“What is the worst relationship advice you’ve ever been given?”
I’ve asked thousands of women this question. Women who stayed a little too long. Forgave a little too much. Overlooked a few too many red flags. Women who held onto hope. Who believed love conquered all until the data of their daily lives forced them to believe otherwise. Women who thought time would heal all wounds. Women who thought they could love enough for two people.
Despite the public cry that people give up on relationships too easily, my work as a toxic relationship specialist shows that people often don’t give up on relationships early enough. I have heard countless stories with the same theme-why didn’t I leave sooner. Often they didn’t leave sooner because they turned to others for help and received terrible advice. Bad advice from their families of origin, religious leaders, friends, or even mental health providers who don’t understand the dynamics of toxic relationships.
Have you ever received bad advice? The following are quotes real women were told when they asked others if they should stay or go. See if you can find your bad advice below:
Bad Advice Category 1: Everyone in the movies changes for the better! Everyone in real life will change for the better too.
- Just give it time girl! He will change!
- Having a baby will make your relationship happier. Just give it time.
- It’s ok he didn’t mean that. He will change.
- You just keep loving and being good to him in spite of his bad behavior, he’ll change.
- Oh, I know he drinks too much, but once you’re settled in that will change.
- Just keep trying to FIX him.
- Fall in love with his potential, the man you want him to be. Eventually he will change for you.
- You can work this out, everybody makes mistakes… -after 14 years of lies, cheating, meth use, and abuse.
- Show him how much you love him no matter what he says or does to you, he will eventually change because your love will make him a better person.
- The fact that he says all of his exes were crazy just means that you need to love him harder! So what if it makes you feel terrible. If you put up with it for long enough, he’ll see how good you are for him and change!
- Wait for them to value you.
- Ooooh! That’s why you need to have kids. It changes them. They are so much nicer and they let you be in control because you are Mommy. — Love, your Mom
- I know he’s using drugs. Just stay with him. He will eventually wind up in prison and then you won’t have to make this decision.
- You know, I can tell he’s sorry and he’s really trying and he loves you so much. Give him some grace. Nobody’s perfect. I’m sure you have messed up at some point too. Don’t you want to be a person of forgiveness?
Category 1 Solution: The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.
Bad Advice Category 2: It is your job to do all the work of the relationship.
- You need to work this out, you’re not getting any younger, you know.
- It’s your job to work a little harder. Buckle Down Girl!
- Try to figure out why he said that … there must be a good reason for him to treat you badly.
- Men are not built to be monogamous. You need to keep his interest.
- He’s going to do what he’s going to do. You just focus on you and your growth and how you can be better.
- Why don’t you just crawl up in his lap and show him a little love. That will make things better.
- Just praise him more. Men need praise.
- You just need to take better care of him.
- More sex! Just have more sex with him. A man has needs you know.
- You are his helpmate. You have to help him learn how to do the right thing. -Christian counselors that had me carrying around an emotion chart to help him identify emotions to control his outbursts -basically re-parent him.
- You paying for everything just means he is supportive of your work ethic. Don’t expect him to both encourage you and contribute.
- “Maybe you can just find another way to tell him [to stop his emotional and financial abuse, neglect, and outright cruelty] that will get through to him.” – Love, Your Dad
- If you want to have a happy marriage you need to get the kids up for school, work at least 50 hours, make dinner, take the kids to all the appointments, don’t ask for money, pay all the bills, and stay up with him until 3-4 AM.
- If he can’t find something or wants food, drop everything you are doing to help him.
- Read his mind. Know exactly what he is thinking and do it.
- If he cheats it just means you need to step up your game.
- Next time you feel upset with him, give him a gift rather than overreact and he will appreciate you more.
- You are the smart one who is holding the relationship, keep working at it, don’t get discouraged.
- What did you do to deserve that? You must have done something to press his wrong buttons. -Love, his Mother
Category 2 Solution: Healthy relationships are relationships where people take turns doing the emotional, physical and daily work of the relationship.
Bad Advice Category 3: If you have already worked for years and years and seen no results then the best thing to do is work several more years.
- You just have to keep trying!
- What is your problem! You just need to treat him better.
