Men and women usually have different views when it comes to dating and relationships.
To help out all the ladies out there, we’ve rounded up some of the most insightful relationship advice that you should pay attention to.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Psychology Professor, Westmont College |
Author, Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships
Know that you are valuable and worthy
Regardless of your appearance, size, shape, and dating history. In our appearance-obsessed and hypersexual culture, the objectification and sexualization of women is, unfortunately, a reality. But when we buy into it — when we believe that our value comes only from our sex appeal — we suffer as do our relationships. Research clearly links the sexualization of women with eating disorders, depression, and low-self esteem.
When we compare and evaluate ourselves to an unattainable cultural ideal, we fall short. Every time. And our relationships suffer because we struggle with never being good enough.
Related: How to Feel Good Enough
Be assertive in communication and speak your truth
In the twenty-plus years that I have been working with couples and families in my clinical practice, I have found that there are two overarching reasons that we do not communicate honestly with one another — rejection and retaliation. We are afraid of losing our partner’s love and we are fearful of retribution, an “I’ll get you back” attitude.
Women especially are socialized to give themselves up for the sake of the relationship, to sacrifice themselves for the other, to be demure, quiet, and passive. This does nothing to foster healthy relationships but leaves both partners feeling misunderstood, frustrated, and emotionally exhausted and confused. So, learn how to assertively speak your truth in love.
Keep expectations in check
We’ve all grown up on some version of the fairytale, where love and romance are portrayed as a novel, exciting, always-passionate-and-steamy, and emotionally significant and meaningful.
When we internalize Hollywood’s exaggerated love story, we are setting our intimate relationships up for failure. It behooves us, therefore, to scrutinize our expectations and be mindful that relationships require work, effort, time, and investment. Know that there is no perfect person out there for you, the conflict goes hand in hand with intimacy, and love grows over time if we keep at it.
Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Embracing Joy Marriage and Family Therapy, PLLC
It’s so important to get to know yourself. This allows you to get clear about your must-haves and your deal breakers in a relationship. Being clear is the first step to being in a sustainable healthy relationship.
Many women enter a relationship because they are wanting so badly to be in one versus actually looking at the person whom they are dating. They will overlook certain traits or habits in order to not be along.
Having your list of things you want in a partner can be so helpful because they can guide you and keep you focused on what you want in a relationship. Of course, no one is perfect but it’s important not to settle on the issues that are most important for you.
Be honest and as authentic as you can
Showing up in the relationship as authentically and with as much honesty as you can, will save you in the long run. Eventually, relationships get more comfortable or the honeymoon ends, and people start learning things about the other they never knew.
Not that you want to throw out all your dirty laundry on the first date, but being authentic, real and honest will allow you to assess if this is the right relationship for you both.
Hold onto yourself
Losing yourself in a relationship can be one of the most detrimental challenges to a relationship surviving. Once you meet a partner, if you give up all of your interests, hobbies, and friends, this usually means you are starting to lose yourself.
It’s important to hold onto aspects of yourself and to be supported in those by your partner.
Dr. Nancy Lee
Clinical Psychologist |
Author, Don’t Sleep with Him Yet: A Badass Guide to Dating in 10 Empowering Steps
Choose kindness over “coolness”
The best relationship advice I can give to women is at the very beginning, meaning: choose your partner wisely! For starters, look particularly for a partner who is kind and demonstrates empathy. Empathy is psychologically defined as, “the ability to understand and feel what someone else is feeling in an emotional sense.”
Even if a guy doesn’t understand you immediately, if he at least tries and works to understand how you feel in various situations, you’ll feel accepted— and eventually loved, for who you truly are. Not despite your flaws but with your flaws. (And the reverse holds as well; as in, you try to really put yourself in your partner’s shoes, too.)
Actually, one of the most powerful things you can say to another person (and this holds for a lover, coworker, or even a friend or adolescent child is simply: “Help me understand.”
Practicing empathy helps grow emotional intimacy between two people in leaps and bounds, and becoming close like that with another person is actually one of the most rewarding, if not thrilling, human experiences there are. Plus, on a happy side note, guess what research says is the number one psychological attribute of the best lovers? You guessed it; empathy!
Trust your instincts
So, of course, the advice to wisely choose a partner begs the question: How can I tell if a person is right for me if I don’t know them well yet? This leads to my second critical piece of relationship advice: trust your instincts!
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that unlike men who actually do tend to trust their instincts, women will often talk themselves out of their own gut intuition—often with disastrous consequences.
Many of my female patients present for therapy struggling and unhappy in their relationships because they are involved with guys who are narcissists or emotional manipulators, for instance; not surprisingly, nearly all these women say that they wished they’d listened to their instincts and paid attention to the red flags they dismissed or rationalized away early on.
