Relationships can be hard in normal times, but even more so right now, when many couples are cooped up together at home. When we find ourselves at odds with our partners, we often seek out the advice of friends and family. But not all of their warnings and so-called “wise words” should be heeded. Even some of the most frequently mentioned recommendations could potentially do more harm than good. To help you determine what to take to heart and what to toss out of your mind, these are the bad dating and marriage tips relationship pros say to avoid. And if you’re looking for some marriage tips that have stood the test of time, here are The 50 Best Marriage Tips From Couples Who’ve Been Married for 50 Years.
There is no such thing as a perfect person or a perfect partner. “Every single person you will meet is going to have flaws,” says James Anderson, dating expert at Beyond Ages. “If you accept this fact, you may find that one of the people who you thought was ‘not so perfect’ is actually pretty great for you.”
Most of the time, playing hard to get just guarantees that both of you are going to end up alone. “The dating world is competitive and few people have the time to constantly pursue someone who is not demonstrating any interest,” says Anderson. “Stop playing these silly games and show a little interest back. You will be giving yourself many more opportunities with people you otherwise might have missed out on.”
Having a life partner who loves everything you love might sound great, but there’s often more than meets the eye in these partnerships. “Someone who needs to feel connected to another human being in order to survive will adapt their likes and dislikes to you,” says Megan Hunter, co-founder of the High Conflict Institute in California and Arizona.
She warns that if you’ve “suddenly found a partner who also loves horses, worships your favorite sports team, has the same type of friends, and loves the same movies,” then they’re probably just a little bit codependent. So, proceed with caution if it seems too good to be true. And if you’re worried you’re headed in a bad direction, take note of the 17 Relationship Trouble Signs You Should Never Ignore.
Waiting for someone else to make the first move will often leave you just, well, waiting. “It is incredible how many times both people wait for the other to make the first move or demonstrate interest first,” Anderson says. “It can take a little courage to make the first move, but you will be shocked by how this will improve your dating life regardless of your gender. Fortune favors the bold in love more than any other endeavor.”
“This is the motto of every person you have ever met that draws drama to them like a magnet, but can’t for the life of them figure out why,” Anderson says. “Instead of trying to rationalize your bad behavior, spend that time actually improving yourself and your life to the point where your worst is worth dealing with.” And for signs you’re in serious trouble, learn the 17 Subtle Signs of Divorce Most People Don’t See Coming.
Everyone wants to feel the rush of attraction and love, but sometimes, you can’t trust those butterflies in your stomach.
“The brain plays interesting tricks on us, sending love glitter through our brain and body, which then convinces us that this person is ‘the one,'” Hunter says. “Some of the brightest high-intensity sparks happen with people with personality disorders who can later be harmful to us. Strong chemistry isn’t always a warning sign, but it’s a signal to take your time and proceed with caution.”
The idea that everyone has one person that is meant for them is surely romantic—but in the end, that idea may cause more problems than anything else.
“How many times have you heard people say they’ve found their soulmate? Wait a few years and you may witness them finding another soulmate after the first one disappeared,” Hunter says. “We can love more than one person in life and while we do have deeper, stronger connections with some more than others, the belief that we have soulmates can be a skewed predictor of future relationship success… or failure.”
It’s actually better to take some time to chill out before discussing something you’re feeling worked up about, according to Eric Hunt, a marriage and relationship coach based in South Carolina.
“When things get heated, we tend to say things we don’t always mean. Sleeping on it can give you that needed time to cool off, and in most cases, whatever it was will not seem as big by morning,” he says.
Of course it’s true that people change over time—but only if it’s self-motivated. “Don’t ever go into a long-term relationship, especially marriage, thinking you are going to change them,” Hunt advises. “While relationships grow and evolve, there are some personality traits and ways that will never change.” And for marriage tips you should actually listen to, check out the 50 Best Marriage Tips of All Time.
Forgiving and forgetting do not have to go hand in hand. In fact, it’s best to separate the two, according to Monte Drenner, a licensed mental health counselor in Florida.
“Forgiveness is absolutely crucial to having a healthy relationship, but forgetting is not necessary,” he says. “I have worked with many couples that made forgiving each other way more difficult than it already is because of the forgetting clause in the statement. ‘Forgive and let go’ is better advice.”
While it does take time to get over being hurt, even hours, days, months, and years cannot necessarily guarantee that you will be fine. “If time heals wounds, then why are there grumpy old people?” asks Drenner. “Making healthy decisions to treat the wounds heals them, not time.”
