Never Say These Things While Giving Out Relationship Advice

Advice is cool. So long as there's wisdom, common sense and good timing attached to it.

Love & Relationships

As a marriage life coach, I'll admit that it's kind of funny (and ironic) that I'm even broaching this topic. I mean, what I do for a living is give out advice. But I think that's kind of the point. When you're someone who is constantly offering up insights and perspectives, in the hopes that it will benefit other people, you learn, sometimes the hard way, what the right and not-so-right approaches are; especially when it comes to giving out advice that relates to matters of the heart.

I already know. Some of you are probably thinking that there's no real need to read an article like this. The way you see it, so long as people mind their own business, everything will be just fine. You're entitled to your opinion, but I respectfully and totally disagree. Something that all of us battle with is our egos and "wanting what the heart wants". The definition of heart is "center of emotions" and only letting your feelings navigate your choices is a surefire way to end up in some pretty painful, if not flat-out devastating situations—ones that could've been avoided if we had simply been open to hearing a from-the-outside-looking-in-perspective in the first place.

So no, the key to a thriving relationship is not to be out here living like an island and ignoring what people who truly care about you have to say. The objective should be to listen to people you trust; ones who have already proven that they care about you and that they respect you and your ultimate right to do what you want.

At the same time, for those of us on the giving end of relationship advice, our job is to making sure that we're sharing and not dictating, that we take the amount of influence that we have in the lives of others seriously, that we are careful and cautious with what we dish out (along with how we do it), that we are seeking to help and not harm and that we do our absolute best to avoid starting off our pearls of wisdom with the following phrases (you'll see why in just a sec).

“If I were you…”


Whenever skeptics wonder what makes me qualified to be a marriage life coach, being that I've never been married before, one thing that I share is the fact that there's a challenge that comes from only listening to other married couples that tends to go completely overlooked. When a married counselor, therapist or life coach is offering advice, it tends to be really hard for them to do it without bringing their own marriage into the dynamic. But here's the thing—what works or doesn't work for their relationship may not be as effective for two totally different individuals. In other words, they can sometimes come to the table with a level of bias that ends up doing more harm than good.

That's why I'm not big on the whole "If I were you" approach to relationship advice overall. Even if you and I are in very similar situations, the fact that you are you and I am me, that already makes things very different. The bottom line is, "I ain't you", so there's really no point is trying to advise you solely based on my personality, value system and feelings about your situation.

"If I were you" brings a lot of arrogance to the table. Arrogance is not a good foundation for great advice giving.

“I know how you feel…”

Back before one of my girlfriends and I got tight, we shared a somewhat similar experience. My fiancé died a few years before her child's father was murdered. When I saw her at church, a few weeks following his funeral, I said to her, "I know how you feel…" She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language and said absolutely nothing. Later, when we got closer and I brought that exchange up, she told me that what I said didn't comfort her; it totally pissed her off. "Shellie, you didn't know him. Hell, you barely knew me at the time, so how could you possibly know how I felt'?!"

She's right. Although I don't believe that when a lot of us say this, we mean it literally, it's still something to shy away from conveying. Again, each experience is unique, so while we may be able to empathize (share similar feelings or thoughts about something or someone) or even understand to a certain degree, unless we are them, there is no way that we can ever truly or fully know what they are going through.

This kind of approach to giving advice can be offensive and off-putting (trust me, I would know).

“If he was my man…”

OK, so stop it. Stop it right there. He's not your man, so why are you even approaching the situation from this angle? Out of all of the things that we really need to stop saying while giving relationship advice to others, this one tops this list. I say that because, the reality is that if "he" was yours, the relationship—the interaction, the issues, the entire dynamic—would be totally different. Why? Because every person is unique and their connection with every other individual they come into contact with is unique as well.

So, whatever it is that your friend is going through with her man, if you were in that very same situation, things would not be the same. That's why it doesn't even make sense to talk about what you would do if someone who isn't your man actually was.

It's far more productive to speak on what you know about the character, history and pattern of the couple that actually exists than to be basing things on hypotheticals anyway.

“There’s no way that could ever be me.”


