inverse love lessons counterintuitive relationship advice

Inverse Love Lessons

I’ve read a lot of relationship advice and bad dating books over the years.

I tried to apply and experiment with this advice, with varying results. Through life experiences that have honed my values, I’ve learned new love lessons by inverting conventional wisdom.

Many of these love lessons felt backwards to me at first—and for that reason they’ve been stickier in my mind. I hope you find them refreshing in a sea of generic advice.

Beginning stages of love: self love, dating and evaluating partners

  • Dating is a game of becoming who you really are; beware of making dating just a game of attraction.
  • Don’t look for a partner. Look for someone you’d want to be a partner to. “I’m not looking for someone who just wants a husband. I want to find someone who wants to be a wife.”
  • Don’t get too good at a job you don’t want. Modern dating encourages becoming a good dater (optimizing online profile, going on multiple dates). Being “too good” at dating can distract from true relationship goals.
  • My 1 rule of dating is to not get jaded: immediately pause dating if you feel dating fatigue or start to develop negative attitudes towards dating.
  • Sex is cheap, relative to commitment, which is FAR more expensive. There’s the one night stand; there is no “that one time we had a kid.”
  • Look for your plus one, not your other half.

Middle stages of love: developing connection, navigating conflict

  • People test who they like. Apathy is worse than anger. If a romantic interest challenges, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • If you feel pressure to get married or have kids by a certain age, the most important thing you can do is to SLOW DOWN and use time on your side.
  • If you’re not willing to set limits with someone, then you’re willing to lose them. Withholding your truth allows resentment to brew. Setting boundaries is an act of love and saying “I want this to work out long term.”
  • Stress test a relationship early on: have important discussions about money, sex, lifestyle. Be in different situations around each other, for example travel or something that requires more complex coordination.
  • Go to sleep angry. Trying to resolve fights immediately can be a disservice to both people, especially when the cause of the conflict is due to being tired or other physical factors. Kind of like the love inverse of “don’t go shopping hungry.” It’s enough to acknowledge that you’re still upset but you need your sleep.
  • Would your partner’s friends defend you if your partner complained about you? And vice versa? The quality of one’s circle really matters—look to see if your partner gets accountability from anyone besides you.
  • Imagine the darkest expression of your partner’s traits now, and recognize that you may experience this over time. You think it’s cute they’re shy now. But then imagine this for the next 30 years in a variety of situations. If you’re okay with that, that’s a good sign. Similar to “When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.”
  • Treat your girlfriend like a wife; treat your wife like a girlfriend.

The end stages of love: breakups, divorces, finding love again

  • You know it’s the end when you fantasize about the beginning.
  • You are the common denominator behind all your relationships and breakups.
  • The point of a breakup is to allow yourself the human experience of feeling pain. Avoiding this pain will only cause more unnecessary pain and issues.
  • Don’t fall out of love at the same time. Even with two strong teammates, one teammate may get injured the other needs to carry both for a while. If both players are out, the game is effectively over.
  • Divorce is a feature; not a bug. Imagine if divorce was not an option; that incentivizes abuse. Yes, no one is happy about divorce, but we should consider it lucky that divorce exists.
  • Say good things about your exes. Imagine dating someone with only negative things to say about their partners…what does that say about them… and what makes you think you’re going to be so different?
  • If you love someone, set them free.

If there’s an underlying theme behind all these lessons, it’s that of taking radical responsibility compared to convention, which often forgoes setting good boundaries in favor of romance.

Any counterintuitive relationship advice you’d add to the list?

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