In the world of advice, there's good advice, there's okay advice, and there's bad advice. What nobody told you was that there's a special class of advice that defines a new bottom for all types of advice - the World's Worst Advice! This piece presents some of the wackiest, insane-est, not-a-clue-est, WTF-est pieces of relationship advice that belong in a deep dark well somewhere in a Siberian wasteland - and filled to the brim with hard, unbreakable, undefrostable ice. And not a grain of salt within a hundred miles of it.
Let's begin with something silly that nearly everyone in the world has probably already seen...
#1: "Girls Love Gum!"
In this doozie, Friends' "expert on all things women", Joey Tribbiani, played by Matt LeBlanc, offers a sage piece of gum... err, advice... to his friend Ross, played by David Schwimmer.
"Do you ah, want to get her something special, get her flowers, get her candy, get her gum, girls love gum."
We can only wonder what was going on in Joey's mind when he said that. But then, that's something he himself often did, too! Our hats off to a brilliant actor. How you doin'?
#2: "Get married early (in your 20s) and you'll live a long and happy life"
While this might sound like it's coming from a good place, it's really not. It's coming from a place of uncertainty and, more often than not, of regret on the part of the giver of the advice.
True, there are some benefits to getting married early on in your life. Tax benefits, for instance. The "marriage bonus" can be seen in this table here:
But you don't get married for taxes!! You get married so you can build a life together that's more than a sum of its parts, if that's what you want. You get married so you can create and leave a legacy, if that's what you want. You get married because of love, if that's what you found! But you don't get married early just because it makes good sense. It absolutely does not.
Getting married when you're older actually has many more advantages. In fact, one clear advantage of waiting (but not too long) is that there's a better chance of you making it work:
Between the ages of 25 to about 35 seems about right to get married, statistically speaking. Of course, it's just statistics, not the law. Generally, however, experts have found that marriages tend to last when the partners are between those ages when they get hitched.
#3: "(S)He gets jealous and possessive because (s)he loves you"
A little bit of the green eye every now and then might be a good thing, but if it starts to overflow into emotions like doubt, mistrust, suspicion, and so on, that's not a healthy thing at all. Experts say that jealousy can turn into psychologically abusive behavior. Before you know it, you become the target of hurtful taunts in the name of humor, your phone is checked when you're in the shower, and worse. Much worse.
Jealousy is never a good emotion. Between couples, it's a sign that enough trust hasn't been built yet. Work on that and you're likely to solve this issue once and for all. But never take signs of jealousy lightly - even feigned jealousy or mock jealousy is only harmless if it is, in fact, that.
If someone gave you this advice, tell them off. They have no clue what they're talking about.
#4: "Your friends will give you the best relationship advice. Trust them."
No, absolutely not. Your friends are projecting their own thoughts about how they would handle a relationship. They're not experts. Well, that's unless you're friends with some of the leading folks in the world of relationship advice. If some of your friends are Scott & Emily McKay, Claire Brummell , Dr. Lara and Johnny Fernandez, Dr. Ali Benazir, Dr. Tammi Baliszews, and so on, by all means, listen to your friends. They're actual experts with thousands of couples who trust them with their secrets.
If not, then just take what your friends say at face value and digest it at leisure from your own perspective, and that of your partner. To be honest, the best relationship expert for any couple is them! They know each other's ins and outs, nuances and idiosyncrasies, moods and emotions, etc. All they have to do is sit and talk about it, and most problems - and their solutions - will surface if this is done in an honest, zero-ego manner.
#5: "Just avoid the topic"
This one is right up there with "girls love gum"! No, you cannot avoid the issue if it's affecting either one of you. It's not healthy and it will only end up causing emotions to be bottled up until they're ready to explode. This is one of the unhealthiest things a couple with problems can do.
