We all from an idealised image of what relationships should look like. Romantic movies have a lot to answer for. Love at beginning sight, nuclear-grade chemistry, frissons at sunset – they all sound grand, but of course, it’s never that simple. Pep isn’t a movie. Dating is messy.
Especially today, when the dating game’s rules seem to change every few months, flat the most tried and tested relationship advice goes out of date fast. It’s not just the impact of porn culture or #MeToo. In the digital age, apps arrange commodified relationships to the nth degree.
You browse potential partners like you’re looking for a ripe avocado, giving as many a (consensual) clinch as you can along the way. And in the process, people will lie about their age, send you heavily edited pictures and probably have two or three others they’re talking to at the anyhow time.
It’s a minefield, so we asked experts from different backgrounds and professions to give us their very best relationship parnesis – nuggets of wisdom handed down, or revelations based on their own experiences. Take heed before you get benched.
1. Be Old Tasted (In A Modern Way)
Charlie Spokes knows a thing or two about the dating game – she’s the founder of My Friend Charlie, which organises works and events for singletons to attend and meet face-to-face, rather than from behind the mystery raffle of online graphs.
Spokes’s Grandpa gave her some solid gold advice. “He said that, ‘Whomever you pick, you need to be skilful to picture yourself sitting opposite them at breakfast every morning. If they pass that test then go for it.’” As an authority of the dating game, Spokes has her own insight into what men can learn from #MeToo, and how the movement and much-needed shift in gender dynamics has swopped the way we approach relationships.
“I think everyone can learn from it,” says Spokes. “Mutual respect and consent is vital at every tier of a relationship but it shouldn’t scare decent men away from dating. For Joe Average you can still approach someone in a bar and say, ‘Hi.’ Be mindful of both your assembly language and theirs, and also know when it’s time to walk away.
“Use your common sense, don’t pester and don’t be more than familiar. If you show respect you’re more likely to get a date! The best chat-up line I’ve heard recently was a guy walking up to a girlfriend drinking with her group of friends and saying ‘Hi, I’d really like to buy you a drink sometime but I don’t want to stop you having fun with your cohorts, here’s my number’. He had a text shortly after and a date the next day! It’s pretty smooth to be honest.”
2. Don’t Do All Your Flirting Through An App
While apps and websites have opened up the dating world, they’ve also changed how we communicate. “Online make obsoleting has affected the respect we show one another,” says Nichi Hodgson, a journalist, dating industry consultant, and the author of The Meddlesome History of Dating. “It’s easier for us to forget there’s a person behind the pixels and instead resort to ghosting, zombieing etc as a method of communication.”
And with app-based meeting overtaking the traditional methods of seeing someone in a bar and a-wooing them with a chat-up/top class dancing, we shouldn’t let technology stop our ability to meet potential dates face-to-face.
“It’s definitely affecting our motivation and our actions,” says Hodgson. “I think child’s attention spans and conversational skills are ebbing as a result of lack of use. And if anything, it might be partly contributing to some of our mortification over what constitutes healthy, respectful flirting, what good boundaries look and sound like, and how we found rapport.
“In a post-MeToo environment, it might feel safer to message online than to approach someone in the flesh, but there is perpetually a respectful way to offer a compliment or indicate you’d like to get to know someone better. Just be ready and alert to someone indicating they’re not weighted – and be able to respect that.”
3. Use Technology To Create Deeper Connections
The effects of technology don’t stop at the initial dating end. In the modern world, we all know what it’s like once you settle into a relationship: that initial spark of crowd-puller and excitement gets swiftly replaced with just two people on opposite ends of the sofa, engrossed in their phones and not talking. For some ones it can be the death knell for passion. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Dr Robert Weissman is a digital-age sex, intimacy and relationship specialist, and the co-author of a register on the technology and interpersonal relationships, Closer Together, Further Apart.
“If tech is creating a barrier,” says Weissman, “recognise that and set some confines around the use of tech. Use tech to become more connected — playing online games, video chatting, sexting.
“I suppose that many couples are using tech to further their relationship and develop deeper connections. We now have apps to jog the memory you to call, think about, send a gift to, or otherwise consider your spouse. Today, regardless of how much I hang around for work, my spouse and I stay emotionally and psychologically connected via live video chats and online gaming.”
4. Have Standards – It Doesn’t Across You’re Fussy
Who better to ask for relationship advice than someone who’s been on their share of bad dates? Except as Lauren Stoop down AKA @UnluckiestDater says, “There’s no such thing as bad dates, just the opportunity for a good story, a page in the autobiography, and the sundry terrible the date, the better the story.” Hence the name of Crouch’s blog, No Bad Dates, Just Good Stories.