Narcissists, incidentally, are incredibly charming but are emotionally cold and lack empathy. One early warning sign that you are dating a narcissist is that they discuss their issues in inappropriately lengthy detail, but become impatient, disinterested, irritated and/or dismissive when you try to talk about your own concerns.
Stand your ground
Once you’ve learned to trust your instincts, you’ll also begin to genuinely trust yourself, with the added benefit of truly standing your ground in a relationship, even early on. No, this doesn’t mean you have to always get what you want, but it does keep you from doing things to please someone else that you really don’t want to do.
One example of this is “polite,” “people-pleasing” sex. For example, if you’re dating someone you really like but are feeling pressured to sleep with him before you’re ready, please know that if you refuse sex and a guy walks without caring enough to wait and see what develops, it becomes immediately obvious the dude is not your soulmate.
In sum, if you go for kindness over “coolness,” listen to and trust your instincts, and stop being afraid to stand your ground—you’ll not only empower yourself with important life skills, but you’ll be well on your way to a thrilling and fulfilling relationship.
Michelle May O’Neil
Develop a team concept
Most people think that infidelity or money issues cause relationships to fail. But, in my experience, the relationships are on the track to failure before those things happen. In other words, infidelity is more of a symptom than a cause.
In my experience, the cause of relationship failures is a breakdown in the two people working as a team. For a relationship to succeed, the two people need to have common goals for their couplehood. Both people should be honest about being “on the team” or wanting to be off the team.
Set your own couple terms
A couple should not let others, or society, or family define their relationship guidelines and goals as a couple. They can set their own parameters for their relationship. I have seen many marriages that succeeded with nontraditional parameters.
The most extreme may be the premarital agreement which defined the terms of the physical relationship of the parties, the division of labor in the household, as well as the more common financial terms. But there are many relationships that have guidelines that others would not want.
Strengthen your conflict resolution skills
Being able to overcome conflict in a reasonable and rational way without harboring resentment is one of the biggest keys to the success of any relationship. My parents had a rule that they didn’t go to bed mad at each other. So, they either had to work out their disagreement or go without sleep.
Think of problems on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being like an annoying flying buzzing your face and a 10 being a tornado about to hit your house. Where on that continuum does the current problem lie? If it’s a 1 or 2 for both parties, then let it go. If one party thinks it’s a big deal and the other party cares very little, then the party who cares least needs to let it go.
Beware of slippage in your relationship
One raindrop doesn’t cause a flood. Neither does one fight or one mistake cause a relationship to fail. But a bunch of unresolved little things can lead to a big problem. Deal with little things early and often.
Don’t use the “d-word” lightly
Don’t say it if you aren’t sure. Don’t use the “d-word” for shock value or attention-seeking. Once that skunk is thrown out there, it is hard to ignore the smell.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Marriage Counselor, Couples Retreats
Don’t fall into the trap of neglecting your needs while serving your partner. Your needs are just as valid and important.
Don’t stuff the negatives
If you have negative feelings towards your partner, avoid the extremes of becoming harsh and stuffing them down. Both lead to disastrous results. Learn how to constructively express your negative feelings.
If you’re the lower libido partner, you may need to elevate the value of sex in your relationship. It’s probably one of the top ways for your higher libido partner to feel loved. However, within sexual encounters, prioritize your experience first by making it more clitoral focused than penetration focused.
Anna Yam, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist in Private Practice, Bloom Psychology
Don’t lose yourself and give up on your interests
A common theme among women in unhappy relationships is a loss of self. One way women lose themselves is by giving up their interests. This may occur because they prioritize their partner’s interests because their partner declines to join them, or because their partner disapproves of their pursuits.
I’ve had a patient tell me that dancing used to be her favorite activity and her main source of exercise. She gave up dancing because her husband didn’t want to join her and made her feel guilty for going without him.
Individual interests, hobbies, and pursuits are intrinsically valuable. They help us recharge our batteries, experience flow, and often provide a sense of community. In the absence of such opportunities, we can become psychologically and emotionally depleted as well as isolated. When challenges in the relationship arise, women who feel depleted are in a more vulnerable position and risk further losses.
It has been said women fall in love with their ears and men fall in love with their eyes. However, with age comes wisdom; men learn all that glitters is not gold and women learn actions speak louder than words.
Each of us chooses our own friends, lovers, and spouse. Each of us has our own mate selection/screening process and must-haves list. Each of us has our own boundaries and “deal breakers”.
Life is a personal journey and you are responsible for your own happiness.
The most important thing a woman can do is to know herself, love herself, and trust herself
When you are clear about what you want and have the self-discipline to stick with your mate selection criteria, you’re more likely to find happiness.
Forget about the old adage of teaching people how to treat you
School is out! If you have to “teach someone” to be kind, considerate, loving, respectful, and affectionate towards you it means you are with the wrong person!