If your relationship is already on the rocks, having a child will not make those problems suddenly go away. “While issues may be masked by the excitement of a baby, they will resurface—and when they do, [they] will be amplified,” Hunt warns.
Focusing on your children isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but “it sets the couple up for a great deal of difficulty throughout the relationship and especially once they become empty nesters,” says Drenner. “The relationship needs to be the priority, not the children. If the relationship is strong, the children will prosper. Putting the children first often leads to resentment in the relationship and entitled children.”
Very few couples have a seamless move-in experience, so if you follow this advice, you might assume that these hiccups along the way mean your relationship is doomed. But that’s far from true.
“Healthy, happy couples don’t start out compatible,” explains marriage educator Patty Newbold. “They build their relationship skills dealing with the small differences so that they’re ready for the big ones that come along later. Create a lifestyle and a home you’re both compatible with, and do it together, so you’re ready for whatever illnesses, losses, disabilities, career changes, lapses in character, and childrearing challenges might come up later.” And for some relationship advice during lockdown, check out 17 Quarantine Marriage Tips from Relationship Experts.
We understand the goal of splitting household and emotional “duties” evenly in a relationship or marriage. But getting too far into the nitty gritty of ensuring everything is equal can actually cause more trouble than it’s worth.
“Whether it’s the emotional work of a relationship or those awful chores, no couple can split them fairly,” Newbold says. “And there’s no reason to. People in love give generously, not because they’re told to, but because it feels good … So stop focusing on who does what. Why? Less resentment, more gratitude, more happiness, more spontaneous affection.”
According to Newbold, making concessions works well for nations or political parties, but not for couples. “It’s like saying, ‘I’m willing to accept some disappointment and pain as long as the person I love most in this world suffers, too,'” she says. Instead, you should be looking for “third alternatives.”
“That’s when you each let go of your first idea and look together for a third option that makes both of you at least as happy as your first one made you,” she says. “You get to give your partner in life the moon and the stars without becoming a doormat, and in the process of laying out the requirements for your third alternative, you learn so much about each other.”
Of course, if there’s something you need, you should definitely let your life partner know. However, “this in no way obligates your partner to do something about your needs, not even if you keep communicating your need over and over and over,” says Newbold.
“You may find you get a whole lot more if, instead of ‘I need this’ or ‘You should do this,’ you ask for help. ‘I’m dying to go see Europe, and I know you don’t like to fly. Can you help me think of another travel companion and a good time to schedule a trip?’ Or ‘I really need to talk over this decision with someone. Will you be available for an hour or so in the next two days, either to talk with me or to stay home with the kids while I go have lunch with a friend?'”
Sure, there are relationships with age gaps that work out beautifully, but experts say couples closer in age tend to be happier. “Age matters less as you get older—that’s true. But dating someone close to your age has huge benefits,” says dating and lifestyle expert Anna Wood. “You’ll have the same cultural references, interests, and grow into new life stages (including seniorhood) at the same time.”
First dates can be nerve-wracking, but don’t be afraid to trust first impressions. “Dating is time-consuming and sometimes exhausting, so use the time to meet someone new instead,” says Wood.
There’s a simple alternative to this outdated dating advice. “Whoever asked for the date should pay,” Wood explains. “The other person should always offer to pay—or split! It’s a nice gesture that goes a long way.”
“There’s this belief that one person—traditionally, the one who earns more—should always pay for every date,” says certified financial coach Emily Shutt. “Once you’re in a more committed relationship, it’s a good idea to start talking about how you want to use your money as a team, and expecting one person to pay for the dates every time usually doesn’t make sense, no matter how much more money they make.”
Instead, she recommends talking about a “date budget,” plus how you might fund it together. “It doesn’t sound romantic, but blow-ups over long-term money frustrations are even less romantic,” Shutt says.
According to Shutt, this is a common piece of advice given to women who don’t work outside of the home. “They feel controlled, restricted, and guilty when it comes to doing anything with money, because their partner is the sole source of income for the family,” she says. “Believing that you shouldn’t—or don’t deserve to—spend any money if you’re not the primary earner is ridiculous and outdated.”
Yes, it’s definitely a good idea to have an emergency stash of money in case the worst case scenario happens, but keeping all of your funds separate could be a mistake.
“When you’re first dating or in a newer relationship, of course keep your bank accounts separate,” Shutt says. “Once you’re married or in a committed long-term relationship, however, I find couples are most successful when they can combine forces and have real conversations about how they’re using their money as a team. Having separate accounts that the other person isn’t allowed to touch—or worse, doesn’t even know about—is just a way of avoiding the difficult conversations about trust, respect, and boundaries in the relationship. Eventually, that issue will manifest in another way.”
