love and tiktok

The Free Dating Coach That’s Already on Your Phone

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: @thealexisgermany/TikTok

The best place to unload the good, the bad, and the toxic about dating these days? DatingTok. It’s a tangled web of “icks” (translation: niche turnoffs), relatable ghosting stories, “situationships,” comparison traps (i.e. “if they wanted to, they would’ve”), and the occasional fairy-tale ending. The hashtag #DatingTok has 164.9 million views alone, with related hashtags like #AttachmentStyle racking up 372.3 million views.

However, unlike when you’re trading war stories with your girlfriends on Instagram Close Friends, DatingTok has real licensed dating coaches in the mix.

Which means instead of writing into a column with your woes like our single ancestors before us — and then waiting for a (maybe) response — you can readily access experts for free from your couch. These DatingTok coaches review real-life dating profiles with tips on what to try (and what to avoid) for maximum swipes, give you scripts for canceling a date, and generally help you navigate the messiness of looking for love in 2022. And based on the comments, the advice is very needed. Responses range from “I’m really anxious about everything and this made me feel better” to “Watching your videos makes me a little less scared of relationships.” But this is still TikTok we’re talking about, where anyone can upload “advice” claiming to be an expert. So we tapped a few of the most popular — and legit —dating coaches to get the best the app has to offer.

Limit yourself to three nonnegotiables.

In a perfect world, your match would share the same taste in true-crime podcasts, have an amazing relationship with their family, vote the same way you do, and agree on where to set the thermostat. But the truth is that all of those traits can’t be nonnegotiable. You’re looking for a real live person to fall in love with, not a carefully crafted TV character.

To help her clients identify which of their nonnegotiables are true deal-breakers, dating coach Alexis Germany suggests listing everything you’re looking for in a romantic partner: personality, height, political affiliation, Enneagram number, age, education level, etc.

Then rank them. Which three rise to the top? Those are what anyone you date seriously has to have, she says.

Germany met her now-husband with her top three as a guide: (1) someone who cares about family, (2) makes her feel special and prioritized, and (3) has a religion they believe in. The rest of your wants are nice to find but shouldn’t knock a potential match out of contention.

Treat your match like a stranger.

When you finally have an amazing first date after a string of duds, it’s easy to start making a Pinterest board of wedding-theme colors. But Ali Jackson, a dating coach based in Brooklyn, says channeling all your energy into a new romantic interest and expecting the same in return is a mistake. Resist the urge to spend every minute together or rely on them for daily emotional support. That’s a rom-com, not a healthy relationship progression. “If you meet someone on a dating app, they’re a stranger,” she says.

Treating them otherwise blinds you to red flags and can set you up for a big disappointment when it turns out the person isn’t who you thought or the relationship fizzles.

Deciding on real, concrete boundaries doesn’t make you difficult.

Maybe in the past you’ve been down to stay out all night on a workday or spent the holidays with their family instead of yours, even though that’s not what you really wanted. But the sign of a healthy relationship is being able to stand up for your needs and limits, even if you risk them not being the same as your partner’s.

When you’re not used to saying what you really want, it can feel selfish or scary to speak up. Doing it, though, shouldn’t ruin the relationship, and if it does, it wasn’t healthy to begin with. “The right person will respect your boundaries,” Germany says.

That doesn’t mean you have to have a heart-to-heart every time they want to order Thai and you want a burger. Instead, Christina Cipriani, a relationship coach based in Seattle, says to notice when you’re regularly feeling resentful or uncomfortable. For example, if you’re overwhelmed by how often your partner’s parents visit, let your partner know how you’re feeling and ask about reducing their sleepovers to a specific number you both can agree on. Or if you find yourself frequently resenting how often you’re footing the bill, have a conversation about finances and both of your expectations. Likewise, it’s important to offer your partner the same space to bring up their concerns so you can compromise.

Stop making attachment styles your whole personality.

On DatingTok, your attachment style holds even more weight than your astrological sign. For instance, if you skew toward one of the three insecure attachment styles — “anxious” (fear of abandonment), “avoidant” (fear of dependency and intimacy), or “disorganized” (lack of trust in others) — it’s easy to suddenly view everything you do through that lens.

It can feel so affirming to know there’s a reason behind your dating patterns, but therapist and relationship coach Keriann Long says it can just as easily become a crutch for hurtful behavior.

If you’re jumping from “They didn’t text me back within an hour” to “They must not like me anymore,” knowing you have an “anxious” attachment style can be a useful tool to reassess reality and reassure your brain. But it’s just that — a tool.

Your attachment style might explain your behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it. When you shut out your romantic partner, shrugging it off as “just being avoidant” will hurt your relationship in the long run. Instead, use it to identify why your instinct is to create space when there’s conflict — and then address it with your partner.

Avoid the “if they wanted to, they would’ve” mindset.

DatingTok is inundated with videos showing romantic partners preparing breakfast in bed, opening car doors, and planning elaborate gifts, all captioned, “If he wanted to, he would’ve.” The message is that anyone who doesn’t treat you as if you were heaven-sent just isn’t, to borrow a phrase from an earlier era, that into you.

But dating coach Sabrina Flores worries the trend could lead to unrealistic expectations. She’s wary of people taking concepts like manifestation that are rooted in spiritual practices and integrating them into American dating culture.

Don’t assume if they don’t gush about you the instant you want a compliment, they don’t like you. Because even someone who wants to proactively care for you can’t always know what you’re thinking. Cipriani reminds her clients that if you don’t give someone the opportunity to know what you want them to do, you might be unsatisfied. Dating is hard enough without needing to be a mind reader too.

The Free Dating Coach That’s Already on Your Phone