginning that this is just the first few pieces of advice that don’t make sense to me. There’s more to come. Having read this far, you might be thinking “who the hell are you to be giving advice?” The answer to that is: I’m no one. I’m not pretending to be an expert and I’m not sharing new concepts, only those that have helped in my relationship and that go somewhat against the grain. Whether these pieces of anti-advice are new or a mere reminder, I hope they clear any blockages in your heart that are keeping you from the love you deserve.