The number of women still being advised to keep their success under wraps while dating is surprisingly high, says Natasha D. Oates, a relationship coach and licensed therapist in North Carolina. However, some guys are just better suited for household roles.
“Many men are much better at cooking and cleaning than their mates,” Oates says. “Today’s couples find that flexibility with gender roles is helpful, and that the most important factor is that the couple is working as a team.”
It’s not unusual for friends and family to caution someone not to bank on a particular relationship working out. However, this advice is pretty problematic for those couples who are serious.
“This usually encourages couples to prepare for the end of the relationship in some subtle way,” says Oates. “All it really does is point to the insecurities and trust issues in the relationship. Who can really make a happy home with one foot in and one foot toward the exit?”
You may think a lack of disagreements means everything is great, but that might not actually be the case. “The truth is that if couples don’t have disagreements, they’re likely not expressing important ideas or needs,” Oates explains. “It’s important to have discussions about your relationship needs and concerns. No two people have the same needs and goals, so it’s normal for disagreements to occur. When couples remain silent or agreeable with important needs and issues, they can easily begin to resent the relationship, because their needs and viewpoints aren’t considered.” If you’re struggling with your relationship while stuck at home, check out 15 Ways You’re Causing Relationship Problems in Quarantine.
Effort shouldn’t stop once a wedding ring’s involved, says Michelle Afont, relationship expert and author of The Dang Factor: A No-Nonsense Lesson on Life and Love. “Getting too comfortable and taking your partner for granted is when the problems and resentment begin to mount in the marriage,” says Afont. “It is important to stay true to the person your partner married: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.”
“They might. And then again, they might not,” Afont says. No one can predict what another person will do. If you do decide to stay in a relationship despite the fact that marriage isn’t happening as quickly as you’d like, she warns that “you need to be able to live with the consequences if you give away too many years of your life to a relationship that does not move forward.”
Practice makes perfect, and perfecting your communication skills is paramount. However, just because you know the steps to “perfect communication” doesn’t mean you’re always going to go without problems.
“Couples can definitely learn and practice good communication skills, especially when they feel close, secure, and generally happy in the relationship,” says Irina Baechle, a relationship therapist based out of North Carolina. “However, research shows that these skills do not work when couples are in distress and arguing … We are creatures of habit, so we quickly lapse back into our old negative patterns when things go south.”
“The truth is, falling in love is merely a nature trick pulling humans into marriage to reproduce,” Baechle says. “The trick always goes away because ‘falling in love’ is temporary. However, it does not mean that we stop loving the other person; it’s just the ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience that goes away. And that’s usually when the real love starts to begin.”
Seeking out someone completely different from you in every meaningful way is a recipe for disaster. “You must have some common interests and values,” says Lisa Helfend Meyer, founding partner of Los Angeles-based family law firm Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers. “If you don’t, there is no glue to bind the relationship.”
Of course, it would be impossible to find a partner who is literally your exact equal in every way, but it’s important to consider that whomever you end up with is a worthy partner.
“Communication and respect is what it is all about,” Meyer says. “If you don’t feel like you can communicate and respect each other on a level playing field, then what’s the point?”
This is pretty much never the case, according to Meyer. Marriage is life-changing, sure, but it doesn’t change who you are as a person. If your partner was a workaholic before you got married, chances are they’re still going to be one post-wedding.
Money should never be a reason to stay. “Most relationships fall apart over lack of communication and issues involving finances,” Meyer says. “Just because someone is wealthy doesn’t mean that she or he has the other qualities that you are looking for.”
Though it’s important not to get too hung up on the past when you’re in a relationship, there are some serious topics that are still worth discussing.
“You should share health issues, or issues that may affect having children, or debilitating illnesses that can impair your ability to do certain activities,” psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina tells Bustle. “Also, your partner is entitled to know if old financial problems are liable to haunt your relationship.”
When it comes to past relationships, many people are ashamed to admit the true number of people they’ve slept with because they’re worried their new partner will judge them or leave them. But honesty in this situation is always the best policy.
“Any relationship that is set to last is built on two fundamental things—trust and respect. I think that comes with sharing as much about you as you possibly can, inclusive of sexual history,” dating expert Sarah Ryan tells HuffPost. “If you are in a relationship with someone that you want to run the distance then why hold back on previous partners and experiences? Holding back on things in life actually takes more energy than sharing and letting it go.” And for more things you shouldn’t fib about, check out the 60 Hilarious White Lies Everyone in a Relationship Tells.
