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No advice is good advice

On January 7, 2013

There’s no shortage of dating advice in the world, and it’s all worthless. Parents, siblings, friends and enemies will offer relationship tips at the slightest provocation. These impromptu gurus base some advice on personal experience, some on rumors. Very, very little of the advice you hear will be what you need to find a lasting relationship.

Before I married my wife, I followed a set of dating rules gleaned from well-intentioned advice. Here’s a list of the rules I broke while dating Sarah.

Don’t let someone set you up

The first time Sarah saw me, I didn’t really see her. I was driving a white utility van through a fundraiser carwash in my high school parking lot. I wore a green fuzzy vest — it looked like Patagonia thought they’d spare some animals and they skinned a Muppet instead to make it. The way Sarah tells it, she heard harps playing and saw rainbows and cherubs flying around.

A few weeks later, my friend Amy mentioned Sarah in class. Amy said she thought Sarah and I should go out. The next thing she said may have set back my relationship with my future wife seven years.

“She’s really cute,” Amy said. For a while afterward, I couldn’t tell if Sarah was cute or not. I only knew that Amy thought she was cute. And that’s why you never let someone set you up.

Don’t date in high school

Despite this, Sarah and I eventually started going out. But partly because friends and family forecast doom on all high-school relationships, I broke it off after a few weeks. For years, I thought the breakup was a good move because we were both so immature and inexperienced. Now we’re married, I realize we’re still immature and inexperienced, but it doesn’t matter.

Don’t date while you’re still depressed about a breakup

Several years after Sarah and I broke up, when I was a junior at USU, I went through a pretty rough breakup with a different girl. During a depression that lasted a couple of months, a friend visiting town wanted to catch up over dinner. She was bringing her fiance, though, and I would have gnawed my own arm off to avoid being a third wheel. I invited Sarah, and we had fun. For a couple of weeks, I tried not to date her. After I gave in, I worried for months that I was using Sarah to get over my depression, that she was only filling a temporary need. But months passed, and Sarah never stopped being what I needed.

Don’t date someone who knows your dating record

To this day, Sarah gets angry when I mention the girls I dated before her. She knew some of them, and was friends with some of them. But if any one of them showed up on our doorstep, I would fully expect Sarah to punch her in the face. I’ve concluded that the more a woman knows about her husband’s exes, the angrier she gets.

I don’t assume that Sarah talked to my exes about me while they were friends. I’m not cocky. I just believe all women have telepathic powers they refuse to tell men about. Whenever a woman sees another woman, they both telepathically exchange all the social information in their brains. This makes dating tricky. Any woman who is acquainted with one of your exes already knows every embarrassing detail of your failed relationship.

When we started dating, Sarah knew I was afraid of commitment. She knew I could be obstinate and condescending. She knew I would probably evade personal questions. Miraculously, she loved me anyway.

For years, dating advice kept me single. The only advice I’d like to offer is: find someone worth breaking your rules for.12

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