I was afraid I was the only one who despised being told "don't be so picky." But thankfully, Match's 2017 Singles in America survey recently informed me that this is among Millennials' most hated pieces of dating advice, along with "you've got to put yourself out there" and "it will happen when you least expect it." But do we hate this advice because it's wrong, or do we just not want to admit it's right? I asked experts what they think of the advice we can't stand, and as usual, the answer is more nuanced than "it's good" or "it's bad."
The great — and annoying — thing about dating advice is that pretty much everybody feels qualified to give it out. Most people have, after all, had some sort of dating experience at some point. Then, we're left to comb through different and often contradictory pieces of advice in order to figure out what applies to us.
It's important to remember in this process that it's not all meant to apply to everyone. For example, a lot of advice is given under the presumption that everybody wants to get married and have kids. If you're looking to be polyamorous, unmarried, and childfree, that supposed wisdom will be useless to you. That's why we need to empower everyone to take advice that helps them and ignore advice that doesn't.
Here's what experts think of each piece of dating advice Millennials are sick of.
1. "You've Got To Put Yourself Out There"
This piece of advice is obnoxiously vague, with few specifying where "there" even is. Plus, a lot of people who receive it are already on dating apps, involved in group activities, and in tons of other "out there"s. According to Relationship & Dating Coach Jessica Elizabeth Opert, this advice can also encourage people to do things they don't even like just to get "out there." "Putting ourselves out there without purpose or craft cheapens our own self-worth," she tells Bustle.
On the other hand, we do benefit from being "out there" if that means "making ourselves available to meet people, open to the idea that we are worthy of meeting someone incredible and right for us, and taking action to cultivate our love life," says Opert. Better advice, then, might be to believe you are deserving and show confidence accordingly. Another way to be "out there" might be to throw yourself into the things you love and trust that when you've got an active and enjoyable life, others will want to participate in it.
Psychologist, dating coach, and relationship expert Dr. Paulette Sherman has her own, more useful definition of putting yourself out there, she tells Bustle: "Be willing to take some risks and push yourself a bit to do what you need to do, even if it means attending some events on your own."
2. "Don't Be So Picky"
I don't know why other Millennials hate this advice, but I know why I do. It encourages us to lower our standards and stems from the (often sexist) assumption that settling is preferable to singlehood. In reality, how picky we want to be is totally our prerogative because it depends on how much we want to be in a relationship. Someone who prefers being single, for example, should be incredibly picky about who can make them give up their single life.
Opert agrees. "90 percent of the women I encounter are not being 'picky' enough," she says, adding that they're "settling more often then they should, which only leads to unhappiness and lack of fulfillment in relationships."
But the advice to be picky can also be over-applied. "I have encountered a client or two that have had such a long list of near perfection, it was no surprise that it was like chasing unicorns," says Opert.
Again, that's totally fine if you don't mind staying single. But if you are hoping to get into a relationship and the person you're looking for may not actually exist, you may want to reflect on which qualities are truly important to you (totally valid to want someone who's on board with feminism) and which ones won't actually make or break a match (do they really need to be over six feet?). "It's important to know the core things that you need and then to be willing to be surprised and to at least meet someone once or twice to see if it is enjoyable," says Sherman.
3. "It Will Happen When You Least Expect It"
"This is possibly my least favorite piece of dating advice," says Opert. And she makes a good case as to why: "The verbiage renders us powerless in the process." You would never tell someone to forget about job-searching because an offer will come when they least expect it or avoid booking vacations because they'll be whisked off to their dream location when they're not thinking about it (which would be pretty disconcerting). If there were no use in trying to meet someone, nobody would ever meet on dating apps or at singles' events.
But then why does it really seem like we find love when we least expect it? Maybe it's because when we're satisfied with our single lives, we come off as more confident, independent, and attractive partners. "When we are 'not looking,' but just living our most authentic, nourishing lives, BOOM. We attract people to us, and we start to attract the right people to us," says Opert.
Sherman agrees that though life or the universe or whatever you want to call it may have other plans, we should still go after what we want. In fact, destiny may find us while we're doing that. "I think it is wise to take action to meet dates, and what often happens is during that active process, the person may meet someone unexpectedly and fall in love," she says.
So, like all pieces of dating advice, these ones can be terrible or great depending how you mean them and who you give them to. And the recipient is the only one who can really decide whether or how they should take it.