Every couple fights, even if you don't see it in public. Some agree never to fight in public or in front of the kids. But in the privacy of their bedrooms, couples fight. Why? Because when you're at close quarters with someone for that long, your differences are as glaringly visible as your similarities. What's worse is that you've already started taking your similariites for granted, which highlights the differences to an even greater degree. The result: conflict, fighting, arguments, snide remarks, etc.
Experts advise that it is better to change the way you fight rather than to avoid disagreeing with each other:
"All couples fight. The difference is that healthy couples fight with respect. [They] use disagreements to understand each other better and make changes to ensure the health of the relationship.
It is more painful and uncomfortable confronting the issue head-on, but you're likely to find a resolution that much quicker. Or at least a way forward. And if you 'respectfully disagree', the interchange takes on a more civil tone.
#6: "Always Date Down"
Have you heard this one? It's a devious one because it can slip through to your subconscious mind without your knowledge. Dating down essentially means you consider the other person to be your inferior. The apparent logic is that someone 'less desirable' than you will tend to treat you with a lot more respect than someone who's 'up' from you.
That argument couldn't be more flawed if it tried. The premise itself is so wrong because it forces you to judge another person by their outer characteristics.
Moreover, this approach will lead to a myriad problems down the road because you've already (in your mind) identified what makes you different from that person. Isn't that the source of most relationship conflicts - your differences? So why go there in the beginning and get into something you know will inevitably hurt one or both of you later on?
Paul Hudson of Elite Daily says it well:
"The more unequal the relationship feels to those within it, the more unlikely it is to last."
This is also true of friendships. Unless you feel like equals on some level, it's not going to last very long. There can certainly be differences, and there will. But the basis of the relationship cannot be that you're "better" than they are.
And that's the gaping hole in this seemingly innocuous piece of maladvice.
#7: "Forgive and forget"
This piece of advice has never worked in the history of itself. Humans have long memories, and when those memories are tied in with our emotions, we almost never forget.
Most couples are willing to forgive their partner for transgressions, even devastating ones that could have otherwise torn their relationship apart, such as infidelity. It's the 'forget' part that they have trouble with. When these two actions are coupled, they're at a loss. One thinks it's resolved because they assume that the 'forgotten' comes with the 'forgiven', while the other struggles with the 'forgetting' even though they've gone through the 'forgiving.'
The result is that the partner who's been hurt will bring up the topic in an entirely unexpected situation, maybe months or even years later, and the one who transgressed will be confused because they've already forgotten about it!
One expert in the field of mental health says that a better version of this advice is to "forgive and let go."
That makes so much more sense because letting go rather than forgetting is what forgiveness is all about. In fact, never forgetting your transgression is part of what brings the forgiveness. William Paul Young, author of the bestselling novel that inspired the namesake movie, The Shack, puts it very aptly:
"Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat......Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.........Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.........Forgiveness does not excuse anything.........You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness......"
One part stands out in particular: "should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation"
It is not a straightforward process of Confess/Discover/Confront --> Forgive --> Forget --> Get On With Life. Absolutely not. Rather, it is an ongoing process of the giver of the forgiveness accepting, and the receiver regreting and repenting for their transgression. Eventually, reconciliation will come and the process of forgiveness will be complete on both sides of the relationship. However, in no way does forgetting play a part in any of this.
Forgetting simply means sweeping it under the rug, where it will fester and turn into an ugly creature that will inevitably reveal itself at an opportune moment.
The only thing you need to forget is this piece of advice, which people love to give away like free samples!
#8: "Don't go to bed angry"
Really? Well, what if you start an argument 5 minutes before bedtime? The problem with advice like this is that people are genuinely convinced that it works. But what does it even mean?
The real advice behind this is that you shouldn't end the day on an angry note. But even that doesn't quite make sense because not every issue can be resolved in one sitting. Sometimes, sleeping on it makes it easier to handle.
