One thing about being a part of the Dating Advice Industry is that you inevitably check out other people’s advice. Sometimes it’s a case of just seeing what’s in the cultural zeitgeist – a way of putting your finger on the pulse of society by seeing not only what people are concerned about but also how people are reacting to it. Other times, it’s just a case of armchair quarterbacking; after all, isn’t part of the fun of reading certain people’s dating advice columns raging about just how wrong they are? After all, what’s the point of constantly reading “Dear Slut-Shaming” if it’s not to boggle at the way they turn everything into a tut-tuting over other people’s Slutty McFucksALot bad-behavior?
But as much as we may enjoy the occasional outrage-of-the-moment, there are certain types of dating advice that are just hands down wrong… that people keep giving anyway. Dating advice like…
5) Just Be Yourself
“Just be yourself” is possibly one of the most common responses to questions about how to get somebody to like you. And it’s easily one of the worst.
Now in fairness, it’s usually well-intentioned advice. What people usually mean when they say “just be yourself” is that you shouldn’t try to be somebody you’re not just to impress a woman. After all, watching someone trying to fake a persona – especially one that’s diametrically opposed to their real self – is a special level of awkward discomfort. After all: women aren’t stupid. They’ll spot the bullshit no matter how many pre-scripted lines you’ve culled from The Game in hopes of convincing them that you’re somebody who dates models on the regular.
The problem however, is that “just be yourself” is inherently bad advice. Being authentic is one thing – that’s something we all should be doing. But “just be yourself” is about not changing, period. And sometimes, quite frankly, being yourself is the problem. It doesn’t do you any good to “just be yourself” if you suck. Being told to be yourself means refusing to change, even when your current self is what’s holding you back. I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve known whose “bad luck” with women boiled down to something about themselves – something that was well within their abililty to fix.When I’d point out their issue: a shitty attitude towards women, an unrealistic expectation of relationships or just plain being a selfish asshole – they’d come back with “well, women should love me for who I am. I’m not going to change just to please people.” Then with their very next breath1 they’re back to wondering why women don’t like them.
Sometimes you are the common denominator in your dating problems. Your identity – your sense of self – shouldn’t change whenever the winds blow and become whatever fashion tells you it should be. But at the same time, refusing to change because you should “just be yourself” becomes a way of excusing yourself from taking any responsibility for your personal growth and the need to improve.
If there’s one concept I would love to systematically eliminate from pick-up, one of the toxic beliefs that taints what could be an otherwise valuable resource… well that’d be the concept of “last minute resistance.” But if I were able to eliminate two, then I’d also choose to wipe out “negging” from the collective lexicon.
Negging is one of the hold-overs in the PUA handbook that seems to survive every iteration of pick-up, from its origins with Mystery to “direct game” to “pure alpha” to “cocky-funny” to every other variation of pick-up artistry that comes to mind. The basic idea behind “negging” is that women – especially beautiful women – are used to men fawning all over them and showering them with compliments. Complimenting a woman or doing nice things for her makes you an average frustrated chump, one of the many other orbiters who’s revolving around her, never getting a chance to come in contact with her heavenly body. Therefore – so the theory goes – the best way to counteract that is to not compliment her. In fact, it’s better to give a subtle put-down or a left-handed compliment. This way, you’re standing out from the herd. You’re showing her you’re not intimidated by her – in fact, by being willing to make jokes at her expense, you’re showing that you’re regularly in contact with much hotter women and aren’t going to be desperately begging for her approval!
Other pick-up schools treat negging as a way to handle women who are otherwise unresponsive – to bring down their “bitch shields” as it were – by proving that you don’t need them. Presumably, by insulting them you’re showing that you’re actually of a higher social status than they are and thus triggering their self-esteem issues that will make them crave your approval instead.
In reality however, what you’re doing is looking like an asshole – and one who thinks that the only way to get somebody to sleep with you is to prey upon their insecurities. All negging2 does is tell the person you’re talking to that you’ve spent way too much time on pick-up forums and not nearly enough out in the real world actually trying to connect with people. Strange as it may sound, people appreciate sincere compliments. Crazy, I know. In fact, validating somebody is one of the best ways to get them to like you – after all, we instinctively like people who make us feel good, and telling somebody why they’re awesome is one of the easiest ways to do that.
