Remember way back when you were a teenager and your parents told you not to succumb to peer pressure? And remember when you didn't take their advice and ended up getting accompanied home by the police after toilet-papering a classmate's home? Hindsight may be 20/20 but it's never too late to take your parents advice.
Peer pressure is just as relevant in your adult life as it is when you were a teenager. Now you're dating, and listening to your friends instead of your instincts could make or break a relationship.
Friends have had their own unique experiences and oftentimes will only end up confusing you more. It's not that they don't have your best intentions in mind, but they weren't witness to every nuance, every inflection or every gesture. Some friends believe in playing games while others support being straightforward, and certain techniques do not work well across the board. And as helpful as your friends want to be, trust me, they don't want to hear every word of every conversation, e-mail and text you've exchanged since you met.
Friends can have an unnecessarily strong influence on you when you're in an unstable dating situation. Insecurities make one susceptible to peer pressure - not always a good idea in dating. They may convince you to do something, like call an ex after you've broken up. They may convince you to go on a second date with someone even though you didn't have a good time on the first date. They may convince you to go somewhere you otherwise would not, like to an after party at 4 a.m. when you have to be at work at 8 a.m.
Alas, it's not always a bad thing. Sometimes peer pressure makes you take risks you would not normally take and forces you to step outside your boundaries, discover your strengths and vulnerabilities, and be adventurous. My friend Julie is really shy and isn't the type to make the first move when she likes a guy. I like to be her self-esteem boost and give her a little kick in the behind to go up to a guy and introduce herselfâ€¦ or at least return his eye contact with a smile.
Sometimes peer pressure makes you overlook someone you wouldn't have. My friend Sara insisted that a particular guy on J*Date was scum and that I shouldn't give him the time of day. I listened to her and ignored his flirts, winks and e-mails. A few months later I met this supposed "shmuck" at a networking event and was surprised to learn he was a charming, smart and, not-to-mention, handsome guy. Turns out Sara thought he was a jerk simply because she sent him flirts on J*Date and he didn't respond. Her rejection became my loss as some other woman had already snatched him up.
Sometimes peer pressure makes you ignore your intuition. When I was dating Adam a few years ago we had a fight that ended in me storming out of his house. All my friends said I should wait for him to call me and to give him his space to cool down for a few days. I wanted to call Adam so badly, but I listened to their advice and waited. When Adam did finally call me three days later, he was even angrier because he hadn't heard from me! Turns out I should have trusted my instinct and not listened to the outside sources. My friends may have been trying to help, but they weren't in my relationship and didn't know the intricacies of how we operated. True, I didn't have to ask for their advice or take their advice, but when you're emotionally insecure, you tend to lean on your friends and trust their words of wisdom to lead you down the right path.
If you're going to ask your friends and families for advice, think about who you're asking before you take the plunge. If your single friend has never been in a successful relationship, he may not be the right person to go to. If your married friend got hitched at a young age, she too may not have a clue. If your Aunt and Uncle haven't dated since you were a toddler, don't bother asking them either. Seek out your contemporaries who have been on J*Date, who dated in the same city and for a lengthy period of time. They're the ones who will be able to give you some, if any, insight into your dating situation.
Even relationship counselors (and relationship advice columnists) don't always know the answer. But what I do know is this: Your first instinct is usually (but not always) the right one. If you find yourself having doubts about a relationship, or doubting the advice a friend gave you, then listen to the little voice inside your head and give whatever it is a second thought before making a decision. You know your relationship better than anyone else, and you are the only person who can make the right decision for yourself. Go ahead and listen to each of your friends' advice, but remember your values, keep your priorities straight and most of all remember who it is you're dealing with: You and your significant other.
Your friends are not in your relationship, only you two are, and you are the only two who matter in the end.