Therapy-speak” advice on relationships and dating is widely available outside of the psychotherapist’s office.

Much of this advice places responsibility on women for managing their emotional reactions to problematic dating and relationship experiences. 

The advice women are given about dating, relationships, and finding love largely falls into three categories. 

1. How to not attract emotionally unavailable men

Instagram is full of relationship advice that tells women to take responsibility for their “healing”. It advises them on attachment styles, co-dependency, and emotional wounds, as well as how to deal with avoidant and narcissistic partners.

Such advice varies in quality from patronising and exploitative, to nuanced and compassionate. Some of this advice is helpful, much of it is not. 

One example that falls in the latter category is the cliché that in order to find love, you must first love yourself. Psychiatrist and trauma expert Dr Bruce Perry says that in reality, you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved, noting, “the capacity to love cannot be built in isolation”.

“Loving yourself” is valued by modern society if it helps you to get ahead. Constant self-improvement is what matters in a performance-focused society that positions people as objects of enhancement and optimisation. Neoliberalism assumes women’s lives are shaped by deliberate choices for which they, as individuals, are responsible. Little attention is paid to the contexts that constrain women’s choices.


Being responsible for self-love and self-healing only furthers the responsibility that women already shoulder for their health, well-being, careers, and relationships.

2. How to get a man to commit

Women are instructed on how to develop “a huge advantage over other women” in the “battle” to “get him to put a ring on it“. For example, dating coach Benjamin Daly tells his 500,000 Instagram followers that his book reveals “the secret to getting any man begging for commitment“. 

Not only are women encouraged to strategise their dating moves, they must also self-monitor to avoid emasculating men, with authors encouraging women to observe the rules of traditional femininity and let men “lead”. 

The strategies underpinning such advice are, at best, confusing. To quote author, Emily Brooks, “We are told to lean in at work, but wait for him to call”. It’s OK to hustle at work, but don’t overreach in your relationships. 

The dating advice outlined in this category pits women against each other, polices women’s femininity, and reinforces a performance-centric framework of thinking about intimate relationships.

3. How to navigate toxic behaviours online

Online dating, while positive in some respects, is a minefield for toxic male behaviour.

This behaviour varies from rejection violence, where women are confronted with violence when turning down a man’s advances, to unsolicited graphic images, to more subtle forms of damaging behaviour. These include but are not limited to love bombing, where men bombard women with attention in order to gain control, and breadcrumbing, where a person leads someone on but remains noncommittal.


These behaviours are not exclusive to male dating app users, but advice around how to handle such behaviour is largely directed at women.

Why are these trends a problem?

Modern dating advice often implies women can and should fix themselves, and their relationships. This creates feelings of shame, and is particularly harmful advice for the vulnerable women in our communities.

Telling women to love themselves before they can have a relationship is at best, nonsensical, and at worst, cruel, especially for those who have suffered the mental violence that accompanies sexual assault and domestic violence.

By admin