Editor's note: This article was originally published on Relevant Magazine. It has been republished here with permission.
All of us singles have been the recipient of a litany of horrible dating advice over the years. These arm-chair psychologists are only trying to help, yet, so much of their unsolicited counsel about dating and finding a spouse is misguided. Sadly, much of the horrible dating advice we receive today is also peddled by our well-intentioned family members or close friends. It mostly comes from shortsighted anecdotes about their own personal experiences, and what worked and didn't work for them. Then, over time and like a scandalous rumor, we begin to believe that this poor dating advice is true, as we hear it over and over.
To date, here are the top five worst pieces of dating advice I've received:
1. Dating is a numbers' game
It's probably true that most of us will probably need to date at least a few people before we find our spouse. However, the view that you need to date as many people as possible to find the "right one" can be taken to the extreme. This form of dating can then turn into a game of playing the lottery with people. In other words, the more "tickets" we purchase, the greater chances we'll have of "winning" the huge payout.
The irrationality of this thinking should be obvious: we are not robots — like the pre-conversion tin-man. Indeed, the break-up of a dating relationship has much more of an impact on our emotional and spiritual health than losing on a scratch-off ticket. We cannot avoid the experience of pain and loss from failed relationships. This is why focusing on quantity over quality can force flippant decisions, and will cause unnecessary pain for you and the other person.
2. You'll meet your spouse when you stop looking
People often respond with this pithy maxim when, in their opinion, someone they know is struggling with singleness "purgatory" and has been putting too much effort into finding a mate. There is certainly a lot of merit in not acting out of desperation and taking seasons off from dating. However, taken to the extreme, this reverse psychology approach (of sticking your head in the sand yet expecting to find a serious relationship) is an oxymoron at best. Much of what we long for in life in discovering a fulfilling vocation, experiencing God, and meeting our future spouse, are byproducts of the effort we put into finding them.
Usually, what people mean when they encourage you to "follow your heart" is to not overanalyze the relationship (or the person), but to follow your feelings, wants, and desires instead. Dating can and should be fun. Feelings like physical attraction, happiness, and even infatuation will occur, and they should be enjoyed while they last. But, if you get caught up in the tidal wave of feelings without an anchor of rational thought and sober discernment, your thinking will become clouded by the excitement of the new relationship. Blindly following your heart's wave of emotions, without getting your brain involved, can then quickly crash you onto the rocks of reality if the relationship ends.
4. You're being too picky
People often say this to someone when they have turned down a seemingly viable guy or gal match. But it's actually not a matter of being too "picky" at all; it's a matter of holding high expectations. This may come as a surprise, but a famous marriage researcher named John Gottman has stated that "People who have higher standards and higher expectations for their marriage (including romantic ones) have the best marriages, not the worst."
Similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy, people who hold higher standards for marriage will essentially find a more satisfying one. With this premise in mind, you're free to create a list of healthy, realistic expectations of marriage and a mate. If you're a Christ follower, you can align your list with "God's list" to help unveil His perfect spouse for you.
5. If you want them to like you, play hard to get
This feeble attempt at making yourself seem more appealing comes in many forms. For example, some people might intentionally wait long periods to return a phone call/text message or generally act aloof to the relationship. Creating this unhealthy pursue-distance cycle may work for a while, but contrivance will ultimately leave the other person confused and feeling disrespected. The nascent relationship will then be damaged.
Moreover, if your early stage of companionship is based on guile, what do you expect the latter part of the relationship to end up like? Lastly, if you follow the Golden Rule of "treating others as we would want to be treated," then it will be the antidote to you manipulating others and game-playing.
Eric is a missionary at heart. He has a passion to change hearts towards Christ through Bible-centric teaching and to create opportunities for the marginalized around the world. He earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Bethel College.