All the relationship advice I got from my dad

My parents like to say that if you want me to do something, you should tell me to do the opposite. My track record with boys over the last five years certainly proves them right, because pretty much any negative comment about a love interest from my parents would spur me into dragging a relationship on much longer than it needed to be dragged.

That being said, a month out of my most recent relationship, I’m beginning to wonder if my dad’s constant refrain of “Things would be so much easier for you if you listened to my advice,” might actually be right. So I’m going to give it a shot—and you can too! Here are five gems I’ve dug out from the countless hours my dad has spent listening to me and occasionally getting the chance to put in his own two cents. Way to take one for the team, Dad!

If he didn’t ask you on a date, you aren’t dating.

This was the first advice I ever got, when at the age of 14 I announced to my parents that I had been asked out.

“Where is he taking you?” My dad asked, to which I replied that we were not, in fact, going anywhere. He had just asked me to be his girlfriend. That was when I received my first piece of advice, which I promptly rolled my eyes at and ignored.

If you’re thinking about breaking up with him, you probably should.

Do it. It’s hard to leave someone you care about, but it’s even harder to carry on a relationship that should have ended weeks, months, or years ago. If you’re imagining that world where you don’t have to answer his texts, see his mother every Sunday, or meet up with him after work, break up with him. If you’re dreaming of a first date with the handsome barista, break up with him. If you’ve scripted out countless possible breakups, put them to use.

Just because he likes you doesn’t mean you have to date him.

There is so much pressure to be in a relationship. Friends asking you about crushes over coffee, relatives asking about boyfriends over Thanksgiving dinner, you name it. It can be awfully hard for a girl to feel good about being single, even if you were the one to break up your last relationship. As a too-tall, socially awkward, and glasses-wearing teenager, I pretty much always felt that if a guy asked me out, I had to go out with him because I was just lucky I had someone who liked me. Guess what—you aren’t required to give a possible suitor the time of day just because he likes you. It goes both ways; you have to like him too.

Take care of number one.

This applies both to relationships and everyday life. Everyone knows that relationships are about compromise and putting others needs above your own. But yet, what many people (me included) need to hear is that you are the one in charge of your own happiness. Know what you want and need, and fight for it. Please don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself. It’s your job, and no one else’s. A relationship built entirely on your compromise isn’t one you want to be in.

One day you will meet the love of your life, and it won’t feel like this.

My father said this to me as I lay on the floor crying (I’m not just stubborn, I’m also dramatic) after I ended a two and a half year relationship with a boy who had been my best friend and closest confidant. But when I thought back to the countless panic attacks, sleepless nights, crying fits, and feelings of hopelessness I felt over the course of that relationship, I knew my father was right. None of that came from love. Love does not compromise your happiness. It supports it.

I’ve spent the past two decades watching my parents, who have a wonderful, loving relationship, and I have come to the conclusion that while love isn’t always easy, it is never painful. And really, I can’t think of a better person to give me advice than my dad.

Zoe Townsend is currently writing and teaching in Norfolk, VA after a stint as the only lactose-intolerant person in the Dairy State. Her hair isn’t naturally red, though she will lie through her teeth if confronted about it. In her free time, Zoe is either at the gym or eating, but never both at once. You can see her fake-redhead selfies at

[Image via Warner Bros.]

Filed Under