The latest incarnation of relationship blogger won’t tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear – and is more likely to be wearing Vans than Manolos while they do it, says Lisa O’Brien.
First up: a confession. When I started researching this story, my attitude could best be described as ‘pfft’. What could any of these dudes teach me about dating that I didn’t already know? Come on, I work in mags, have had relationships spanning everything from six minutes to six years, and can quote most Sex And The City episodes word for word – I am pretty much Carrie Bradshaw (minus the neuroses and ridiculous shoedrobe).
But then I read one of these blogs. And another. And another. All of a sudden I wasn’t feeling so confident about my knowledge of the male species. Posts about why men stop calling cut particularly close to the bone, as the guy I’d been seeing had recently done a disappearing act. While my friends reassured me, “He’s probably just been really busy,” Andrew from US blog The Rules Revisited (therulesrevisited.com) had a different take: “he’s lost interest”. Harsh, but true.
Tales from the males
Welcome to the no-BS world of relationship blogging in 2014. This isn’t guys writing for guys à la Neil Strauss in best-selling book The Game or girls writing just for girls like Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider in dating bible The Rules. This is guys writing for girls, passing on all the things they wish they could tell us but never have… until now.
“I’ve dated countless women and it has always amazed me how little they know about men,” starts the intro to Andrew’s blog. “If nothing else, this blog is an outlet for voicing my astonishment at the typical female’s ignorance of the male mindset. At most, it is a reliable source of information for women who want to improve their chances with the opposite sex.”
Andrew’s not the only one taking this rather, err, blunt path. For those of us who’ve grown up on a steady diet of Carrie’s contemplative musings, it’s a bit of a shock to discover that the new catchphrase du jour for relationship advice is more likely to be “DTMFA” (“Dump the motherf*cker, already”) than “I couldn’t help but wonder…”.
DTMFA is courtesy of US relationship columnist Dan Savage, who has been dispensing no-nonsense advice for the past eight years in Savage Love (), his column for a Seattle newspaper that attracts thousands of readers each week. “Frequency is not a problem that improves with time… You know what else doesn’t improve with time? Assholery,” he told one reader recently who asked about mismatched libidos. And when another, whose boyfriend wouldn’t agree to an STI test before they stopped using condoms, asked, “What do you say to someone who conflates a request for STI testing with a lack of trust?”, Dan’s response was simple: “Bye.”
While Savage’s column isn’t written exclusively for women, he was one of the first to adopt this no-holds-barred take on relationships that has since been replicated by countless others. Far from putting people off, Andrew says most of his readers actually respond positively to his frank approach.
“I’ve never received a single complaint about the tone of the blog being too harsh or too blunt, but I’ve received hundreds of emails from readers expressing their appreciation for the bluntness specifically,” the 29-year-old blogger tells Cleo. “I do get a lot of readers telling me they were initially shocked or turned off by the blog, but they say they were intrigued. So they continued [reading] until finally they realised that they agreed – at least with most things. And this is good, because it’s exactly the type of reaction you expect when you’re giving advice that’s some-what counter-cultural, yet true.”
Is honesty the best policy?
According to the experts, one of the reasons these blogs are taking the place of Ryan Gosling memes on RSS feeds everywhere is women are tired of dealing with dating and relationship advice that’s littered with mixed messages and influenced by ulterior motives.
“Women today are absolutely starved of honesty,” Andrew explains. “Less attractive women are constantly told that inner beauty is all that matters – yet their experience tells them exactly the opposite – while more attractive women are plagued by the insecurity of men trying to get them into bed, or being transparently nice to them just because they’re pretty. If a girl asks a male friend for dating advice, she knows it is liable to be skewed by his attraction to her, and her girlfriends can sometimes be too nice, or even jealous.”
If it’s just a matter of being honest, though, why do we need guys to tell us the truth? Why can’t we just man up, so to speak, and give it to each other straight? It may be because of differences in how men and women share advice and coping strategies.
“Research suggests women often turn first to emotion-focused coping,” explains psychologist Dr Joann Lukins.
“So if a friend is telling us about her break-up, a female friend may spend time asking her, ‘How are you feeling? What did you feel when he said that to you? Did that upset you?’ A male friend is more likely to travel down the problem-focused advice line: ‘What will you do next? Do you need help moving your stuff out? Are you sleeping?’”
But this female focus on emotions and feelings (coupled with our love of a chat over a vino or three) could be holding us back.
“Women are much more interactive, social and emotional thinkers, so they bounce ideas or situations off a number of different friends before drawing any conclusions,” says Andrew.
“This gives women this incredible ability to capture the big picture and keep all of the various aspects of a relationship in the proper perspective, but I think they sometimes lack the depth of insight into specific problems that’s needed to really fix what’s wrong. So a woman might have 17 discussions with various friends about her dating life, and learn valuable things in the process, but never pinpoint that it’s her OTT perfume turning men off, or her living situation that is preventing her from meeting new guys.”
Sometimes, the truth hurts…
I’ve gotta say, while this kind of brutal honesty from Andrew’s blog dealt a (big) blow to my ego initially, it also saved a lot of hours overanalysing the situation with my friends and thus sped up the process of getting over The-Douchebag-Formerly-Known-As-Nick.
Why spend time driving yourself crazy with ‘What ifs’ and ‘If onlys’ when you could be swiping right on that hottie on Tinder or chatting to the sexy suit at the bar? Just make sure you don a hard hat before reading.