Of course you love your friends—who else would spend half an hour dissecting a text from a new man, drop everything to comfort you when you're bummed, or tell you the honest truth about how your thighs look in skinny jeans? They're probably the first people you turn to for guy advice, and while at times their words of wisdom are spot-on, occasionally, they offer dead-wrong guidance that could actually damage your love life.
It's unsettling to think that someone you trust so much could screw you over—intentionally or not. But, it happens. "In many cases, the advice is well-meaning," says Joseph Weiner, MD, PhD, chief of consultation psychiatry at North Shore University Hospital in New York. "Your friend can't stand to see you suffer, so she might try to alleviate your anxiety by telling you what she thinks you want to hear, even if it's not the smartest way to proceed." (Case in point: "He's probably not returning your calls because he lost his cell.")
Another possibility: "If she's feeling jealous of you or insecure, she may feed you bad advice to lead you astray, either on purpose or subconsciously," Dr. Weiner explains. Here, we look at common pieces of lame relationship advice a buddy might dish out, the reasons why she's misleading you, and the course of action you actually should follow.
1. "Wait at least two days to return his call. If you appear available, he won't want you."
Her Misguided Motivation: A pal who dishes out ridiculous dating rules is likely unsure about trusting her own instincts when it comes to men. "Sticking to a set of guidelines, even if they're cliched, makes her feel more confident," says Los Angeles psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD, who specializes in relationships. It could also be that she's noticed you have come on too strong with guys in the past and scared them off. "She might be trying to steer you away from a technique that's not working but doesn't want to hurt your feelings by telling you outright that it's what you're doing wrong," Thomas adds.
What She Should Have Said: "Why play games if you really like this guy? Call him today if that's what you feel like doing." The fact that he touched base with you in the first place is a pretty clear sign that he's interested. So, don't hold back if you're into him. "You want to start a new relationship being completely open and honest," Thomas asserts. That, obviously, is not to say you should text him half a dozen times a day should the urge happen to strike. A good rule of thumb to follow in this situation: Get back to him within the same amount of time that you would want him to return a phone call.
2. "What he doesn't know won't hurt him. Besides, it's not cheating if you're on vacation."
Her Misguided Motivation: A pal who urges you to stray might be projecting her values onto you, Thomas notes. She may be in fling mode and doesn't believe anyone should be tied down. Instead of putting herself in your shoes, she's focused on her desire: having a partner in crime to pick up guys with. There could be an uglier scenario, too: She envies your bond and wants to sabotage it.
What She Should Have Said: "Don't cheat." It's normal to fleetingly feel like kissing a hot guy, yet betraying your man can be relationship poison. But, if you seriously want to hook up with another dude, you need to reevaluate your twosome, says Gilda Carle, PhD, author of the e-book How To Win When Your Mate Cheats. Point-blank: You probably shouldn't be with your guy.
3. "If you're not sure by now, he isn't the right person for you."
Her Misguided Motivation: "She may have been harboring a long-standing dislike of your guy that she's finally owning up to," Dr. Weiner says. Since her feelings have been festering, her response to the relationship trouble you're experiencing comes across as confrontational. But, you should also consider whether she's on to something. Perhaps she doubts whether you should be with your boyfriend but has held back from telling you in the past because she knew you liked him. Now that you've expressed even an inkling of uncertainty, she uses this as her way to start a conversation about your ultimate compatibility.
What She Should Have Said: "How long have you been feeling unsure?" If your doubt is a relatively new occurrence, it could just be that you are going through a stressful, yet temporary, phase in your relationship. In that case, don't worry about it too much. "However, if your dissatisfaction has lasted several months or more, there's definitely cause for concern," Carle affirms. Another tip: When it comes to making difficult decisions, it can often be helpful to put yourself in a hypothetical situation. Pretend that you're going to break up with your guy tomorrow. Does the thought of splitting make you suddenly feel freer or regretful?
4. "I wouldn't worry—he'd never cheat on you."
Her Misguided Motivation: "When a friend is competitive with you—either consciously or without realizing it—she may downplay concerns that your man has strayed, because she wants you to stay in a relationship that's not working," Thomas explains. After all, if you're taken, she won't have to vie with you for available guys. And, if she's seeing someone, she reaps satisfaction from thinking that her relationship is superior to yours. On the other hand, there could be an innocent reason why she's giving him the benefit of the doubt. She may not want you to freak out without having firm evidence of your guy's wrongdoing.
What She Should Have Said: "If you have a strong hunch your man is playing around, you should talk to him about it." Expressing your fears to him directly is the best way to shed light on what's going on, according to Thomas. Calmly tell him why you're suspicious, citing examples (guys respond best to hard facts). "He'll probably insist that he's been faithful," Carle says. "But, there are signs that indicate he may be lying." Red flags: He denies cheating too vehemently, gets angry at you for suggesting it, hesitates before replying, or quickly changes the subject. His body language also can provide clues. If he fidgets or avoids eye contact, he may be guilty.
5. "Strike three, he's out."
Her Misguided Motivation: Her harsh response is triggered by your complaints about your man's behavior. Even if his faults aren't breakup-worthy, she still thinks you're unhappy. "If this is a new relationship, it could also be that, subconsciously, she envies the time you spend with your guy and wants her single friend back," Carle adds.
What She Should Have Said: "Are you just venting or are you truly upset about this?" Take your pulse. Are you genuinely hurt by your man's behavior? Does he have a habit of being inconsiderate toward you? If you can answer in the negative to both of those questions, then there's no real reason to call a red alert, Dr. Weiner asserts.
6. "You can't break up with him! What if you never find anyone as good?"
Her Misguided Motivation: "She might discourage you from pulling the plug because she dislikes being single and assumes you will, too," Thomas says. Or, if she's coupled up, she may not want the group dynamic to change (she enjoys double dates, everyone gets along). It's also possible she's taking a jab at you, implying you're not good enough to land a better guy.
What She Should Have Said: "Breaking up is scary, but staying in a relationship that's not fulfilling is only holding back both of you." "You shouldn't settle for a guy who you think is just okay," Thomas says. And, since you're not going to find a man who truly blows your mind if you're stuck in a so-so bond, better cut your losses sooner than later.
7. "Give it some time. Maybe he had a family emergency."
Her Misguided Motivation: Okay, so it is possible that you've blabbed about why this guy hasn't called so much that she's giving you lip service to get onto a new subject already. But more likely, she doesn't have the heart to point out he's not interested, Carle says.
What She Should Have Said: "Wouldn't you rather be with a guy who's responsive and into you than someone who takes weeks to call?" Instead of wasting time agonizing over whether this dude likes you, take control of the situation and judge whether he's worthy.
WARNING! Danger Phrases:
If a pal starts a conversation with one of these lines, she may be about to deliver a disastrous nugget.
- "No offense, but…"
- "Well, in my expert opinion..."
- "He seems like a____ guy, yet…"
- "I had this bizarre dream about your relationship."
- "I'm not trying to tell you what to do. Still..."
- "This is going to sound crazy…"
- "Please don't be mad at me, but…"
- "According to my psychic friend..."