Love advice I wish would die
When it comes to romance, sometimes the best thing to do is… whatever the hell you want.
Until I reached the age of 34, I valiantly tried to follow the relationship and dating ‘rules’ I learnt from magazine articles, romantic comedies and my married friends. I didn’t message a guy first; I never slept with anyone too soon; I wore bras and underwear that matched. Where did that get me? I dated all the wrong guys and drank all the wine with all the gay best friends, while I constantly beat myself up for failing in love.
It was only after I started ignoring everyone else’s suggestions that I did fall in love (with a guy so not my type who lives 5 000km away) during a work trip (taboo) after I slept with him on the first date (double taboo; a friend warned me I’d never hear from him again). Three years later, we’re happily married with a baby. I love my love story, and I tell it to show that most relationship advice is for suckers. Listen, I’m no expert on marriage; I’m just a girl who, on the first date, slept with a boy who happened to be awesome. But one thing I do know? Clichéd advice has got to go. Specifically:
“RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD WORK”
Reality check: if a relationship is hard work when you’re dating, when the most important conversations you have are about which film to see and where to have dinner, it’s only going to get harder once life gets real. Right after I got married, I moved across the country to a city where I had absolutely no friends, family or support system. I cried to my husband almost everyday about how alone I felt, even though he was right next to me. Then I received a terrifying health diagnosis – learning that I have a gene for muscular dystrophy, a disease that had just taken my father’s life. If we hadn’t been able to get through the early, calm times with ease, I don’t know how we would have gotten through all of that.
“YOU HAVE TO LOVE YOURSELF FIRST”
Once, when I was single, a married friend told me, “I just don’t think you’re happy; when you are, you’ll attract the perfect person.” Um, no. This advice makes women feel like their own worst enemy – it becomes too easy to think, ‘ Well, maybe I’ll find someone after I work out my body issues,’ or, ‘Mr Right might come when I feel better about my job.’ In my 20s, I thought I couldn’t find the right partner because I hadn’t gotten over my own parent’s horrible marriage – one filled with fighting and tears. I had a lot of therapy, which taught me a lot about my relationship with my parents, but it didn’t do anything for my dating life. Here’s the truth: no one ever has it all figured out. I still hate the way my butt looks in skinny jeans, I’ll never run a marathon and I don’t entirely know what I want to do when I’m a grown-up. None of that makes me any less lovable now.
“NEVER GOT TO BED ANGRY”
You know what makes everything better? Sleep. You know what doesn’t? Fighting until 4am.
“YOUR PARTNER SHOULD BE YOUR BEST FRIEND”
I’ve heard over 3 400 wedding vows that talk about someone’s partner being their best friend, but holding out until you find someone to be your everything isn’t practical or necessary. Marriage today, for many of us, is about finding someone who complements you rather than completes you. I love my husband, but I go to my friends for a heart-to-heart about my career or after a fight with my mom. And why not? Each month when I was trying to get pregnant and didn’t – and felt horrible about it – I called my friends instead of talking to my husband, who has nothing useful to say about ovulation. Some people are better at helping with certain things than others. That’s just life.
“IF YOU’RE SINGLE, IT’S BECAUSE YOUR STANDARDS ARE TOO HIGH”
It’s not about your high standards. It’s about what’s right for you. Sure, I could have stuck it out with the ‘professional’ Herbalife rep who lived with his mom and tried to feel me up in a restaurant on our first date. (As my aunt said to me at the time, “Isn’t everyone a work in progress?”) But a good partnership is about real connection with a stand-up human. For me, it was worth waiting for a guy who makes life better in a thousand small ways.
“WHEN THE RIGHT PERSON COMES ALONG, YOU’LL JUST KNOW”
My first thought after seeing my husband at a work event was, ‘I can’t believe a grown man would wear Crocs!’ And then, ‘Maybe he should get a haircut.’ I didn’t know anything – in fact, I only spoke to him because there was no Wi-fi at the event. In hindsight, you always think you know, but in the moment, everyone is a little uncertain. So it’s OK if it doesn’t feel like a bolt of lightning just hit you. If you wait to know right away, you might be waiting forever.
The only thing I learnt from all this advice? People will babble on. Ignore them and date like nobody’s watching.