3) No Sex Before…
Ah the old “No Sex Before…” stand-by. In an age of hook-up apps like Grindr and Tindr and Craigslist casual encounters ads, you’d think that the “don’t have sex before this arbitrary deadline” would be one of the dinosaurs of dating advice – people remember the days when that used to be the standard, but now everyone acknowledges that things are different.
Not so. In fact, the arbitrary sex deadline is hanging on there in all its myriad forms. The most common is “no sex before the third date”, but other variations include Millionaire Matchmaker (the only show on TV that makes me actively angry whenever I watch it at the gym…) host Patty Stanger’s inane “No sex before monogamy” rule, Steve Harvey’s equally nuts “make him wait 90” rule or the ever popular (and almost universally ignored) “no sex before marriage”.
This old chestnut gets trotted out over and over again as the cure-all for relationship woes. Hold out for sex until X because otherwise he won’t respect you/ you weed out the users/ God has a sad. By implication, all the Slutty McSluttersons who decide to say “The hell with it” and go to town on one another before the blessed day are dooming themselves to misery and enticing only people who will never respect or honor them.
Here’s the problem with the idea of “no sex before X” advice: it’s the old “women are the gatekeepers of sex/ men are the gatekeepers of commitment” sexual marketplace bullshit. After all – so the “wisdom” goes – a man has no reason to commit if a woman gives it up too easily.
Honestly, it’s mindblowing how insulting this is to both women and men. First, it turns sex and commitment into mere currency; sex is being held up as a “reward” or “payment”, while commitment isn’t about actually wanting a relationship but the price one pays in exchange for sex. Worse, not only does it assume that men are incapable of wanting a relationship with a woman unless they’re tricked into it, but that the only thing women have of value is access to their vagoo. Men will never stick around unless they’re forced to over-invest, so you’ve got to drag out the payout for as long as possible until they can’t possibly say no to a relationship. Meanwhile, women don’t get horny or enjoy sex and couldn’t possibly want to just get down and bone for its own sake.
Seriously. How does this assumption not make people incandescent with rage?
Obviously: people should have sex when both parties feel like they’re good and ready – and that’s going to vary from person to person. But let’s not pretend that giving an artificial barrier will somehow magically make things better or make a commitment averse person more likely to give in. Waiting three dates isn’t going to magically scare off the people who are only looking for sex – if they’re especially determined to sleep with someone, they’ll just bang other people while they wait. No sex before monogamy isn’t any more likely to make someone stay or keep your feelings from being hurt and making them wait three months isn’t going to make him any more committed than he would be otherwise. If anything, it’s going to chase people away who don’t want to play games.
Sex and sexual compatibility is an incredibly important part of relationships – and in fact, is a core component to solidifying an emotional commitment. Orgasms increase the production of oxytocin and dopamine, hormones that encourage emotional bonding between individuals; having regular sex is a way of strengthening a relationship rather than weakening it.
There will always be users and assholes. There will always be hurt feelings and bad relationships. That’s part of the price of dating, and nothing can eliminate these. Pretending that putting up an artificial barrier to sex is a magical cure-all isn’t just naive, it’s actively insulting to everyone involved.
2) Artificial Deadlines
Related to the “No Sex Before…” rule are the many, many artificial deadline rules that permeate dating advice.
You have the infamous Three Days rule popularized by Swingers, wherein you never call somebody until three days after you get their number and the follow-up where you wait as long to reply as the other person took to respond.
Other examples include the idea that if you don’t cross a particular relationship milestone by X date, then clearly things aren’t serious and you should dump them, or to wait a month for every year you were married to start dating after you were divorced. Never talk about sensitive topics like money or politics before date 3. Have the Defining The Relationship talk before date 7.
