Should You Be Taking Dating Advice From Your Friends?

Photo: Carina König

One of the most common topics of conversation between many friends is romance. Endless conversations, phone calls, and coffee breaks are spent analyzing the latest fling, date, or text message.

What did the other person mean? Do they like me? Will there be a second date? Is this getting serious?

Hopefully, your friends are there to listen, support, and share advice. It's a great tool for dealing with uncertainty and working through your own feelings, but as a dating coach, I've heard many not-so-happy endings to stories that start with "My friend said..." Your friends probably want to help, it's true. But can they? Are they? Is it even a good idea to listen to them?

Here are three important factors to consider before discussing your love life with your friends:

1. Do your friends know anything about successful dating, or are they just as confused as you are?

Everyone has opinions about relationships, but that doesn't mean they have any real insight. Are your conversations about love just examples of the blind leading the blind?

Do you have a friend who constantly ends up with partners who treat them badly, or a friend who always has their heart broken? What about a friend who never thinks anyone is good enough? How much do you learn from them? if you're struggling in your relationships and you realize your friends don't have the kinds of relationships you want, it might be time to reconsider from whom you take advice. Consider giving more weight to input from friends who have the kind of relationships you hope to have yourself.

2. Does that mean you should only listen to people in successful relationships?

Not quite. People in happy, loving relationships might have come by them through intentional dating and self-awareness, but they may also have what's called "unconscious competence." Yep, it's tricky, but sometimes people in great relationships don't actually know how they got there. If someone in a happy, long-term relationship keeps saying "Just be yourself!" it's likely that they have unconscious competence. Because they aren't highly aware of the factors that led them to the satisfaction they've found, they really feel like just being yourself and letting things happen naturally is all it takes for everyone to find happiness.

But if that hasn't worked for you thus far, it can actually be incredibly frustrating to hear. It's like asking someone who's never smoked a cigarette how to quit smoking. You need to talk to someone who understands your problem if you want them to help you solve it.

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3. Are you keeping in mind that although your friends know you well, they have (probably) never been on a date with you?

Your friends probably assume you're exactly the same on your dates as you are when you hang with them. But are you? Most people, especially those who struggle with dating, behave very differently with their friends than they do on dates. So, while your friends will probably tell you that anyone who doesn't like you isn't worth your time (and that's totally true), they don't know (and maybe you don't either) if you're actually being yourself when you go on a date.

A lot of us who don't have a great track record in the dating world become needy, nervous, and tense on dates. So, your friends may not understand why your dates don't work out. Most of us aren’t even aware of all the ways we change when we're dealing with the fear of being rejected, so how could our friends be? Always take this into account when taking dating advice from friends. They don't know what it's like to date you; they just know what it's like to be your friend.

If you want to create change, you can. Just remember that while friends can be great sounding boards and support systems, making a meaningful shift is often most effectively achieved by reading respected books or working with a coach to make the shift. You wouldn't take fitness advice from a friend who's never worked out a day in their life or from a friend who plays pro sports and can't imagine a day outside the gym, would you? Don't make that mistake in your love life.

So, keep the dialogue going with friends you trust, but know when to take advice with a grain of salt (or several).

Want more insight into your relationship? Find out the five things couples who stay together do every day and the ways your sex life can show you what's wrong in your relationship.

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