- If you truly love someone you stay and work it out
- Just be silent and give God time to work.
- I think you should get back together. He wants to be taken care of and you want to take care of everything. – advice from a child psychologist who was supposed to give custody recommendations
- It’s ok if he’s a lying, cheating bastard, He will stop some day!
- Give them another chance.
- Marriage isn’t easy. Couples divorce way too early these days. You have to put in the effort to make it work.
- He’s got potential. He will be worth the wait! He just needs a good woman to show him the way!
- You’re just holding a grudge if you expect him to improve upon his past behavior.
- He said he was sorry so just let it go.
- Give him/her another chance to show you they don’t love you.
Category 4 Solution: Imagine hiring a financial advisor that said, “I know you’ve been losing money in this stock for years, but I would keep investing because you’ve been losing money for years.” It is clear that they are giving you bad financial advice. Investing more money because you have lost so much money already is a bad investment. Now think about the people who tell you to ignore the results of the last 5 years and tell you to invest five more hoping things will be different. Investing more time simply because you have lost so much time is a bad investment.
Bad Advice Category 4: The best thing for the kids is to see you stay married. It doesn’t matter how bad things are at your house. The only thing that matters is keeping everyone in that house for as long as possible.
- You need to think about your boys before you leave him.
- You have to stay with him because he’s the father of your child – Love, The Church
- You need to think of your kids. What legacy are you leaving them if you divorce? You can forgive him. Just because he kissed someone at work doesn’t mean he’s cheating, you do not have proof. Besides the Bible says to forgive 70×7.
- No one should ever get divorced. You just need to try harder.
- “It was only once that your daughter took out a knife to kill herself (from his abuse). It’s no big deal. It’s not fair that you aren’t giving him a chance.”
Category 4 Solution: Kids thrive best when there are two emotionally healthy adults who treat each other well and have the children’s best interest in mind. When there is a situation in which lying, fighting, cheating and heated conflict is a consistent pattern of the household then those children are usually better off in a situation where they can experience peace. Even if they only have peace in one of their homes. It is difficult for children to see one parent demeaned, put down or feel as if the parent is walking on eggshells waiting for the next disaster.
Bad Advice Category 5: Unless he is hitting you in the face then you can’t leave for any reason. In fact, if he is hitting you in the face then that probably isn’t a good reason to leave either.
- Till death do you part!
- Honor your vows.
- Love, honor, and OBEY.
- You knew what you were getting yourself into.
- Just do what he says and it’ll all work out.
- But he went to anger management…
- Stay with him, at least he doesn’t hit you.
- Love hard, fight hard… everyone wants a passionate man, passionate relationship!
- Do anything to keep him happy. You’re lucky to have found what you did.
- You made your bed now lay in it.
- Did you not know who you were marrying!?
Category 5 Solution: If you are in a relationship that is bland or a little disappointing then it is often worth working out. If you are in a situation where you are constantly being minimized, emotionally broken down, criticized, demeaned, tricked, ignored in efforts to punish you, or control you then you don’t have to wait until someone hits you to leave.
Bad Advice Category 6: Love is what they tell you not what they show you. If they say they love you then it doesn’t matter how they treat you. You should stay anyway.
- Love conquers all!
- He’s only trying to change you because he cares so much!
- He’s doing the best he can.
- If you loved him more he wouldn’t have to act this way.
- But he’s so much better than your father. You have no idea what I had to deal with. You’re lucky.
- He doesn’t mean it, he’s just stressed. Don’t take it so personally.
- Pay no attention to what he does… as long as he says he loves you etc.
Category 6 Solution: Love is how they act. If they are actually changing then they will show with their actions. They will actually act in your best interests over an extended period of time. Read that again. Actions. Over time. Consistent changes.
Bad Advice Category 7: If you wouldn’t allow a stranger to treat you that way then you should DEFINITELY allow your lover to treat you that way.
- Your standards are far too high!
- That’s what men are like.
- That’s just how he loves, accept it.
- He loves you, he just doesn’t know how to show it.
- Maybe if you stopped taking control and submit to his leadership then he would be a better leader!
- If you didn’t overreact to every situation and misinterpret everything there wouldn’t be any issues.
