The Worst Relationship Advice You Can Possibly Give Your Single Friends

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From one girl in a long term relationship to another, it can be tough to give out unbiased advice.

“Twelve years?! You've been together twelve whole years? What's your secret?” is something my boyfriend and I have heard a lot lately.

Whenever people ask me how long I've been with my boyfriend, I have to brace myself for their enthusiastic shock. But what is my secret? I don't have one, my partner doesn't have one.

Sometimes it's a rhetorical question and sometimes I sense people are serious when they ask, but how can you answer such a question without writing an entire book on it? Not that I can really answer it anyway. I have no idea why my boyfriend hasn't gotten sick of me yet, we just... work.


That being said, I have tried to answer it over the years and answered it badly. I've also been the person who gave her friend awful black-and-white advice when they were facing obstacles in their relationships.

I've flippantly given them the worst relationship advice by telling them, “He's not worth it, block and delete him NOW” when their partners make mistakes, and it has never garnered good results. I've been the friend who has said careless things like, “But if they really loved you they'd do this for you. My boyfriend does it for me!” and not understood why my friend suddenly went quiet.

It's so easy to be that friend, and, of course, we mean well, but if you really want to help your single and honeymoon-period friends, then let me give you some advice that took me over a decade to finally learn.

1. Validate first, then find solutions later.

There's nothing more infuriating than when you're upset or angry, and a friend refuses to let you vent about it. Bombarding someone with what to do next or reasons why they shouldn't be upset do not help. While it's great to offer your friends solutions to their problems, you really need to wait until they have everything out of their system, until they've grieved over the issue.

Think about it: your friend comes to you one evening and complains that her partner isn't listening to them, then to have you not listen will isolate them even further. If your friend hasn't outright asked you to offer advice, then don't assume they're looking for a crash course in interpersonal relationships. They're looking for support, for comfort and understanding.

Related: 38 Quotes From Celebrities Who Know How To Make Love Last

After the grieving process is over, whether it's after a breakup or a simple argument with their partner, then you can lay the groundwork for hard solutions. But hey, if your friend calls you at 2 AM in tears, it's not likely they want you to tell them what to do; they more likely want you to tell them they're going to be okay.

Not everyone is an ambitious, extroverted, fearless go-getter who needs to solve their problems as soon as they occur. If you are this kind of person, let it go for a while and just be there for them. Be that shoulder to cry on and validate their emotions.

2. Understand that just because it worked for you doesn't mean it'll work for your friend.

Maybe you (you ambitious, extroverted, fearless go-getter, you!) can easily walk up to a stranger in a bar and ask for their number, or maybe you can easily sort out problems with your partner by talking it out in one single session. But do not force these strategies on your friend.

You may have wildly different personality types, or your choice in partners may be as similar as chalk and cheese. So there's a chance you both need completely different solutions to similar problems.

The attitude of thinking that all solutions work the same for everyone is a toxic one. Maybe you and your own partner sorted out your problems by taking a long vacation together, maybe you diminished feelings of resentment by seeing other people for a month, or maybe the issues went away on their own. These solutions depend entirely on who you are as a person, and don't often translate to other people in quite the same way.

Even your wallets and schedules can determine how well these solutions work; not everyone can afford a couples retreat, not everyone has the free time to fit counseling into their packed week, not everyone has the mental stability to take a break from their partner. So just because something isn't working for your friend, it doesn't mean they aren't trying hard enough or that their partner isn't accepting it. So when you offer an exercise or solution, don't assume it'll automatically work.

I met my boyfriend in high school. We were practically pushed together by our best friends at the time, and we easily made contact over the late and great MSN, but does this work for everyone? No, and most of you reading this are probably way past the high school stage anyway.

Those 12 years are critical to how we handle our arguments, and how we handle big life decisions like moving apartment or paying taxes, but for couples who have only been together for a short time, these decisions and arguments will come in completely different forms. Think about how much you truly know your friend and use what you know about them to personalize your advice for them alone.

3. Don't look at their relationship through a vacuum.

You have the privilege of being an outsider to the pain that your friend is feeling. You may feel pain on behalf of your friend, but you aren't the one being cheated on, being alone, being ignored, being criticized, or being used, so your advice is automatically biased.

Related: Why Ditching Your BFFs For A Guy Is A Huge Mistake

“Just talk to them about it” was a phrase I said to my friends a lot when I was in my early twenties, which is the worst relationship advice. But what does that phrase even mean? Okay, talking about your problems is good advice, but it's a very flippant phrase to offer your friend during an advice session. There's a high chance that a) they already have talked to their partner about it or b) they instead need advice on how to talk about it with them.

Let's do a little exercise: think about a problem you're having right now, any problem that relates to another non-romantically involved person — a boss, employer, father, sister, anyone. If I told you right now, “Just talk to them,” does that change anything? Does it really help the specific issue? I doubt it.

Saying this is like saying “Fix the problem!” — it's vague and unoriginal. In this case, saying you don't know how to help is better than giving a blanket answer that means nothing.

You and our own partner already have your own ways of talking something through, but new couples probably don't yet, so do not assume your friend is not communicating with their partner just because your "talk about it" is rejected.

4. Keep neurodivergance in mind.

Again, what works for you may not work for someone who has mental health issues. As someone with anxiety and depression, it's not that easy for me to take an argument in my stride; I take arguments so harshly and seriously you'd think someone was dying.

Certain mental health symptoms aren't pretty, and I know this because I experience a hell of a lot of them. You can't always expect your friend's partner to be calm and logical if they have an anxiety disorder, a mood disorder, or a psychotic disorder. Without knowledge of their condition they may appear "unhinged" or "melodramatic" but making assumptions about this is damaging.

Maybe your friend's partner acts cold because they have a major depressive disorder, maybe it has nothing to do with how much your friend's partner cares for them. This is an issue that the couple needs to deal with internally, maybe with a doctor's help.

Mental health also affects the relationships of single folk. Social anxiety is a huge factor in how likely someone is to find a partner, so saying “Just go to a bar and meet someone!” is just as bad as saying “Just talk about it!” because it's not that easy. Heck, I don't think it's even that easy for neurotypical people to just go outside and meet someone, never mind someone who is a) possibly afraid to leave their home and b) may freeze up upon speaking to a stranger.

Related: Do NOT Date Your Guy Friend Until You Honestly Answer These 3 Q's

Similarly, with apps and sites like Tinder and eHarmony, it's not that easy to just put yourself out there. “What if they're secretly a murderer?” is a paranoid feeling many anxious and psychotic folk will experience, as paranoia is a huge symptom of most disorders. Telling your friend “Just make yourself available. It's easy once you get into it” gaslights their fears, and will make them feel worse about feeling alone. Just be sensitive.

All in all, you have to keep in mind that you don't know the full story of what your friends are going through. You don't know how anxious they feel about meeting someone new, you don't know why their partner has done what they've done, and you don't know how your advice will help them. So be tactful, honest, caring, and just be there for them regardless of your own personal attitudes to their chosen partner(s).

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Stephanie Watson is a freelance journalist, specializing in social justice, wellness, and pop culture. She is the editor-in-chief of feminist website Fembot Magazine, creator of the zine Cyberrriot, and has contributed to such online publications as HelloGiggles, Bitch Media, Bustle, and many more. Follow her on Twitter @Stephie__Watson.

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