When I picked up Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love back in February, I sort of wished I had found this book, or something similar, about 15 years earlier. Or I wish older people, and society in general, had advised us better when we were kids, especially when in relation to things of a romantic nature. Naturally, as we grow up, we make mistakes. Some of us, more so than others. However, sometimes it’s necessary for us to make these mistakes in order to learn. So knowing when to take advice and when to just go ahead, do your thing and risk making an epic mistake, is tough, especially when it comes to human relationships.
Earlier this week I got into a bit of debate with one of our loyal readers, BklynBoy59 who wrote an excellent post for us titled 5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Love at 20. The centre of our disagreement was around whether if a person is ever told not to date someone (who to everyone except themselves is clearly a suitable match) would they listen. Obviously, it would depend on a number of factors, but if the person were anything like me, they’d probably not listen. Being told that I can’t or shouldn’t do something makes me more determine to do just that. That said, there is a lot of general advice/facts/information that I believe would be useful to impart to younger/less worldly-wise people. But how do we differentiate. As I said it’s a bit of grey when it comes to matters of the heart but here are a few things I think are worth considering.
Assess The Source
Never more so than when it comes to a person’s love life will you find that literally everyone and their dog will want to offer their ‘expert opinion’ It’s important to sift through some of the noise and figure out what bits of advice, if anything, holds some value.
Firstly, look at who its coming from and what their intentions are. I’m sure a lot of your friends and family mean well and simply don’t want to see you hurt. It’s easy to figure out who these people are because they are the ones who aren’t afraid to dish out a bit of tough love. Also they are likely to have been the people who have been their to pick up the pieces when you’ve royally screwed up in the past. And chances are regardless of what path you decide to follow, they’ll be there to hold your hand if/when the sh*t hits the fan. But there are also many people out there who are unsatisfied with their own lives and will attempt to stop you from living yours under the guise of ‘good advise’. Be careful, these are the ones that are afraid to see you grow because they fear being left behind.
And What Exactly They Are Saying
As I mentioned, telling a someone not to date whoever it is they are dating at the time is a little bit pointless. Because by the time outside parties, whether it be friends or family are being exposed, there are probably already some serious feelings in the mix. I suppose its a case of different strokes for different folks though. For instance, as much as I’d like my folks to get on with a significant other, if they don’t its not really going to stop me. However, there are other people who still crave their parents approval, and that’s OK too. For instance, if you are all about family first and know your olds will tell you not to date a godless chick with purple hair that dances around burning incense then it makes sense to preempt WW3 and cut your losses sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, you are being given more general advice about patterns of behavior or just things aren’t specifically targeted at you or any particular relationship, it might be easier to take on board.
Regardless, Their Story Is Not Your Story
Next, I think its important to ask yourself whether the person is ‘qualified’ to give relationship advice. No, I don’t expect everyone to be a professional relationship counselor or have a PhD in #sex studies, but I do at least expect people giving such advice to speak from experience. As in I don’t plan on taking sex advice from a virgin or dating advice from 39 year old who has never been kissed.
That said, each person’s experience is unique. And it is important to bear in mind that their story isn’t your story. For example, I was recently talking about a big shot banker wanker that I was vibing with when someone piped up and told me that I needed to be careful because from her experience these guys always had more than one woman on the go. From what I’d heard on the grapevine, the adviser in question had been brutally betrayed by someone in the same industry. Fair doos, but I don’t think its right to tarnish a whole profession (or race, religion or social group) because of one rotten egg.
So yep, I’d say whoever you take advice from should certainly have at least some experience about the matter at hand but also be aware that what they say will also be shaped by their particular experiences which are likely to be very different to your own.
And In The End, Everyone Makes Mistakes and It’s OK…
Whether you decide to listen to everyone’s advice and then discard the lot. Or choose particular elements that resonate with you and dwell on those when deciding on your next move. Or even wholeheartedly take what people around you say as gospel. Remember there are no guarantees especially when it comes to human relationships. People tend to be unpredictable and even your own perspectives might change somewhere down the line. So be as a sensible as you can but also don’t bear yourself up if things do go pear-shaped. By the same token, don’t lay blame on people who may have given you well-meaning but ultimately bad advice. Likewise, when the I-Told-You-So Brigade turn up, as they inevitably will, please tell them to do one! Because we are all human and we all make mistakes.
…As Long As You Learn From Them
We’ve established that mistakes are inevitable. But when it comes to relationships, I always feel that the only failed relationships are the one’s you fail to pursue. I’ve been around the block to know that broken hearts do eventually mend themselves, but regrets and ‘what if’s’ will haunt you for much longer.
Each ‘failed’ relationship will leave you with some fond memories as well as some useful lessons. Perhaps you’ll become aware of a new deal breaker, you didn’t previously think was important. Or maybe you’ll learn something about yourself and how to conduct yourself better in relationships. So when the dust settles try to do some analysis and dig deep to figure out the lesson because there is always one in even the most messiest of episodes.
But If History Keeps Repeating Itself It Might Be Time To Change Your Approach
However, if you find yourself experiencing a strange sense of deja vu then maybe it’s time to go back and reassess the advice people may have given you in the past. For instance, if you keep having your delicate little heart trodden on by bad boys, maybe it’s time to steer clear. If that’s too hard perhaps just need to change your approach. So back in the days, each time one of these lotharios would kick me to the curb I’d question my self-worth and cry myself to sleep for nights on end. But in my old age, I now see them for what they are. While these guys are still a lot of fun, I tell myself not to get too attached because they aren’t #happilyeverafter material. So when they start to act up and things don’t go my way, I no longer take offence and it’s much easier to move along.
So to ties things up. I still stand by what I said. While there are certainly lots of things I wish I’d know before I started navigating the treacherous world of dating, I think when it comes to actual relationships themselves I wouldn’t have avoided them entirely (imagine all the bedroom acrobatics one would have missed out on 🙂 ). Of course, knowing what I know now, I may have changed they way I handled things though. As for taking advice, while people generally mean well I don’t think everyone is necessarily in a position to dish it out. Therefore, you just need to be smart about who you decide to listen to, remember when it comes to matters of the heart there probably isn’t a right way to do things and finally learn to own your own mistakes in order to get over them.
Rinsers, share your views! What sort of advice are you willing to listen to and from whom? In the past have you taken advice from those who are supposedly older and wiser than you or do you tend to just do your own thing? What about the view that ‘coaches don’t play’ – as in can those with no experience give relationship advice ? Finally, what sort of things do you wish you’d known before venturing out into the world in search of #happilyeverafter (or a little casual fling – whatever floats your boat). Lets talk.