I found myself reading relationship advice targeted at straight cis women and men and I struggled not to throw my phone at the wall. Why do people insist on perpetuating crap stereotypes? Play hard to get, if you’re too easy no one will want you. Maybe it’s that I’m not cis and tend to fluctuate between genders or perhaps I’m just not enough of a douche, but this train of advice throws me into a violent rage.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the chase. I love the thrill of a good flirt and not knowing if it’s going to work. Perhaps this is why I find seducing cis men so dull – there isn’t a challenge to it. There’s no emotional investment, and to be honest, the best times tend to come when you’re into the person you’re with. Even if it’s just for a night.
I think what this boils down to is that a lot of the dating advice out there really sucks and perpetuates ideas that belong in one place: a garbage fire. I thought I’d lend a hand and point out why a lot of the standard advice is awful, and what you can do instead.
1. Play Hard to Get
There is something to be said for being too available like when you’re cancelling your plans or shifting your schedule to accommodate your romantic interest. It’s really easy, especially when you first meet someone, to want to spend as much time as possible with them. By all means, if you’re free and you’re in the headspace to be romantically social? Go for it, but don’t readjust your life to accommodate someone else’s schedule. You need to prioritise you and your needs. Just because you’ve found someone you may want to pursue a relationship with, doesn’t mean that your life is now completely invalidated.
Besides, actively coming up with ways to not spend time with someone is tiring. If I need to pretend to be more active than I am just to get a second date, I’m out. If I need to time the length between my replies to your messages so you don’t freak out and bolt, you’re not worth it. Besides, how on earth do you maintain that long-term? Even if you don’t think this is going to be a long-term thing, what’s the point of constantly having to re-write your own wants and desires just so you’re protecting some weird idea of what level of intimacy or desire is appropriate at what time?
2. Don’t be the one to reach out
This one irritates me because you’re constantly checking to see if you’re balanced. Are you always the one who initiates the conversation? Are they? Personally, this feeds directly into my spiral of doom. If I notice that I’m generally the one to start conversations with my SO I feel insecure. Don’t they want to talk to me? Do they not care about me as much? What have I done wrong?
Love isn’t a competition and not everyone expresses it the same way. If you’re feeling insecure about how much you’re texting or not texting or initiating conversation then look at those feelings. Look at why you’re feeling that way and if it does seem like they’re just generally not that into you or they don’t make efforts in other ways, then back off. However, if there is a connection there, just talk to them about it. On the scale of scary things you’ll eventually have to talk about, this one is a piece of cake. Consider it a test run for the inevitable Big Questions that will follow.
3. Don’t Put Out on Your First Date
If someone thinks less of you because you chose to share your body with them the first time you met them, they aren’t worth being with. That slut shaming garbage has no place anywhere near you. Even if it manifests as them just assuming you’re a booty call rather than a person, get out of there. Who wants to be with someone who assigns their value solely on when they choose to sleep with you? I’m not going to love you more because you made me wait months for sex.
I’m going to love you more if, when we had sex for the first time, we both made sure we were in healthy head spaces, it was safe, consensual and you didn’t then hold anything we did or didn’t do against me. Advising people not to have sex on the first date just propagates a ridiculous standard that does no one any good. Sex is sex and your body is your body. If you honestly feel safe, happy and secure enough with someone on the first date to have sex with them, you do you.
4. If a (insert gender) is really into you then they’ll do (insert gender stereotypical action)
Nope. Just nope. The idea that as a man you need to do x or y or z to show a woman you love her is ridiculous. I’m sorry, but why should you buying into traditional gender roles show me anything more than an apparent lack of originality? You can totally do those things, but do them because you want to not because you think you should.
Here is my top trick for finding out if someone is into you or not. You ready? Ask them. And if you don’t feel like they’re showing it, instead of letting Cosmo or Vogue or Men’s Health dictate how that affection should be displayed, talk to them. Talk to your partner and say, “hey, you know what makes me feel liked? When you call me up for no reason.” People aren’t mind readers. The earlier you start talking to people, the easier your life will be. Even if it feels dumb.
Early in my relationship my partner told me whenever she was going to be unavailable or quiet for a bit and what she was up to. I told her that she didn’t have to do this. Turns out, this wasn’t entirely true. No, she didn’t have to let me know when she was going to be unavailable, but it was definitely nice when she did. I have ridiculous trust issues and just the simple act of her letting me know she wasn’t going to be contactable for a little while, made a world of difference to my anxiety. I explained where my head was at and why, that I’d do my best to work on it, but also that it was really helpful when she gave me the heads up because I didn’t assume she’d died in a fiery wreck or shacked up with someone else. She said that it was something she’d be happy to do for me, and that we could work on it together.
5. Don’t Be Yourself
This usually manifests in the form of ways to demonstrate affection or charm that aren’t necessarily something you would think of or do. For example, when you look up what women want in a partner or what men want or what trans people want or anyone really and you decide to embody those behaviours just to pick that person up. In general, it’s pretty easy to tell when someone is being insincere, and to be honest it’s tiring to do. You’re also not necessarily being you and really, what’s the point of someone dating some watered-down version of you only for you to then live in fear of them discovering the real you and leaving you?
Although, it’s important to know that you can get a lot out of articles that tell you how to be a better partner because a lot of the time they focus on how to strengthen relationships as opposed to pretending that all people want exactly the same thing. We’re different. Most of the time doing things you’d naturally do and maybe looking at behaviour that might be problematic is going to be infinitely more helpful to a relationship than five ways to get them into bed with you. Plus, if you actually get someone into bed as yourself rather than some persona there is probably a level of trust and intimacy there which leads to communication which honestly just leads to way better sex.
What It Boils Down To
Everyone on the planet will have some sort of relationship advice to offer you. Everyone who is anyone will sit and give you their tips on how to flirt, how to have sex, how to love, and there is a huge amount of absolute trash to sift through. There are unhealthy social expectations that can be left where they belong (in a dumpster fire) and games that we can just stop playing.
At the end of the day, you need to know what you want (and be willing to accept that you have no idea and it may change), be willing to be who you are (even if you’re not sure who that is) and just go for it. If you need to follow a million steps that change things you’d naturally do so that you can pretend to be less of a nice person than you really are, is it really worth it? There is plenty of confusion already in the world, why would we add to that with a bunch of arbitrary dating rules? Respect yourself, respect your partner(s) and talk it through. You’ll figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, but honestly the relationships that come from breaking every single rule, from just doing what feels right and acting from a place of love? Those are the ones that last.