My friends and I date, fuck and Snapchat sext with a lot of really groan-inducing people. It’s not that our taste is bad (although sometimes it is), but more that we’re all only working with who’s available to us, and so are the people we’re dating. More often than not, those unions are brief and fraught, with their messy, jagged endings drawn out indefinitely by social media entanglement, the crushing awfulness of dating in New York City and good ol’ fashioned boredom or loneliness. We all spend a lot of time talking through the microscopic details of these interactions with our friends, and we all give and receive a lot of advice. We also all eventually regret giving or receiving much of that advice.
The best thing any of us can understand about giving advice is that no matter how much the person receiving it values and wants your opinion, they are going to do whatever the hell they want anyway, and there’s no way to phrase your opinion to change that. The best thing any of us can understand about receiving advice is that the giver would make their opinion of how to remedy the situation a mandate if at all possible, but only because they care about you.
There’s an enormous gulf between these two ends of that one interaction, and over time, it allows the anxiety and pain that’s a central feature of dating to radiate into our platonic friendships. For every friend I have who’s had a rough patch with a particularly poorly behaved suitor and wants to seek continued support, I have another friend who is at her wits’ end trying to support someone who seems unwilling to listen or act in her own best interest. In all of these situations, both parties are right in their own ways, but mostly, they just need to get off each others’ backs.
Maybe the worst mistake we can make in our friendships is thinking of the romantic advice and support we give as a game of short-term action. Every time you’ve told a friend to dump someone who treats them poorly or stop responding to a jerk’s texts, they already knew that’s what you were going to say; rarely do any of us suggest a course of action our friends hadn’t already thought of, and just hearing someone else say what you already know isn’t often enough to spur immediate action.
That doesn’t mean romantic advice isn’t valuable, because it is. Hearing people you care about tell you that you deserve better and will be fine without a bad person’s attention may not convince you of those realities immediately, but over time, working through your problems out loud and getting love in return creates a healthier framework in which to plot a path for yourself. It’s frustrating to watch friends struggle while you’re able see the way out so clearly in front of them, but it’s always more frustrating to be the person struggling.
And if you’re on the receiving end of the advice you appreciate and don’t intend to follow, try to remember why your friends want you to see it their way so badly: nothing in any of our romantic lives is quick or simple, but they’re trying their best to lend you their clear heads and save you the pain that probably lies ahead no matter what. Knowing that may not release all the tension between those giving and receiving advice, but it might help divert most of the negative attention back where it deserves to be. Namely, on the dude you’ve been dating for four months who won’t stop posting political memes on Facebook.