While many people take this advice from friends and family and never look back, others live to regret it, says psychotherapist Toni Coleman, LCSW. “There are many factors that can contribute to infidelity and set a climate where it is more likely to flourish,” she says. “Before walking away and giving up everything you have together, get counseling, figure out what wasn’t working and why. Examine the reasons for seeking something from a person outside the relationship rather than your spouse.”
“Only you can decide if a relationship works for you,” points out psychotherapist Linda Miles.
It’s natural for people who know and love you to assume you are the victim, but it’s possible that you’re contributing to the strife in your relationship just as much as your partner is. “Friends and family do not see your part in a destructive relationship dance,” Miles points out. “Look at the part you play in negativity and then decide what behavior you will settle for in a partner.”
It might sound romantic in a melodramatic way, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Love should make you feel better, not worse,” Miles says.
Sure, it’s romantic to think that the love of your life might suddenly appear in front of you at a coffee shop or lock eyes with you as they hold open a door, but this ideal can actually be problematic.
“Love isn’t just some magical feeling that happens randomly,” health and wellness expert Caleb Backe tells Bustle. “It’s built on dedication, connection, and effort. Likewise, people don’t just fall in love after a certain period of time. That’s why love doesn’t come when you least expect it; in truth, it’s the product of a shared existence and commitment to similar values.”
Some people assume that if you date someone who doesn’t look as conventionally attractive as you are or who is not as successful, that person will treat you better. But, according to Elite Daily’s Paul Hudson, dating down just leaves more room for future trouble.
“Many, if not most, relationships reach a point at which one or both individuals begin to nitpick and find reasons they should not be with this person,” Hudson writes. “The more unequal the relationship feels to those within it, the more unlikely it is to last.”
Yes, there is truth to the fact that you shouldn’t be fighting with your partner every single day, but to imagine that any relationship will be “easy” is a harmful mindset to have.
“[Relationships] shouldn’t be relentlessly difficult, at least not on a permanent basis,” Linda and Charlie Bloom, authors of Secrets of Great Marriages, write in an essay for Psychology Today. “The bad news is that some degree of effort and agony is inevitable in most relationships. The good news is that it doesn’t have to last forever; it is generally a temporary, not permanent condition.”
Biting your tongue around your significant other whenever you disagree with them is definitely not healthy. So, instead of staying quiet, change the way you fight.
“All couples fight,” licensed relationship counselor Rebecca Nichols tells PsychCentral. “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.”
Your friends and family typically mean well when they say this, but sometimes their advice can actually be less helpful and more hurtful. When they tell you that you can do better than your current partner, it can leave you feeling anxious and unsupported—especially if you see yourself spending the rest of your life with your current significant other.
“Your friends and family aren’t obligated to like your boyfriend, but they should support you and be able to interact,” Canadian dating coach Chantal Heide writes. “You need to make it absolutely clear that respect is of the utmost importance.”
“Often times, it comes down to the fact that a friend just wouldn’t choose a romantic partner like yours for themselves and they are simply projecting their own feelings onto you,” therapist Miriam Kirmayer tells The Zoe Report. So, instead of taking their remarks at face value, Kirmayer recommends figuring out exactly where your friend’s disapproval stems from and going from there.
If you feel that you have to read your partner’s messages (or have a right to), that actually “says more about you than your partner,” psychologist Mary Lamia tells Health.
“If you have to ask to see your partner’s texts or email, you have crossed a line,” she says. “Take a serious look at your own insecurities or admit to yourself that you are with someone you do not trust.”
A little jealousy here and there doesn’t hurt, but if your partner has a habit of turning green-eyed, it may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
“Jealousy can turn into abusive behaviors,” relationship counselor Ammanda Major tells Cosmopolitan. “Take someone feeling jealous and then preventing you from seeing family and friends, or feeling jealous if you go and have a coffee with a work colleague. Those sorts of behaviors can become extreme and lead to abusive situations.”
When you have a loving partner and a healthy relationship, many friends and family will advise you to put it on lock with a wedding—even if that’s not what’s best for you.
“There’s an expression: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” says psychologist Paulette Sherman, author of Dating from the Inside Out. “Some people feel that if their relationship is happy and works, they don’t need to complicate it with legal repercussions and a ceremony that validates their relationship from the outside.”
Despite popular belief, getting married early is not always the best idea, according to relationship expert Diann Valentine. “In fact, I encourage my clients to wait as long as they can before jumping the broom,” she says. “Who you are in your 20s is not who you’ll be in your 30s or 40s, so spend time getting to know yourself before jumping into a marriage that was designed to last forever.” And for more relationship turn-offs, check out Almost Half of Americans Won’t Date Someone Who Does This.