By Gina B.
If you want good advice, consult a person who has an educated opinion. For example, if you want business guidance, you should overlook your broke vocationally-challenged friend, and instead seek the counsel of a very successful person who has made good career choices. If you’re interested in learning to cook, it shouldn’t occur to you to consult the friend who couldn’t find her kitchen with a GPS locator. Common sense, right? But . . . if it’s so common to solicit educated opinions in other areas of our lives, why do we listen to any and everybody when it comes to relationship advice?
C’mon, we’ve all been there. There are moments when we’re so upset that we'll call everyone we know, or even pour our hearts out to a stranger on the train. We look for wisdom in weird places.
Everyone has opinions. Especially our friends. They all know exactly what they would do if they were in our shoes, and how they would do it better. And many of them can’t wait to share their thoughts, with the strong suggestion that we implement their ideas in our lives. But relationships ebb and flow, and it’s important to seek opinions of people who understand that.
In short, it’s up to us to consider the source.
Over the years, I’ve learned that if your goal is to have a happy healthy relationship, there are certain types of people whose advice should be taken reluctantly (or not at all):
Your single friends are expert at being single. However, they have a lot of opinions on what they would do, what they wouldn’t do, what they would say, and what they would or wouldn’t put up with in relationships. The trouble is that they’re not in relationships, so much of the perspective is lost on them. And, really? Why would it occur to you to solicit the relationship advice of your promiscuous friend who makes obviously terrible decisions and goes through men like a warm knife through butter? Unless you’re envious of her life, she’s the wrong source. I’m sure she loves you and means well, but most of the time, your single friends will keep you single.
While, yes, they have been in relationships, their relationship experience is seen through a different lens. They’ll give you a lot of “take it from me” anecdotes as they reminisce about their assholish exes, and while those can be useful, much of their advice will be directly related to their own personal experiences in their marriages. Experiences that don’t apply to your life, in most cases. Some of them have grand ideas of what they won’t deal with in their relationships, and they will try to foist those ideas on you. Never mind that they haven’t dated in years. Again, they’re only trying to be helpful by giving you the inside scoop, but it might not be the scoop that you need.
These friends can be found in either of the above categories. The bitter have been bruised in the past, and might talk about how they never need to date again in their lives. Ever. They can present great arguments for why all relationships suck, and could possibly convince you that it’s only a matter of time before your relationship tanks. This person needs comfort and several glasses wine, and until she abandons the idea that all men should be shipped to an island and destroyed, she’s not the one to ask if you’re having a relationship issue.
The Unhappily Marrieds
Not much better than the bitter, and often close to being the divorced, their opinions will come from a place of people who aren’t energized by their marriages. If anything, they envy you your single life. If you’re on a good track, this is not what you need.
Certain Family Members
All family members are not created equally. There’s the family member who just wants you to be happy and with the right person. They’re fine to talk to (unless they’re single, divorced or bitter). But then there are the problematic family members – the ones who either think that there is nobody on this planet that is good enough for you, or aren’t welcoming of your relationship in general. There are several horror stories about how family involvement has ruined relationships. They love you, but they should stay out of your relationship.
You might be thinking that all of your friends fall into the buckets that I’ve mentioned, so who do you talk to?
My favorite relationship confidantes are those who have been in successful pairings for several years, and have special connections that I look at and appreciate if not envy. I call them my Role Model Couples. RMCs are few and far between, and must be chosen carefully.
I’m fortunate enough to have an aunt who’s been married for 45+ years (yes, to the same man), and she’s been through it all and gives insightful advice – about relationships and life in general. I can also call on friends who have been able to grow and sustain great relationships that have evolved into greater marriages over time. The ones that I’m thinking of have a healthy realism about what it takes to nurture a good relationship. They obviously know what they’re doing, and I’m interested in what they have to say.
While we all have wonderful people in our lives who want the best for us, sometimes it’s important to sift through the noise of opinions and make the right decision for yourself.