If you're like most people, you probably send out SOS texts to your friends, or huddle them together for dating and relationship advice, whenever your romantic life goes awry. The people closest to you are great to turn to when it comes to relationship-related conundrums, as well for support and encouragement when it comes to dating.
But since nobody's perfect — and nobody is experiencing your situation exactly — it's important to always take advice from friends with a grain of salt. "Friends can be a great source of relationship advice so long as you recognize that their 'wisdom' has its limits," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. "Everyone is in a unique situation. What worked for your friends might not work for you. So, while you can certainly try the suggestions of your friends, don’t assume that theirs is the only way."
Bennett says it's also possible friends won't be 100 percent honest when doling out advice, especially if they're afraid to hurt your feelings. "So, while you should take their opinions into consideration, ultimately go with what you know is best for you," Bennett says. "In the end, you have to live with the results of your decisions."
Here are a few common pieces of relationship advice from friends experts say have the potential to make things worse, or steer you wrong, if you're not careful.
1"Wait A Week Before You Text Them Back"
This one is a classic, but is it actually good advice? As therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle, "Friends will often tell you to wait hours before responding because you don’t want to seem 'too available.'" They might even up that time period to a few days, or a week.
But if your goal is a healthy relationship, Hershenson says it's important to avoid these types of games. So go ahead and text back. If they're going to make a good partner, they'll be glad to hear from you.
2"Don't Get Too Comfy Too Quickly"
While it can be fun to dress up in something that makes you feel good on your first date, you should never feel like you have to keep that going if you don't want to — despite what your friends say. Not only can it be difficult to maintain regularly, but it can also prevent your partner from getting to know the real you. "The right person wants to be with you for you," Hershenson says. So go ahead and be yourself.
3"Just Be Patient. Someone Will Come Along."
How many times have your friends told you to be patient and wait for "the one" to come along? "This advice basically tells you to 'keep waiting,' which is unhelpful when someone is frustrated or lonely," says Bennett. "In addition, it’s bad advice. While patience is a virtue, proactively taking control of your dating life is far better than sitting back waiting for the right person to find you."
That's why, if your friends keep assuring you the right person will magically appear in your life, it's OK to ignore them and put forth more effort, perhaps by joining a dating app or expanding your social circle. Whatever feels right for you.
4"You've Got To Put Yourself Out There"
On the flip side, it's also common for friends to urge you to "put yourself out there" in order to find a partner. But this advice is can be hurtful while also being unhelpful, especially if you're currently doing just that.
"Most [people] are 'putting themselves out there' to a degree," Bennett says. "They just aren’t finding success. Better advice would be to give concrete suggestions of where to meet like-minded single people and even offer to go out with your friend as an emotional support at those events." Always do what you feel most comfortable with.
Your friends have an outside perspective on your relationship, so it may be a good idea to weigh their opinions, if they're constantly telling you to breakup with your partner. But keep in mind that many people are quick to suggest this option, especially if they're only hearing the bad things happening in your relationship.
"Friends make the same mistakes that we do, and it’s because they very often are looking at your short-term wellbeing versus your long-term emotional growth," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow tells Bustle. "They want you to 'feel better' and 'be happy.'" And dumping your significant other may seem like the perfect quick fix. But unless they know the full story, it may just make things worse.
6"Stop Being So Picky"
Do you vent to your friends about your relationship? If so, they may roll their eyes and tell you to stop being so picky. And same goes for dating, where they may tell you to settle with someone who doesn't feel ideal.
But this is hardly ever good advice. As Klapow says, "Your friends are looking out for you at one level, but you need to look out for yourself at a much deeper level." If something doesn't feel right, it's important to trust your gut.
7"Keep Your Options Open"
Many people encourage their friends to "get out there and shop around," Klapow says. But if that doesn't fit your personality, this advice will likely make things worse. You certainly don't need to make yourself uncomfortable, or create stress and confusion in your life, in order to find a relationship. Moreover, if you're not the type to pursue something casual, feel free to ignore this bit of advice.
8"Don't Let Them Know You're Interested"
Let's say you went on a great date, where you really connected and had a wonderful time. If your BFF's first piece of advice is to play hard to get, and maybe act a bit disinterested, you may want to reconsider.
"There is tons of research on how suppressing your emotions backfires and ... acting disinterested would likely prove off-putting," clinical psychologist Jennifer L. Taitz, PsyD, ABPP tells Bustle. If you liked the person, go ahead and let them know.
9"Ask Them Lots Of Questions"
If you're feeling nervous for your first date, friends might suggest you ask lots of questions, as a way of getting the convo going. But don't be afraid to talk about yourself, too. "Asking too many questions can seem like you are 'interviewing' your date rather than both of you trying to get to know one another," couples therapist and marriage counselor Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC tells Bustle. "So ask a question to get the conversation going, ask a question when you've been talking too long, or ask a question when you are truly interested in hearing more about whatever your date is talking about." But throw in a few personal anecdotes, too.
10"Wait For Them To Ask You Out"
Don't let your friends convince you to "play it cool" or wait around for someone to prove themselves by asking you out. "You can take the lead and you don't have to wait until [they] contact you," Derichs says. "Equality in relationships is established from the first meeting we have with someone new, so stand up for yourself and ask (or not) if you want another date."
11"Leave Sex Out Of It"
If you and your date want to talk about sex, go ahead and do it, since the more info you can gather early on, the better. "Sex can be casual or sex can have meaning," Derichs says. "Are you and your sex partner on the same page about which one it is? It doesn't need to be a long awkward talk but at least talk about it a bit." Sex can play a part in your relationship whenever you and your partner are comfortable with it, and your friends' opinions have no place in that decision.
Your friends will always want to be there to support you, so turn to your them for help, and weigh their thoughts with your own. But when it comes to making choices for your life and your relationships, sometimes it's better to go at it alone.