The problem with setting a time frame for resolving disputes or disagreements is that we tend to say things we don't mean. In the heat of the moment, it's often better to stay silent, and going to sleep gives you the time to 'cool off' before picking up the topic again the next morning. It gives you ample time to think about the issue in a calm and rational manner, and who knows, it might even become a non-issue by morning. But even if it doesn't, you'll have at least had the time to think things over without your emotions clouding your judgment.
That's not to say that this is an entirely worthless piece of advice, but perhaps it could be worded a little better: "If it's possible to resolve the issue before you go to sleep, don't go to bed angry about it." This precludes situations where:
- you've been drinking,
- you're both really tired,
- you're really worked up about the issue,
- you need time to think through your feelings,
- you have an early morning the next day,
- the matter requires a mediator, or
- you don't even remember what the argument was about.
In these seven types of situation, says Kelsey Borresen in a HuffPost article from a few years ago, it's probably better to go to bed angry, sleep on it, and pick it up in the morning or later the following day when you're mentally more prepared to deal with the situation.
#9: "Play hard to get, it'll make them want you more"
This is one of the dumbest pieces of advice to ever fall out of the sky. You're trying to build a relationship, not go fishing! Whoever thought this up likely had a sadistic streak in them, as does whoever propagates this silly notion.
Not responding to their texts until the next day, sending their calls to voicemail, not calling back after that first date... these are all signs of immaturity on your part. And if someone is encouraging you to do all this to make yourself 'more appealing', you need to get some new friends.
Showing interest in someone is not a weakness. Another piece of advice related to this is to "let them make the first move." Equally mindless drivel. If this is not like fishing, it's not like chess, either. You're not calculating moves to achieve a win. You're in a fluid human interaction, with 'action' being the operative word.
Taking action and showing that you care about someone increases the chances of the relationship succeeding. And that's what both of you want, isn't it? Holding back just makes it harder to move forward, if that makes sense.
Playing hard to get is about having the upper hand and being in control. Believe it or not, the advice is as old as Socrates, who, in the 4th century BC, answered the beautiful Theodote's question about how to make men want her more (emphasis ours):
Theodote: “And how can I make them hunger for my fare?”
Socrates: “Why, in the first place, you must not offer it to them when they have had enough, nor prompt them until they have thrown off the surfeit and are beginning to want more; then, when they feel the want, you must prompt them by behaving as a model of propriety, by a show of reluctance to yield, and by holding back until they are as keen as can be; for then the same gifts are much more to the recipient than when they are offered before they are desired.”
Taken in context, playing hard to get can be a very effective tool for the one being desired. But remember that you're playing a dangerous psychological game that can very well backfire on you. Besides, if you genuinely like someone, why would you play hard to get?
#10: "Having a child will save your marriage"
This one's really twisted because it assumes that having a child automatically solves all your relationship problems. But there are several negative sides to this if you think about it.
First of all, having a child will only distract you from the problem and allow it to fester into a cancerous growth that will sooner or later rear its ugly head. The baby will merely serve to bring temporary excitement into your lives, and when they resurface, they will be amplified, says marriage and relationship coach Eric Hunt.
Second, you may be involving the child in your problems when they grow older, often using them as innocent and unwitting weapons to direct insults at your better half or put them down. This further exacerbates the issue because it is an unhealthy way of being nonconfrontational.
Third, when the hostilities resume, the child might think it's their fault, which is a common problem in households where the couple don't get along. Children often bear this burden silently, and it may lead to developmental issues and problems later on in life. Their own relationships might be affected as they grow older because they have very poor and unstable reference points to go by.
Fourth, the man might feel neglected, further worsening the issue. Dads take a longer time to bond with their newborns than moms, which is natural. But that bonding between mother and child may cause resentment and jealousy in the father. And you have even less time to talk about things so they tend to go from bad to worse over the first few months of having the baby.
Having a child may seem like a good solution to relationship problems but is actually one that is fraught with problems - some that are merely deferred to a later time and others that crop up in between.
The real reason why this piece of advice is bad is because communication is often the best way to solve a problem, and having a baby reduces the frequency and duration of communication between the parents.