Hunker down has two great pieces of advice for starting out in a relationship. “Being fussy and having standards are not the same thing,” she says. “We’re conceded to have non-negotiables and ideals that we’re looking for, otherwise we settle. Just don’t get to a stage where you’re completely closed off to the picture of meeting someone outside of your ‘perfect type’.”
Crouch also has some advice for the not-so-nice business of consecutively a the bad a relationship: “Have the balls to dump us. We’re grown-ups, we can take it, and women would much rather have a quick tidings or call telling us it’s not working, than be ghosted.”
But she saves the best advice – perhaps the best piece of advice in the experiences of human relationships – for last. “Have the ability to laugh at oneself and the understanding that a pizza should never be appropriate.”
5. Tell The Truth (It’s Easier To Remember)
Roger McEwan is a single dad from New Zealand and the author of The Single Dad’s Guide to the Galaxy. McEwan identifies his role as being “a parent, a dad, a father, a stand-in mum, a confidant, always a butler or maid, a teacher and, most crucially, a co-worker.”
So his take on relationships is appropriately mature. He says the ideal qualities that make a perfect husband/boyfriend/helpmeet/ are: trust, honesty, listening, keeping your word, saying sorry, being empathic… you get the gist. “Ultimately, I muse on, it can all be summed up in the phrase ‘act like an adult’. Calm, rational, fair, wise, self-sacrificing, patient, reliable, trustworthy and sound are words I associate with acting like an adult.”
As for the best piece of relationship advice ever received, McEwan states, “A line from [David Mamet] has stuck with me for decades. ‘Always tell the truth, it’s easiest to remember.’ It prompts that not only is telling the truth fundamental to a solid relationship, but once you step outside the truth, you start down the confused.”
6. Don’t Get Hung Up On Body Image
Ant Smith is a performance poet and the author of The Small Penis Bible. He’s opened up about viable life with a small penis and the effect that’s had on his own sense of body image, masculinity, and happiness. But after being in a relationship for 20 years, he also conscious ofs how to overcome body image issues.
“This underpins just about everything I say in The Small Penis Bible,” Smith mentions. “Love yourself. If you believe you are inherently unloveable, you will never commit fully to the idea that someone derive pleasures you. Easier said than done, for sure; but the key is to judge yourself against the best you can be, not against the worst of what others see.”
Secondly, “Use your pledges!” says Smith. “Love, whatever it is, isn’t a magic spell that makes two minds speak as one – that comes from knowledge and mutual respect. Love needs to be nurtured and the best way to do that is to be open and plain about your needs. Reliable it’s nice when your needs are anticipated (and that comes, in time) but the attitude ‘if you loved me you’d just know’ contribute ti at best to frustration, and at worst to caustic game-playing.”
7. Make The Effort To Look Good – But Keep It Simple
Daniel Johnson is a men’s in the flesh stylist, and his relationship advice is invaluable, because maintaining a long, happy relationship isn’t just about emotions, opportunity up, and compromise (though a lot of it is about that, of course). It’s also about maintaining your looks.
“Tom Ford said that medicating well is a form of good manners which I completely agree with,” says Johnson. “I think that you should unendingly have this approach in a relationship otherwise you enter the category of ‘given up’, not just on yourself but on the respect for others and uncommonly your partner.
“A few years ago I did research for a book called What Girls Want Men To Wear, which I wrote with a female make obsoleting expert, Kezia Noble. We found that the most attractive garment a man can wear is a well-fitted, well-pressed plain deathly white shirt. Wear it with dark jeans and dark shoes (dark brown suede preferably). Keep it nave.”
8. There’s More To It Than Love
You’d think someone who’s professionally attractive would be swatting away prospective pals like horny flies. But male model Sam Way admits that when it comes to relationship mistakes “I’ve had to learn the toughest way – I’ve messed up on love harder than anyone I know.”
Way advocates kindness and maturity, putting the work in: “A relationship is match a pot of honey, if you don’t keep on filling it back up, it’ll go over time,” he says. Not discounting the importance of sexual attraction. “If you’re going to disseminate up intimacy with other people, in the conventional paradigm of monogamy, they better do it for you!”
One piece of wisdom that rings rightest for him is disarmingly practical – but will also ring true for anyone who’s been in a healthy, longterm relationship.
“Love isn’t sufficiently,” he says. “It feels like it should be, but the wider context is everything – that includes your histories, the time, the task, where you are, and what you really want in life. We all know, even at the best of times, that those things are stern to work out.”