- I don’t think the fact that he held his last girlfriend hostage by gunpoint is an issue. At least he didn’t kill her. After all he has been through you need to be more supportive. Appreciate him more. You shouldn’t be worried. – Love, your Marriage Counselor.
- He just likes to push your buttons. Don’t take it so seriously. –Love, Dear old Mom and Dad
Category 7 Solution: If a stranger on the street would get arrested for talking to you the same way your partner talks to you then there is a problem.
Bad Advice Category 8: If you are in a committed relationship with them then you no longer count. Being in love means they matter and you don’t.
- Buck up, stop moaning and listen to him, he knows what’s best.
- Don’t ask for what you need or want…don’t rock the boat.
- Don’t set any boundaries with him. He doesn’t need them.
- Don’t sparkle you might outshine him.
- Don’t let on that you’re smart. Men don’t like that.
- Just go with the flow. Don’t challenge him.
- If you learn how to not react to his abuse then the relationship will be better and you will never argue again.
- All men are like that. At least this one has money.
- It’s ok if he always interrupts you when you try talking, you have to do everything in your power to make sure he feels important.
- Always put him first, especially if he puts you last….it’s a good example for him.
- You only need 2-3 hours of sleep per night.
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Category 8 Solution: Would you tell your niece or daughter that she has an expiration date and she no longer counts after she falls in love? My guess is no. You used to be a little girl, too. You didn’t stop counting just because you feel entered into this relationship.
Bad Advice Category 9: Ignore your intuition at all times. In fact, ignore their actions, too. Ignore anything you don’t want to see or anything that might cause a break up.
- I’m sure they are “just friends.”
- “Stop overthinking! There is nothing wrong!”
- Let him cheat … He will come back.
- Don’t trust your instincts. You are probably paranoid because of what happened in your last relationship.
- Give him a chance, everyone has a past.
- I’m sure he only lied because he was embarrassed. -My mother a week before the wedding when I discovered yet another big lie.
Category 9 Solution: If your eyes and ears are picking up on a pattern then keep looking and listening.
Bad Advice Category 10: You should ignore any and all bad behavior and focus on your problems. Even if they are 99% the problem and you are 1% of the problem then you should still ignore their issues and pretend all the issues are yours.
- You need to work on your trust issues!
- Control your emotions, emotions are never good.
- You are too sensitive.
- Maybe you are overreacting.
- Ignore the fact that he doesn’t want to meet your friends.
- Love them unconditionally no matter how they disrespect, betray or abuse you. It will be great.
- He knows you’re going to be upset, that’s why he lies. Maybe you need to see about your reactions.
- If you just asked him calmly then he won’t do that.
- Drunk men don’t lie!!!
- It takes two.
- No matter what happens, don’t leave.
- But he loves you! He was just stressed out and high when he did that. You should forgive and forget!
Category 10 Solution: When people tell you who they are, believe them. -Maya Angelou
Bad Advice Category 11 : If they act badly then it is your fault. In fact, everything is your fault because you are the one self-aware enough to seek help. Therefore, let’s make you the problem instead of the person actually causing the problems. It is easier to make you change then it is to make them change so it is your fault.
- You just need to change your…attitude, outlook, etc.
- You’re over-reacting. He’s such a kind, gentle, man – you must have done something to provoke his response.
- You have to take responsibility for your part in the abusive relationship.
- Just give him a lot of love and everything will be ok. As long as he is happy that’s all that matters!!
- You must have done something wrong or he wouldn’t have hurt you.
- Maybe you are overreacting…he is so charming .
Category 11 Solution: Their behavior is not your fault. People love based on who they are, not who you are. Some people are good at loving. Some people are good at lying. Some people are good at being angry. Some people are good at blaming others for their problems. Some people are good at loving their partners.
A season of difficulty in a relationship is normal and there is good reason to keep working, give grace, forgive and stick it out if things have started to get tough. However, if there is a consistent pattern of destructive behavior over an extended period of time then something is very wrong. The people outside the relationship may not see what is happening between the two of you and may not want to see what is really going on behind closed doors. However, you are the one with the most information about your own life. If someone give you an ugly Christmas sweater you don’t have to put it on. If someone gives you bad advice you don’t have to accept it as truth.