Former Therapist Reveals The Terrible Relationship Advice That Keeps Circulating

When everyone's an expert, bad advice festers.

Relationship Advice to Ignore for Happier, Healthier Relationships JLco - Julia Amaral | Canva

The thing about the Internet is it can make everyone seem like an expert. Whether they have an education, lived experience, or some combination of both, we don’t always question if the advice we’re getting is sound. It can be tempting to believe what we want and discard the rest.

It’s the equivalent of calling the friend we know will give us the advice we want rather than calling the one capable of giving us the advice we need. It’s confirmation bias, plain and simple. But it doesn’t help us build healthier relationships. 


I’d rather have the hard truth than a pretty lie. I can cope with the facts. What I can’t cope with is uncertainty and half-truths. I’ve had too many relationships that left me wondering when reassurance is such an easy thing to do when we love someone.

I thought about writing another relationship article where I talked about the relational skills that I’ve built to maintain healthier relationships, but then I stopped. Maybe what’s needed isn’t another essay on self-improvement and relationship skills. Maybe what is needed is some clear direction on what advice is simply bad advice.


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Here are 5 pieces of relationship advice to ignore for happier, healthier relationships:

1. The masculine-feminine polarity

Any relational advice that focuses on masculine and feminine polarity is simply bad. It relies on an outdated social construct that is both cis-gendered and heteronormative. In other words, society created the ideas of masculine and feminine, and these ideas are limiting. They push the idea that we are biologically more one than the other when the concepts themselves are completely made up.

A quick dip into the pool of this advice will mention things like needing strong masculine energy in a man for a woman to be able to be soft and nurturing in her feminine. It’s a bunch of pretty words strung together that reinforce outdated gender norms. He should be an alpha male, and she should be a traditional wife. Yet, clearly, this doesn’t describe healthy relationships. It simply describes conservatively traditional ones.

We don’t need more people “in their masculine” or “in their feminine.” We need authenticity. Honesty. Connection. Intimacy. Transparency. Consistency. None of that is gender-specific nor does it require standard gender norms or a male-female relationship. All it requires is that we show up as ourselves and form stronger relationships without the need for society’s outdated labels. Anything rooted in a double standard and inequality is simply bad advice.


2. Testing a partner

I’m not a fan of standardized testing, so it comes as no surprise that I also despise testing a partner in a relationship. It’s unhealthy and immature. We shouldn’t be setting up our partners to pass or fail, and we shouldn’t try to trick them into either result.

Yet, it’s common to see relationship advice that advocates testing a partner in one way or another. Text anxiety is real, and no one wants to feel like their whole relationship is built on passing certain criteria to make it to the next, hopefully, safer level. It certainly doesn’t build intimacy in relationships.

Sometimes, tests are clear-cut. Jokingly asking a partner if they’d love us if we were a worm is so un-serious that it’s not a Pass/Fail situation. But some tests will make or break a relationship. There’s a big difference between having conversations that might uncover incompatibility and putting a person’s feelings or actions on trial in the relationship. Trying to make someone jealous or challenging them to put us first when they have other commitments can be a way to set up a Pass/Fail situation that could undermine the relationship.


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3. Withholding

One of the most toxic relationship habits involves withholding — whether that’s our emotions, our physical presence, or other forms of intimacy. It shouldn’t be used as a way to punish someone. There’s a huge difference between needing space or time and communicating about that and giving someone the cold shoulder or silent treatment as a way to hurt them or let them know they’ve hurt us. Withholding is never good advice, and it’s damaging to relationships.

As a person who’s been on both sides of withholding, I can speak to how ineffectual it is to create safe, healthy relationships. In some cases, a communication breakdown can result from damages over time, and withholding might seem like a natural byproduct of an unhealthy union. It’s better to leave the relationship than stay in one that’s had a catastrophic breakdown in intimacy without an effort from both partners to repair it. In other cases, withholding can be a habit we’ve formed due to past trauma. We might not realize how much it’s hurting our relationships, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is destroying them. 

Often, we learn withholding behaviors from observing couples as we develop. We learn it in those immature, early relationships. We discover that it’s possible to weaponize our silence and cause unease in someone else. None of that sounds healthy because none of it is. It simply creates more barriers to intimacy and a greater need for relationship repair work.


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4. Blame > Personal responsibility

This one goes out to all the “your ex is a narcissist” posts that exist on social media. Any relational advice that encourages us to find someone to blame is not good advice. While one or both parties may have a fault in relationships, particularly where infidelity is concerned, it’s not healthy to call one person the problem and refuse to look any further than that. (Clearly, this is not relevant to abusive relationships where identifying the abuse can be necessary to the healing process.)

It’s a painful truth that we choose our relationships, and sometimes, we make poor choices. We might claim not to have seen the red flags when the truth is that we willingly ignored them. Advice that encourages us to shift all the blame to the other person and ignore our responsibility doesn’t help us grow as individuals. It just keeps us repeating our toxic patterns.

Personal responsibility is so much more powerful than blame. If we can identify how we made poor choices, we can change our patterns. I could easily list everything past partners did wrong, but how does that help me? It’s more productive to identify what we can do better. It’ll help us learn from our mistakes and build healthier relationships in the future. That shift away from blame can change our lives.

@dannymorel If Your Partner Keeps Blaming You, Here’s What It Actually Means 🙏🏼 (The Higher Self, Ep. 132) #emotionalintelligence #relationshipadvice ♬ original sound - Danny Morel

5. Commitment > Everything

Anyone who encourages us to stay in a toxic relationship doesn’t care about our well-being. Some relationships can be saved, but they can never be saved because only one person did all the work. Each person in the relationship bears a responsibility in nurturing and protecting it.

People who encourage commitment over everything else are often willing to ignore abuse, toxicity, infidelity, and other harmful behaviors. It’s not a failure to quit at something that is no longer working. It’s a sign of a successful, well-adjusted person to acknowledge when a relationship has reached an irreparable point.

Being committed is great — unless the commitment becomes unhealthy. Then, we need to be able to either repair the relationship or leave it. It’s not okay to just exist in toxicity forever and normalize that experience. 


It’s not difficult to stumble across bad relationship advice disguised as really good relationship advice because it’s what we already do or what we want to believe. It might feel good in the short term, but it chips away at healthy foundations and erodes a sense of safety and intimacy in relationships. There are ways to tell if the relationship advice is good or bad, however. 

We can ask ourselves the following:

  1. Does the advice given encourage openness and vulnerability?
  2. Does the advice create more equity in the relationship?
  3. Does the advice build a sense of safety and intimacy with a partner?
  4. Does the advice encourage authenticity paired with honesty?
  5. Does the advice create fractures in the relationship or assist with repairs?
  6. Does the advice honor the health and well-being of both partners?

Relationship advice is everywhere. A lot of it is great advice that can truly strengthen our relationships. Advice like that will teach us how to be vulnerable and how to better connect with others. It will help us be kinder, more compassionate human beings.


But bad advice is everywhere, too. It has a “me first” mentality that thrives on chaos, drama, and angst. It encourages blame and revenge, and it’s not big on promoting accountability. It’s immature, and it breaks down relationships. And it can be convincing when it’s what we want to believe anyway.

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist and the author of the 'Heart of Madison' series. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, Elephant Journal, and Mamamia.