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The Worst Pieces of Dating Advice and Why You Should Ignore Them

A woman making a wish on a dandelion.

Have you ever noticed that people can be very defensive of their dating advice? Protective, even? They cling to what formula they think works—swear by it, even—and expect you to embrace it and follow it like it’s the law. But let’s face it: Not all dating advice is good. It might be well-intended, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work.

I spoke candidly with seven men and women of varying ages in varying cities about dating advice—specifically, the worst pieces of dating advice they’re ever received.

“You’ll never find ‘the one’ online. Online dating is fun, but you won’t find anything serious.” –Matt, 26, New York
We disagree with this for obvious reasons, because we believe online dating is what you make of it. If your attitude is that you aren’t going to meet anyone worthwhile, you probably won’t—your mind is already closed off to the idea of finding meaningful love. But if you approach online dating with an open mind, you have the opportunity to search for what you’re really looking for. If you want to have fun, you can! If you want to find “the one,” you can do that too.

“When you stop looking, the right guy will fall into your lap.” –Jason, male, 29, Philadelphia
This one’s tricky. You hear this clichéd advice often, but personally, I think it’s something that newly paired-up people tell their single friends to make them feel better. It serves both parties: The person giving this advice romanticizes their own new-found love by claiming that it “just happened,” and the person hearing it hopefully has renewed hope that the right person is out still out there, and they don’t have to try so hard to find.

The truth is that “looking” is subjective. Whether you’re actively browsing profiles for a partner or just keeping your heart open to someone new, you’re looking.

“I’ve been online dating for a few months now, and everyone’s said the same thing: If you want to meet someone worthwhile, you have to look like a model on your profile.” –Courtney, 21, Chicago
There are certain qualities that are perceived as desirable in online dating: having the perfect picture, living the party lifestyle, having a lucrative job. But the point of online dating is for someone to fall in love with you, not what you think someone else will find attractive. Be truthful online—people appreciate it, and you might be surprised how far it gets you.

“Don’t tell her you have a daughter until the 3rd date.” –John, 44, Philadelphia
I see the good intentions behind this bad dating advice, but still tend to disagree with it. What if there isn’t a spark, and we don’t go beyond a first date? No need to even mention my daughter. If your daughter is a big part of your everyday life and who you are, I would mention her. If someone sees it as a turnoff, you definitely don’t want to be dating them anyway. If the tables were turned, wouldn’t you be a little miffed if the person you’ve gone on three dates with confessed their secret of having a child? It’s best to be upfront.

“You’re only allowed one great love in your lifetime.” –Anne, 57, Tulsa
Anne lost her husband a few years ago, and has heard this piece of advice a lot. Nobody will ever replace her beloved partner, but in time, the doors to new and different love will open up. And if that’s what Anne wants, there’s nothing wrong with that.

“Just keep putting yourself out there, and you’ll eventually meet someone.” –Kristin, 31, Washington, D.C.
This is a bit tricky, because putting yourself out there is the first step, but only the first of many steps. You can’t go out to a bar or attend networking events or create an online dating profile and expect the act of being present to be enough. Those are wonderful first steps, but to be effective, they require follow-through. There isn’t a magical threshold where the universe says, This is your 3rd speed dating event—you unlocked the True Love achievement, and tonight we will reward you with a match. If only, right?

If you’re single, you’ve probably heard at least one of these pieces of bad advice. The best way to handle? Recognize the good intentions of those supplying it, and continue going on dates.

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