Most dating advice on the web is awful. Everyone who’s been in at least one relationship thinks they’re enough of an expert to offer their thoughts, but much of this so-called “insight” is regurgitated by people who have no business offering advice in the first place.
In fact, some of the most popular bits of wisdom will achieve the opposite effect of what you’re going for. Let’s explore the worst of what the Internet has to offer in terms of relationship guidance, so you can avoid being caught in these traps.
Win Affection By Being Horrible
The worst bit of dating advice to explode in popularity over the past decade is more of a mentality than a word of wisdom — specifically speaking, the “red pill” mentality that influences and is influenced by “pick up artist” culture.
If you don’t know what those terms mean, consider yourself lucky.
The red pill approach to relationships takes its name from a scene in The Matrix, where Morpheus presents Neo with two pills: a red one that represents the “painful truth of reality” and a blue one that represents the “blissful ignorance of illusion”.
“Red pillers” preach that all romantic relationships are based on a power struggle, and the only way for men to win is by manipulating women through sexual strategy. For red pillers, this is the bitter “truth” of dating reality.
A lot of misguided advice stems from this way of thinking, but the worst has to be the idea of negging, which is colloquially defined as “the technique of using a light insult wrapped in the package of a complement” in order to “gain and maintain the attention of women”.
Spend just a few minutes in red pill culture and you’ll immediately smell the stench of true misogyny. To them, women are toys and if you can push their buttons in the right order at the right time, they’ll sleep with you. That’s just how the world works according to them.
But what do women think about this? Here’s how some women of /r/AskWomen replied when asked, “How do you react to negging?”
That’s enough proof to declare this tactic as absolutely terrible, isn’t it?
Trick People Into Loving You
On the one hand, people are constantly advising single men and women to “just be yourself” when seeking out a partner. If you think about it, it’s a superficial phrase that ultimately proves unhelpful. If “being yourself” was enough, wouldn’t you be in a relationship by now?
Then again, swinging to the other side of the pendulum is not the way to go. “Fake it until you make it” is advised just as often, but it’s just as superficial. It might work for one night stands and casual flings, but it’s going to backfire big time if you’re looking for something more serious.
When taken to the extreme, you end up wearing a completely different. The goal, according to this advice, is to trick the other person by abandoning your true self and becoming what is most attractive to that person.
Once you’re in, you can slowly reveal your true self — but your true self is not who they fell in love with. As we all know, building a relationship on deception is the perfect recipe for romantic success. (Not.)
What’s truly sad about heeding this advice is that you’re passively admitting that you are so repulsive or undesirable that the only way you’d ever be able to start a relationship with someone is by shelving yourself, and that the only way you could ever initiate contact with someone is by “infiltrating” them.
Play Hard to Get, Make Them Jealous
Playing hard to get is a common dating cliche. Everyone preaches it, and everyone swears by it, but is it actually helpful? Sometimes, sure, but it can also be twisted to encourage behavior that wasn’t intended when the phrase was first uttered.
When you first have interest in somebody, whether male or female, it’s natural to be somewhat apprehensive while you gauge their interest in you. This is when playing hard comes in handy as a way to see if they pursue you even when you aren’t pursuing them.
It does not mean this:
Along similar lines, common wisdom says that you need to make your significant other jealous from time to time in order to keep them on their toes. If you don’t, they’ll grow complacent and start taking you for granted. Keep reminding them that they need to work for your love, this line of thinking says..
Healthy relationships between two confident partners don’t need to rely on ploys like this:
Because that’s what it is: a ploy. A scheme. A trick.
Do you really want to be in a relationship where you constantly need to dangle thinly-veiled threats to keep your partner in line? Do you really want to be in a relationship where your partner does that to you?
When the Going Gets Tough, Break Up
One of the sadder trends in dating is the deterioration of commitment. That’s not to say that serious long-term relationships are a thing of the past, because they aren’t. I’m also not saying that we’ve left some kind of golden age of romance where relationships never ended – of course that’s not true.
However, it can’t be denied that the words “until death do us part” have lost a lot of their impact. In marriages and dating, people giving advice online it seems as if people are way trigger-happy. If your relationship isn’t entirely smooth sailing, you’ll be advised to break it off and find a more compatible partner.
Again, I’m not saying that break-ups and divorce are never an option, but being so ready to jump to this step without first attempting to repair or salvage is the kind of mentality that will follow you from relationship to relationship and sabotage you all along the way.
The problem is that people on the Internet don’t know your situation. Even if you are transparent and honest and share as much as you can, they only know your side and your perspective. You may be blind to certain details that change the entire context of your relationship struggles.
Except in extreme circumstances (e.g. an abusive partner), Internet dating advisors who suggest a break-up or divorce should be ignored. They rarely have enough information to appropriately make that call.
Prevent Pain By Not Caring At All
“How to not give a f**k” is an innocent and well-intentioned piece of advice that often backfires. It’s meant to help people who so dread rejection that they never initiate relationships. In that sense, it can help.
But as always this piece of advice can be taken too far, and it can prove to be highly detrimental — even harmful — when it veers off course.
Let’s return to the pendulum analogy. It’s not healthy to drown in anxiety and fear, but swinging to the opposite end isn’t any better. You can care too much and you can care not at all, but the best balance is right in the middle.
I don’t want to make it sound like every piece of dating advice is bad, but we’d all do well to avoid Internet dating advice from sources that haven’t proven their credibility. They may end up leading you toward a ruined first date, or worse.
The most important takeaway here is that conventional relationship wisdom can hurt rather than help, so always be skeptical of anything you read — even this article!
What’s the worst dating advice you’ve ever heard? We know you’ve heard plenty, so share them with us in the comments below!