With the rise of Instagram infographics and inspirational quotes in the form of TikTok videos, it often feels like we can’t move for online advice on how to make our lives better. And when it comes to relationship advice on social media, it usually comes in the form of “identifying toxic relationships”, “red flags to watch out for” and often focuses on “putting yourself first”. But although a lot of this is well meaning (God knows I needed some of it when I was younger), we can’t solely rely on viral tweets dishing out relationship advice – especially when it comes to complex and sometimes traumatic experiences.
Toxic relationships are very real and identifying that you may be in one is the first step in a long journey of untangling yourself from what may have been a harmful or even abusive environment. In this instance, it’s always best to try and get professional help if you are going to leave a potentially dangerous situation.
It’s also important to identify red flags and other indicators of unhealthy relationships, so that you can move towards creating a better environment for yourself. Are you unhappy? Do you feel stifled? Do you see your friends enough? Do you have time to be yourself and do the things you enjoy? An infographic can be helpful in that it gets you thinking about these things. But before you make any rash life-changing decisions , first speak to your friends and family, and if you have the means, a therapist or counsellor. Tell these people how you feel and make a plan that’s best for you and your wellbeing.
While information that may prompt people to remove themselves from harmful situations can be helpful, there’s another strain of relationship advice permeating social media at the moment. I can’t go a day without seeing conversations on the timeline about extremely high standards from both men and women in relationships. Tweets like “Saweetie says if he can’t buy you a Birkin, you don’t need him, sis” set a standard of being showered in unattainable luxury as the minimum we should expect. While I think we should all be treated like Kings and Queens by our partners, we don’t need to be striving towards giving $2 million cheques as birthday presents, like Cardi B did for Offset last month. Offset also looked pretty nonplussed about it, to be honest.
Measuring your relationship against an infographic, a viral tweet or celebrity couple is really not an ideal way to set standards for yourself. Unless you are, or are in a relationship with, a millionaire, hedge fund manager or bitcoin bro, then really you need to reassess your wants and needs. Most of us can barely afford a Marks & Spencers two for £10 deal as a special treat, so we should start from there.
If you need material things to keep you interested, then I’m sorry to tell you that your relationship is probably not that great under the surface. You need to ask yourself why you need a big and spectacular gesture from someone to show that they love you. These expectations are also a lot to live up to. It’s incredibly unrealistic to expect a partner to pay for your nails, lashes, brows, wax, tan, hair extensions, a PlayStation 5, and designer bags and clothes.
Instead, work on creating intimacy and trust in other ways. If you like fuss and attention, there are so many other exciting and, importantly, less spenny ways to experience this. Making your partner dinner from scratch, or even from a Dolmio jar if you’re not that great in the kitchen, is a great way to show how much you care – and it’s a lot less expensive than going to a restaurant. Can’t afford a Birkin? Make something! OK, no one really wants something made out of macaroni or toilet rolls, but there are loads of reasonably priced DIY kits for things like candles, ceramics and cushions. You could even take part in an online sex workshop together. Shush Life offer a range of courses for couples, from how to perfect blowjobs to gaining sexual confidence.
Although being wined and dined, receiving Birkins or, even better, being surprised with your very own fashion shoot at a restaurant à la Kanye and Julia Fox sounds amazing, how well do these types of relationships actually turn out? Are the types of people who throw money at love interests compensating for something else? Picking a partner based on their bank account could ultimately result in shallow relationships that don’t last, as there is no real substance to them.
Whether your relationship expectations are more traditional – such as wanting your partner to pull their weight with household chores or to be more of an active listener – or you’re still hoping for a new bag on Valentine’s Day, we all need to stop trying to live up to the standards of other people. In reality, it’s the small things that truly matter. In the immortal words of Gemma Collins, “if you can’t buy me a cup of tea and put £70 of petrol in my car once a month, GET OUT OF MY LIFE”. A £70 petrol budget isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, sure, but a good cuppa is a must.
Need help getting out of a harmful relationship? Find advice here.