I think we can all agree that a big part of being a friend to someone is talking about their dating life. Whether it’s helping them through a breakup, crafting the perfect text to the person they’re into, or serving as a sounding board for their general dating-life complaints, being a friend is a full-time job. And there are most likely times where you’ve said something thinking it would be helpful but, in reality, it was the opposite. If you’ve ever done one of the following whilst aiding a bud in the *wonderful* world of dating (shame and dishonor on you!), I implore you to think before you speak.
Saying “no one is good enough for you”
“A lot of my clients come to me and say, ‘My friends always tell me that no one’s good enough for me, and I’m such a good catch, but I can’t seem to find anybody,’” says Cher Gopman, NYC Wingwoman and dating coach. “Then, they hold people to such high standards [and] find something wrong with everybody that comes into their life.” Of course you think your friend is a star and want to gas them up in any and every way possible. But, if you’re constantly giving them the idea that everyone they date is somehow lacking, you’re filling them with false hope that the perfect person is just going to come along, says Gopman. Instead, say something along the lines of, “No one is perfect. It just takes time, dating lots of people, and putting yourself out there to figure out what and who is the best fit for you.”
Talking badly about their ex
Oof, I’m definitely guilty of this. And I only learned to shut my mouth after one particular friend ended up getting back together with her ex.
“Talking negatively about an ex makes your friend question why you didn’t say something during the relationship and if they can trust you,” says Gopman. “It makes it super hard for them to know what to believe and then question what they should be looking for in the future.”
Basically, try your best not to do this. Choose more neutral words to diffuse the conversation and don’t get roped into a full-on trash-talking session. You might say, “Everyone deserves to find their person, and they just weren’t your ideal match. I’m glad you aren’t still with someone who wasn’t right for you so you don’t miss out on someone who is.”
Saying “you’re being too picky” or “you need to lower your standards”
OK, yes, sometimes your friend is being too choosy (was the shirt the person wore really that important?). And in those cases, you should tell your friend to make decisions based on the real stuff. In other cases, you have to realize that people are into different things, and what you want isn’t necessarily what your friend may be after. While you may not care that your partner isn’t super active, that doesn’t make it wrong that your friend wants someone to go hiking with, for example.
It’s worth acknowledging that sometimes, you may unknowingly have a selfish motive when giving advice, says Gopman. For example, you may want your friend to be in a relationship because you’re in one, and you want to have that experience together. Before sharing your words of wisdom, do a gut check that what you’re saying isn’t based on what’s best for YOU.
Claiming “it’ll just happen when you least expect it”
I try not to say this to people, because I hate when they say it to me. And honestly, it’s not really true. “If you want a relationship, you have to put in the work,” says Gopman. “It isn’t just going to come knocking on your door.” You may tell your friend this in the hopes that it’ll make them feel better — and it might temporarily — but if they’re looking to take action, you’re giving them nothing. Instead, try saying, “Dating should be a fun experience. Enjoy and have fun with it so that when your person comes along, you’re ready for them.”
Saying “you’re not really trying hard enough”
“This can make someone feel worse about themselves and their dating life,” says Gopman. “You can’t help when you feel a connection.” And not feeling one doesn’t mean you’re not trying, it just means you haven’t landed on the right situation yet.
Instead, Gopman recommends encouraging your friend to figure out what they like about dating. Is it meeting new people? Going to cool bars? Having different types of conversations? Take them out of their comfort zone by bringing them somewhere they normally wouldn’t go to meet people, encouraging them to message a Tinder match first, or join them when they go out. In other words, help them instead of insulting them.
Commenting on everything
Just because your friend values your opinion (and probably asks for it often) doesn’t give you free rein to comment about whatever you want whenever you want. “You think that you’re helping, but in reality you’re causing tension [in your friend’s] potential relationship over something that [might not] have bothered them until you said something,” says Gopman. It makes sense that you’re protective of and looking out for your friend, but you also want to encourage them. If you see a true red flag, like the person they’re seeing is super controlling, definitely say something. But if it’s a matter of preference (texting style, looks, etc.), see how your friend feels before piping in. Instead of suggesting they shouldn’t go on a second date with the snaggletoothed slow texter, ask if they’re planning to go on a second date. If they ask you what you think, you can base your answers on theirs and support them in whatever they decide to do.