12 insanely bad pieces of sex and relationship advice

Blanket statements like "once a cheater, always a cheater" just aren't true, and the media should know better

By Anna Pulley

Published February 10, 2014 11:57PM (EST)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet Many lifestyle websites, talk shows, podcasts, and parenting puff pieces aim to give readers and viewers the best relationship advice. But many of the common adages debated and discussed in popular threads these days actually provide questionable advice. Below we explore the dubious claims of frequent and familiar relationship maxims.

1. Stay together for the kids. (Today, and lots of divorce blogs)

Or rather, don’t. Because two miserable parents together doesn’t make for a sane and happy home life. In fact, it’s the opposite. As the offspring of divorced parents, I can tell you there are far worse things in life than having to celebrate two Christmases.

2. Love happens when you stop looking for it. (Elite Daily)

On one level, this makes sense—and indeed, we think love happens when you “stop bitching and get a life,” that is, cultivate your own interests and hobbies, stop fixating on any one outcome and believing a relationship will solve all your problems. ‘Cause, it won’t. But you know, it helps if you like, go on a date every once in a while. Does this count as “looking”? We think so.

3. Once you’ve hit a certain age, you have to lower your expectations. (The “Mr. Good Enough” phenomenon)

I guess if you’re 90 and still waiting for Antonio Banderas to show up at your Silver Sneakers gentle aerobinautics class and carry you off into the sunset since you can no longer walk unassisted, then OK, maybe it’s time to lower the bar. But people aren’t like 1997 Honda Accords: they don’t depreciate with time. Neither should our standards for prospective partners. Recuerdame, Antonio!

4. Pretend you have a problem: you might meet some nice people at AA/Weight Watchers/Codependents Anonymous. (YourTango)

Why stop there? We hear the methodone clinic is really bangin’ this time of year. Also, who takes advice from a Chuck Palahnuik novel?

This is an extreme example, but a common refrain of certain advice sects tells women and men to pretend they like activities that they don’t to gauge a date’s interest, such as Fantasy Football or Tupperware parties. Don’t fake who you are or what you like, because you’ll either get caught or be forced to spend your life crying into airtight containers that lock in both freshness and regret.

5. Moving in together will solve all your problems! (TV;Oprah; our collective desire for a quick-fix and walk-in closet)

Who hasn’t looked at the person they’re cry-fighting with and thought, “Everything would be fine if only we could split the cable bill!”

Answer: No one. Moving in with a partner when you’re already having problems is only going to exacerbate those problems and give you less space in which to leave or throw things. We know you desperately want to co-own your boyfriend’s VHS copy of Kindergarten Cop, but trust us, it’s not worth it.

6. Having a baby will bring you closer together than ever before! (Parents)

Sure, babies will bring you closer… to murdering your baby due to sleep deprivation, never having a moment to yourself and the loss of both your sex life and social life. Babies are exhausting. If your relationship is anything other than SOLID, having one will only further strain your already strained existence. (Also, see “staying for the kids” and “moving in.”)

7. Once a cheater, always a cheater. (Psychology Today; common expression)

Like all common sayings, there is a certain degree of truth to this adage. Like all common sayings, however, it’s far too simplistic to describe actual people, nor is it an accurate predictor of whether someone will cheat on you. It’s easy to dismiss a past cheater as “bad” and write them off forever, but the potential to get hurt or hurt someone else is there in every relationship, and that doesn’t mean we should preemptively give up simply because we might get hurt down the line. I’m not saying you have to swish about your life blindly hoping that everything will work out OK—by all means, be cautious, keep your eyes open—but don’t let fear run the show.

“Fear is an asshole,” as the adage I just made up goes.

8. “It is better to have a relationship with someone who cheats on you than with someone who does not flush the toilet.” (Uma Thurman,MSN Living)

Everyone knows those are the only two options that exist. Also, way harsh, Uma! We’ve never known anyone to flush a relationship down the toilet for not flushing a toilet.

9. If your partner does something you don’t like, try withholding sex. (Fox News)

It worked in Lysistrata, I guess. But you’re not trying to end the Peloponnesian War, you’re trying to get your boyfriend to take out the recycling more. Turning happy-naked-times into a bartering tool is manipulative and sad. We suggest you try talking to your partner instead. Radical!

10. Don’t be so shallow. (Girls Ask Guys)

As a general rule, En Vogue lyrics provide solid relationship advice, but when it comes to attraction, you are allowed to be shallow. It’s OK to be picky, within reason. Common wisdom dictates we should take a PC approach to dating and that not being attracted to everyone makes us horrible people. But it doesn’t.

It’s fine if you love beards or long legs or girls with short hair or men who wear jewelry. It’s your prerogative and it’s impossible to fake. That said, if you find your selectivity is inhibiting your life, then don’t be so shallow, meaning don’t toss perfectly cool people aside simply because they don’t have your desired specifications for Surprised Eyebrows.

11. Don’t sleep with him too soon. (Huffington Post; common abstinence speech)

As Jesus never said: Your vagina is like Velcro, the more you use it, the more it’ll become like Reeboks Comfort Deluxe walking shoes from Dillards, i.e., worthless.

Contrary to evangelical opinion, what you do with your vagina is not linked to your self-worth. If you want to sleep with him, then that’s the time to sleep with him, regardless of what slut-shamers try to tell you.

12. “I had to find a diet that would kick me back into dating shape, because I know that I can't date at size 8. I have to date at size 2. And it's just a fact of nature. Go get your injections and your chemical peels. You gotta look good to attract a man.” (Patti Stanger, matchmaker for millionaires)

Once you’ve exhausted your supply of diet salad and giving yourself face cancer, don’t forget to bleach your vagina “the color of a Barbie dream house.”

Anna Pulley

@annapulley writes about sex and social media for SF Weekly, AlterNet, After Ellen and the Chicago Tribune. She's also attempting to lead a haiku revival on her blog, annapulley.com. Let her send you overly personal emails: http://tinyletter.com/annapulley.

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