Don't you just love—by the way, I'm sarcastically using that word here—when you're in a jacked up situation with a guy and one of your friends thinks that she's helping by saying something along the lines of it being something she would never do or a situation she would never tolerate. Whatever, girl.

I've been pretty open about my past abortions on this site before. Well, during one of my pregnancies, a "friend" at the time went on and on to me about how she would never have one and how I was going to hell. She was a virgin. Fast forward a semester or two later and here was the same girl asking me what clinic I went to. SMDH. What changed? Her circumstances.

It's easy to for a single woman to say what she wouldn't tolerate in a marriage. It's easy for a virgin to not get how another woman could get completely sprung on the "d". It's easy for someone who's never been in abusive relationship to not understand why someone who is would struggle with getting out.

If you're one of those folks who's notorious for starting off your advice by reminding someone of what you would never put up with, be careful. Sometimes your lack of compassion will end you up in a similar state, just so that you can humble yourself.

“See, what you need to do is…”

I'll raise my hand in this class and say that this is something I had to learn to stop saying. One reason why it's not a smart approach to giving advice is if someone really does value your opinion and they do what you say and then it backfires, you've got a world of hurt (or more hurt) to deal with. Another problem with this is timing is everything. What someone may need to do today may look totally different a week from now. And finally, need is a really big word.

The mistake that I used to make is convey that what someone needed to do was really no more than a want. If a couple is going through a rough patch, they may need some space but since I don't like what or both of them are going through, I'll want them to break-up. But the word I will use is "need".

Need is a necessity or requirement. If you're out here actually telling someone that they need to do—or not do—something, make sure that's the truth and that you have some hardcore facts to back that up. Make sure you're not imposing your wants instead. Otherwise, what you may need to do is apologize for being so reckless with your words later down the pike.

“When are we gonna stop talking about this?!”

Love is patient. I didn't make that up. It's in the Bible (I Corinthians 13:4). Patient is a difficult word too. It means "bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc. with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like". A whole lot of us are out here professing to love people but the minute they go through a hardship or something painful—especially if it's something that we don't understand—we're out. Or at least unavailable until "the storm" passes over.

If there are fellow Leos reading this, I'd like to hear your comments about what I'm about to say. Two of my closest friends are Leos and a common trait of theirs is that they will be your greatest support system…so long as they see that you are making progress. But if you're in an uncomfortable pattern—or even if you're simply justifying counterproductive behavior—their tolerance is shorter than a mother. They basically disconnect.

To a certain extent, I get it. Giving advice to people who are going to keep doing unhealthy things is exhausting, to say the least. At the same time, some of us need a little more, yes patience, than others. And so, when you start off giving your perspective with a long sigh, dramatic eye roll and a "this…again?!" approach, it can make the other person feel embarrassed at best, humiliated and berated, at worst. None of that is good. Or healthy. Or helpful.

Honorable Mention: “God told me to tell you that…”


Let me start off by saying this—God is always communicating with his children. And sometimes, he will give us messages to give to others. At the same time, if it's God, it's going to be helpful and beneficial. It may challenge someone (even correct them) but it will also bring forth a sense of clarity and peace. Oftentimes, what it will also do is speak to something specific that you may know very little about (meaning, it will confirm something in the person; something that you may not know or even need to know). It will also make them better, not worse.

Here's what it won't do. It won't hurt them. It won't put fear into them. And it won't be slick controlling or manipulative. Here's an example. There's a woman I know who wanted me to date her son. I wasn't interested, so she used to say that "God told her" that he was my husband. Really? The guy with a boatload of kids, a police record a mile-long who sells and doesn't pay child support? That's who my husband is? Nooooo…your son is a hot mess and you want some woman to take him off of your hands, so you are "using God" to do your bidding—not the God of the Bible but the one that you made up, by the way.

Moral to the story. It's pretty bold to start off any advice with "God told me to say". So, before you do it, make sure that is true. If you're not sure, don't say it. If you ignore my—eh hem—advice on this, there's a chance that you'll end up irritating the person you're talking to and God. Then you'll be the one needing some insight on what to do about the mess you NOT GOD made. (I'm pretty sure that's the last thing you want on your plate!)

Featured image by Getty Images

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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