Honestly, the examples are numerous… and they’re almost always bad.3
The problem with these deadlines is that they assume that humanity is a monolith and establish this bizzare idea that relationships all follow the exact same path regardless of where you are in life, your goals or general experiences. When my wife and I had been dating for a year, one of her well-meaning friends told her that she needed to dump me. Why? Because it’d been a year and I hadn’t proposed yet and clearly this relationship was never going to go anywhere. Never mind that neither of us wanted to get married at that moment – this is just how relationships work and clearly my not producing a ring was a sign of my lack of commitment.
Look, I get it. Dating is chaotic and frustrating and occasionally goddamn scary. Having deadlines and milestones is a way of giving the illusion of control. It helps to feel like you’ve got some sort of road-map or FAQ that helpfully points out where you are and what you should do next… but that’s just not how relationships work. There are far too many cultural, social and individual influences that come into play to assume that there’s any one path to a relationship.
It’s not inherently a bad thing to have deadlines – someone may want to have children before a certain age and is pursuing their relationships with that in mind – but if you’re going to have them, they should be personal to you and your situation, not because you think that every relationship has to follow those rules or else clearly you’re just asking for heart-ache.
1) “The One Who Cares Less Holds The Power.”
Ah, the need to be “in control”. This perfect crystalline nugget of cynicism forms the cornerstone of bad dating advice from The Rules to Pick-Up artists, “men’s interests” blogs, dating advice sub-reddits and more mopey Internet listicles than I can count. The Rules tells women to never go on more than two dates a week and to never pick up the phone when he calls. Dating “gurus” will give you the Three Day Rule to avoid looking “too interested”. Faking a lack of interest is a key to many PUA techniques because a “high-status man” has more chicks than he can handle so he has to be very careful about adding one more to his harem. Other dating experts will tell you that the key to keeping a woman’s interest (or a man’s, for that matter) is to never show interest or give too much of yourself away because women (and men) need a “challenge” or “mystery” and if it’s too easy then who really cares?
“Nobody wants to be the more interested party,” that advice goes. “Always hold back so that you’re the one who’s in control.” Because that’s what relationships are all about: being the one who’s holding the reins.
This is the sort of advice that encourages people to play head games. The idea of playing “hard to get” is supposed to be appealing because hey, who doesn’t love a challenge? And yes, we do instinctively want things that are denied to us – a challenge can be fun and attractive. But people playing games in order to keep somebody’s interest is the exact opposite of appealing – it telegraphs a complete lack of respect for the other people who are pursuing a relationship in good faith.
The whole point of a relationship is to connect with someone; when you’re more concerned about who “has the power” then not only are you making it harder for people to actually connect with you but you’re proving that you’re the last person that they should be in a relationship with. Playing head games should be your number-one filter that separates people from “in your dating pool” to “under no circumstances”. And if you need to be playing power games in order to keep somebody’s interest… well, that says a lot about what you have to offer, doesn’t it?
The other problem is that when these games do work, they prevent you from forming a genuine relationship with somebody. Going into a relationship based on withholding a part of yourself is a great way to get stuck in a relationship you never should have gotten into in the first place. It’s far better to find someone who’s on the same page as you are – whether it’s looking for sex, for a short-term casual relationship or something long-term and committed – than trying to manipulate them into being more interested than they would be naturally.
Jerking people around by trying to establish who’s less interested and less emotionally invested betrays a complete lack of respect for the person you’re supposedly interested in. It’s about manipulating someone and being less than honest with them – which is intimacy poison.
“The One Who’s Less Interested Has the Power” is the ultimate of head-games as dating advice.
And the only way to win is not to play.
- And usually as I’m about to say something about foolish consistency [↩]
- Side note: there’s a difference between “negging” and the more teasing form of flirting that I use and advocate. To start with: it’s meant to be fun for both parties. Teasing is a way of saying something that sounds mean but in reality says “I like you”; you sub-communicate your real meaning through positive and friendly body language. It invites a response – preferably one where the other person zings you right back – and communicates a sense of play rather than “I am better than you, therefore you must seek my approval.” [↩]
- Unless I gave them. For I am all-wise. [↩]