There’s tons and tons of dating advice on the internet. A lot of it is contradictory and a lot of it won’t work for you, because it wasn’t tailored to your unique situation. Authors may project their own experiences onto other people, falsely expecting that their advice will apply. And this blog is not immune!
That’s why it’s important to only use advice that works for you, rather than blindly using advice that may backfire in your particular situation.
Let me give you some examples, some of which – I apologize – involve stereotypes:
- Dating market effects: You have a platonic female acquaintance in her early 20s who is very physically attractive. She does nothing with her life but is constantly approached by men for her looks alone, and is very mean to them. Note, however, that it would be a bad idea for you to stay unemployed, be mean, and expect the same level of attention.
- Employment: You have a friend who is a doctor that is highly sought after as a partner. He tells you that the solution to your dating woes is to get an MD degree, but you have no interest in medicine. Or alternatively, he attributes his dating success to the clever jokes he cracks on dates, whereas in reality, people are attracted to his social status but they absolutely hate his jokes.
- Social skills: You feel overwhelmed in complex social situations – such as dating – due to past traumatic experiences with familial, platonic, and/or romantic relationships. You see a YouTube video of someone using a socially daring approach to getting a woman’s phone number. If you attempt to imitate this, you run the risk of crumbling in a way that will damage your self-esteem. You are better off working on your social skills.
- Religion & beliefs: You believe in traditional family values, but you have a friend who encourages you to “just get laid”. Conversely, you are very liberal and a friend invites you to meet people to date at their very conservative church.
- The Pick-Up Artist: You have a friend who does not respect women and goes to bars saying magic lines that manipulate women into short-term relationships. However, you are only interested in serious long-term relationships based on respect and common values.
- Presentation: You grew up in a family that values academic achievements, but not physical appearance. You have a clearly decaying and black front tooth. You go on a date with a regular American, get rejected, and then incorrectly conclude that the problem is that you don’t have a Masters degree. In this case, you need to either make your appearance appeal to a more mainstream audience, or you have to restrict yourself to dating people who share your world view. Note: This is loosely based on a true story from my life – the person I was on a date with seemed oblivious to their decaying tooth.
- Arranged marriage: You grew up in a culture where arranged marriages are the norm. However, your family moved to the United States recently and your parents do not have an established social network from which to select a spouse for you.
- Luck: Your friend Marshall met his wife Lily at college. Because of pure luck, they instantly clicked, and eventually got married. Marshall has never dated anyone else in his life. Marshall tells you that you don’t need to actively date because “if it’s gonna happen, it will happen”. However, doing nothing and waiting purely for chance is not a good dating strategy.
- Interactions with the opposite sex: You went to same-sex schools your entire life or you were home-schooled.
Some of these examples may have seemed extreme and some of them only describe single digit percentages of the American population – but those percentages describe millions of people in the United States. It is important to realize that your life experiences may be drastically different to a lot of other people. However, you can take comfort in the fact that there are probably millions of people in similar situations to you.
Life experiences are drawn from one’s family, friends, school, and/or church. These experiences result in the development of automatic thoughts and behaviors that have a profound effect in the present day. Such habits may have been perfectly functional at the time, but may be considered unusual by whichever demographic you are attempting to date now.
The question then is how to recognize which habits are helping your dating life, and which ones are holding you back. I propose 3 ways to determine this:
- Talk to a close friend: This friend should ideally have very similar life experiences to you, be successful at dating, and can give you honest advice.
- Talk to a counselor: Counselors have seen almost all variations in human behavior and more importantly, are objective. They may be able to tell you what you are doing wrong very quickly. If you are in college, they may offer counseling sessions to you for free. Also, by “counselor”, I mean social worker or psychologist. In contrast, a psychiatrist is not going to give you any dating advice because they are a merely a doctor that prescribes drugs.
- Online dating: You can test your dating approach on a large sample size that should be easily obtainable through online dating. After each date, analyze carefully what went well and what didn’t go so well, adjusting accordingly. Note that unlike the first two approaches, it is very difficult to be objective and you may dismiss something you are doing wrong as “perfectly reasonable”. You can partially address this by doing reality testing – if you aren’t getting many first or second dates, you are almost certainly doing something wrong regardless of what you believe is “perfectly reasonable”.
Until next time my friends, keep dating!