Between family, friends, self-help books, and the media, there is no shortage of dating advice. Although some of the advice given from these different sources can be helpful, much of it is either mistaken or based solely on personal experiences and opinions rather than actual research. Siedman (2018) discusses five common dating advice fallacies.
When you meet the right person, you’ll know right away.
Many people offer this piece of dating advice as an attempt to provide comfort in that when the right person comes along, you’ll just magically know. Maybe even love at first sight! As to not crush these romantics out there, the evidence suggests that no such magic exists.
In several studies by Paul Eastwick and colleague, people’s memories of various relationship experiences were tracked across the entire course of their relationships, both short-term and long-term. They found that early in a relationship, the timing of various relationship milestones (first kiss, first sexual encounter) and the strength of people’s feelings toward their partner was the same for both short and long-term relationships (Eastwick, et al, 2018). It was only later on that the researchers saw differences between relationships that lasted and relationships that eventually fizzled. As for love at first sight, research shows that many people believe they have experienced it, when in fact, the research suggests that this feeling of “love” is more so just an intense feeling of physical attraction (Zsok, et al., 2017). More so lust than love.
If you’re interested in someone, play hard to get.
Various relationship books advise women to play hard to get if they hope to attract a man. This strategy is based off the idea that men like what they can’t have, so a woman should act uninterested in the man she desires.
Although research does suggest that we are most attracted to people who are selective in who they choose to date, the research does not show that we are most attracted to people who act as if they do not like us. In fact, research on reciprocity shows that we like people who like us (Walster, et al., 1973). With this in mind, the best strategy may be to show the person you’re interested in that you have high standards, but to also let them know that they meet those standards. This essentially sends the message, “I’m picky, but I like you.” Playing too hard to get can send the message that you don’t like the person.
Focus on putting your best foot forward until you’re firmly committed.
Some dating advice suggests carefully monitoring your behavior and the impression that you create in order to win the “prize” of a committed relationship. Although it’s true that first impressions are important and that you should generally be on good behavior during early dates, sometimes this advice goes too far. For example, in one article it was advised that women should hide some personal information from a partner for the first few months, until they are sure they are madly in love with them, in case any of these personal revelations could turn them off and cause them to leave. This issue with this is that waiting months to share personal information with a partner is a recipe for a shallow relationship, and mutual sharing of personal information is one of the key building blocks of intimacy (Laurenceau, et al., 1998). By keeping everything light, you may never develop emotional intimacy with each other.
Opposites attract, so try to find someone really different than you.
The saying “opposites attract” is one that is used to justify relationships time and time again. However, it is more much more often the case that “birds of a feather flock together.” These relationships also tend to have fewer conflicts, which can make for a smoother relationship (Surra & Longstreth, 1990).
That being said, there are times when someone with a quality that is opposite from us may draw us towards them. Maybe they’re very spontaneous and unconventional whereas you are very cautious and conservative, which is exciting to you. However, research on “fatal attractions” suggest that these opposite qualities may initially attract us, but ultimately end of being sources of friction in the relationship.
You’ll only meet liars and weirdos if you date online.
Often people believe that people lie online, which can happen with people sometimes lying about their age and physical appearance. However, research shows that extreme lies are rare because people who are looking to develop relationships with those they meet online realize that such lies will eventually be revealed, and when they are, it would likely lead to the end of the relationship (Toma, et al., 2008).
Adding to this is the common misconception that people who use online dating sources are desperate because they are unable to get a date in “real life.” However, research shows that there are actually no personality differences between people who date online and those who do not.
Eastwick, P. W., Keneski, E., Morgan, T. A., McDonald, M. A., & Huang, S. A. (2018). What do
short-term and long-term relationships look like? Building the relationship coordination and strategic timing (ReCAST) model. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(5), 747-781.
Laurenceau, J., Barrett, L., & Pietromonaco, P. (1998). Intimacy as an interpersonal process: The importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1238-1251.
Seidman, G. (2018, May 22). 5 Pieces of Bad Dating Advice Exposed. Retrieved from
Surra, C. A., & Longstreth, M. (1990). Similarity of outcomes, interdependence, and conflict in dating relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 501-516.
Toma, C. L., Hancock, J. T., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Separating fact from fiction: An examination of deceptive self-presentation in online dating profiles. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(8), 1023-1036.
Walster, E., Walster, G. W., Paliavin, J., & Schmidt, L. (1973). “Playing hard to get”: Understanding an elusive phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26, 113-121.
Zsok, F., Haucke, M., DeWit, C. Y., & Barelds, D. P. H. (2017). What kind of love is love at first
sight? An empirical investigation. Personal Relationships, 24(4), 869-885.