The Only Relationship Advice You Need is Something You Already Know.
Originally published in Medium, April 22, 2020.
So far as I can tell, the internet in 2020 can be roughly divided into the following four categories:
COVID-19 related click-bait— 46.5%
Cute animal videos — 36.5%
Relationship advice — 13.5%
Meaningful national news and world affairs — 3.5%
OK, so maybe my stats are a little off, but I think it’s fairly sound.
Whether it’s 13.5% (my made-up figure), 1.35%, or whatever, a big chunk of the internet consists of relationship advice. So much of our precious time is spent consulting the world’s foremost relationship expert — Dr. Google — on why the people in our lives, or the people who we want to be in our lives, do the things they do.
Your experience may be different, but from what I’ve seen internet relationship advice usually falls into one of two categories:
There’s what I call “digital witchcraft.” Stuff like: “how long do I wait before answering back a text”; “how do I match someone’s energy”; how to, how to, how to…
Basically all “digital witcraft” does is is continue to play the soul-sucking, spirit-breaking, toxic, 21st century dating game of “how do I pretend to care less about someone than they care about me?” Ain’t nobody got time for that.
On the other hand, a lot of relationship advice is just “self-help” guidance in disguise: be more confident; get in shape; have hobbies; etc. All great stuff you 100% should be doing, but the implication is that by following a path to self-improvement and/or self-enlightenment a great significant other, friend, or even spouse — your soul mate — is just going to fall from the sky into your lap.
Maybe it’ll happen. Maybe it won’t. But self-improvement should be its own reward, not a means to an end. It’s certainly not a guarantee you’ll meet the right person (or people) for you.
All of this advice assumes you are fundamentally “broken” in some way. There’s something wrong with you that needs to be fixed and then, voila, your perfect girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend will just appear! There’s more than a hint of shallow dishonesty to the whole affair, not just from the people peddling the advice, but from those of us who follow it. Are we really being ourselves by living like this — or are we crafting an idealized version of ourselves? How long can we keep up the charade before going insane?
I’d rather not find out.
For a good relationship, the right relationship, there’s only one piece of advice that matters.
Here’s the thing — it’s something you already know:
People who want to be with you will try to be with you.
If someone wants to be with you, they will try be with you. That’s all you need to know. No need for endless “how to?” articles. No need for pricey gym memberships when you hate lifting weights.
Just you making your peace with something you already know.
Think about you and your best buddy from 3rd Grade. Did you two strategically time your communication so that neither one of you came across as too interested? No, you said: “Hey Mike, want to come over and play Super Smash Bros.?” You didn’t play mind games. You played real games!
Call me naive, but adult relationships shouldn’t be any different.
No, I’m not suggesting you invite a date back to your place to play Super Smash Bros. (though I’ve known guys that’s worked for). I’m suggesting you get back to that mentality of a 10-year old. You did what you wanted to do with people you wanted to do it with and didn’t care what it said about you. Why should adult relationships be any different?
So how does this work in practical terms? Simple: stop chasing people.
Chasing people who don’t want you to catch them breaks your heart, your spirit, and makes you miserable. You eventually get bitter, broken and despondent, and unwilling to play a “game” you think you’re going to lose. But this isn’t a game anyway; it’s life. Yours, and you only have one.
Stop wasting your most precious resources — your mind and your time — taking relationship advice from complete strangers about “how to get this person to like me.” The next time you find yourself staring at an unanswered text and wondering: “Why doesn’t he/she like me?” ask yourself instead “Why do I care?”
Is it because you actually enjoy being with them? Is it because you have a good time in their company? Or is it because you enjoy the validation of their attention (which they’re not giving you anyway)? You’re not in love, you’re an addict and their attention is the drug. You’re better than that and you deserve better too.
Save your energy — and space in your life — for people who want to be there. Do things you want to do, with or without people who want to do it with you. If you find yourself paging Dr. Google, remind yourself you already know the most important relationship advice there is…
People who want to be with me will work to be with me.
If not, their loss. You can spend your time looking for somebody better. Or playing Super Smash Bros. and watching cute animal videos. That’s always acceptable too.