Life is too short to be trying to change water into wine. The goal is to find someone who already is the kind of person you want to be with. Very few people are walking around with one hand raised in the air screaming: “I’m looking for someone to change me!” Most people want to be loved and appreciated for who they are. Generally speaking, people don’t change unless they are unhappy.
You would naturally agree on how to obtain those things, and last but not least have a mutual depth of love and desire for one another.
There is no amount of work or communication which can overcome being with someone who does not want what you want. Compatibility trumps compromise. Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!
Acceptance is key
There are only two ways to experience joy and peace of mind in relationships. We either get what we want or we learn to be happy with what we have. Accept them as is or move on. The choice is up to us. No one is “stuck” with anyone. Suffering is optional.
Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary. – Oscar Wilde.
Dan Johnson, LPC-S
Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor, Reid Counseling
Have your own space
This one may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best way to grow closer together is to spend some time apart. Couples often suffer from what I like to call ‘over-exposure syndrome’, which occurs when the constant presence of your significant other causes you to take them for granted.
Taking time alone doesn’t have to be sad or scary. It can be as simple as each of you taking dedicating some time to explore a favorite hobby, or otherwise grow as an individual. This can be an hour or two per day, or a day out of every week. Perhaps there is something to the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder!
Typical signs that you could use a break from your partner include:
- Constant bickering with one another.
- Feeling anxious without your partner close by.
- Becoming frustrated easily with your partner or vice versa.
- Time spent together has begun to seem lackluster.
According to this study, 31% of women report not having enough personal time in their marriage (as do 29% of men). When participants in the study who weren’t happy with their marriages were asked to give a reason, 11.5% reported that is was a lack of private/personal time. This almost doubles the 6% who attributed their unhappiness to unsatisfactory sex life.
Dr. Jennifer Burns, NMD
Have an exit strategy
I think when we get into a relationship we don’t have or think about a way out. We think this is the one for me. That’s great if the relationship works out.
I think as women we need to go into a relationship knowing that we have a way out. I think it builds self-confidence knowing you have a backup plan if the relationship doesn’t work out.
Related: What to Do After a Breakup
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Certified Imago Therapist,
The Marriage Restoration Project
While your partner may not always be the most expressive, it does not mean that he doesn’t love you
Begin to notice other ways he may express his love such as doing nice things for you, buying your gifts, providing for the family. While it would be nice for him to tell you more often in words, it may be challenging for him. Don’t let it get in the way of your connection.
Moreover, make sure you express your appreciation to him.
Try not to be critical. His main aim is to please you and if you pick on him, he will feel unloved and undervalued. Find ways to acknowledge what he does for you.
Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality | Relationship Expert, Maple Holistics
Learn to communicate clearly
Communication is one of the most essential building blocks for any relationship. Speak directly about what you want and how you want it done. Anyone you’re dating isn’t going to know what you prefer or what’s going on in your head unless you tell them directly what you want.
Knowing what you want may be a more difficult thing to figure out, but if something in the relationship is upsetting you and you don’t know why, bring that up to your partner in a calm, mature way. Another thing to remember is to apologize. A simple “I’m sorry” can carry you through almost any emotional outburst.
Don’t fake it
Never fake orgasms. A little scratch to your partner’s ego is better than them thinking they’ve figured out how to pleasure you while they’re, in reality, doing the wrong thing. They will only continue to do the incorrect technique in the future because you’ve rewarded the behavior of incorrect technique.
Digging yourself into a hole of sexual lies that you won’t be able to climb out of in the future. Instead, be upfront with your partner about what they should be doing in the bedroom and help to guide them, even if it cuts into their ego a little bit, it’s better for the relationship in the long run.
Behavioral Relationship Expert | Podcast Host, Deal With It!
- Accept your insecurities, stop fighting them; we all have them.
- Still single? Blaming others for being emotionally unavailable means you may want to check in the mirror to see your own unavailability.
- Be yourself. How can someone get to know you if you don’t reveal the real you?
- Be willing to commit to dating like someone who wants to be discovered on Hollywood Blvd. If you commit to it, you will ride out the ups and downs and keep your eye on the goal, you will keep showing up. Keep showing up!
- Focus on yourself rather than judging or pleasing the other person, check-in with how you feel—are you having fun? If you don’t know how you feel, how can you know if you are having fun?
Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Writer, Home Insurance Rates
Be true to yourself, don’t settle, but be realistic in your expectations
Expecting a partner to meet all of your expectations (ex. 6’2” tall, blonde hair, a doctor, home on the lake, and likes to vacation in the countryside of France) is setting yourself up for failure in the romance department.
Figure out what your most important attribute is in a partner and be that for someone else
If you want a companion you can trust then be trustworthy. If you want a companion who is a best friend, then be a best friend to them. Teach them how to treat you by reciprocating the qualities you desire.