I am good at many things. Putting together flat pack furniture, cunnilingus, knowing the difference between your/you’re and cooking beef wellington are amongst my skills, as is giving well thought out and useful advice to others on their dating issues.
I am also bad at many things. Remembering to do household chores, not procrastinating, saving money and shopping for clothes are things I am terrible at, as is taking any well thought out and useful advice given to me about my dating issues.
I don’t think I’m alone in this, of course. It seems most of us are perfectly capable of dishing out advice to others based on the facts (or at least the range of facts that we are aware of at the time), and see all of the issues as often quite simple to grasp and assess. If the other person is messing our friend around it’s easy to tell them this, that they deserve better and to advise them to take control of their own life.
So why is it so difficult to take such advice to heart and accept it when it’s given to us? Why do we struggle to give such advice to ourselves?
I’ve been thinking about this recently thanks to my current situation (as of August 2018, anyway). I’ve not spoken with many of my real-life friends about someone I’ve been seeing for a few months, but those I have told have expressed concerns about her commitment to the relationship, her actions and the impact it is having on me. It’s actually matched perfectly with that given to me by the brilliant Twitterati.
This isn’t about what that advice actually contains, but it does highlight the challenges around being so close to or in a situation that it’s impossible to remain in any way objective. When we haven’t got our own skin in the game (as it were) we can maintain an air of independence from the emotions involved and can more easily see the bigger picture. The conversations and actions are open to analysis, to picking apart and to comparing with other actions to determine the likely underlying causes, issues and potential future actions.
When we’re in things ourselves, though, it’s far less clear. We see things from our own perspectives, and often highlight our own flaws rather than seeing them as part of a series of events. We blame ourselves far more than others, and also see the potential outcomes in far more of a negative light than we otherwise would. We put up with things that we’d never let our friends put up with for fear of being alone, for fear that it was actually our fault and the hope that things will get better.
It rarely does, of course. But, even though I know in my situation that I’d be screaming at my friend to call it a day, be alone and remember personal worth, that doesn’t mean I’m going to take that advice. As an eternal optimist I see the potential future and how it could work, while noting that the other person involved is increasingly highlighting the opposite.
I’m also self-aware enough to know why this might be the case; for me it’s around self-worth, self-esteem and fear of being alone (as well as potentially missing some of the more physical elements of a relationship…). The person I’m seeing is the first I’ve met in real life rather than online and I really like her, enough to put up with things that I’d never thought I’d put up with in the future. I’m sure I’m not unusual in that respect.
It’s for that reason that I don’t get upset if people advise me one way, away from where I want that advice to go. They are doing the best that they can and the right thing, and it’s up to me to take that advice, process it and use it to inform my decisions and actions. I know, eventually, that the volume of advice I’m getting to end things and move on will get through, while still hoping that things will actually improve and I’ll get what I need. Dating is emotionally, physically and financially tiring, so the sooner I can put it behind me the better (as fun as it can be at times).
So keep giving advice, keep taking advice and keep talking. Like any skill, if you don’t practice then you won’t get better. Just give yourself a break if you fail to take advice sometimes. Later rather than sooner you’ll look back and learn from it. Probably.