The Surprising Uses of Dating Advice – Part 1

When I was growing up, my mother would say that a couple should go canoeing together before deciding to get married. This advice would come up in equal amounts on canoeing trips and upon hearing the news of an engagement. Over the years, as I have shared canoes with various types of people I care deeply about (romantic partners, friends, family), I have seen again and again how it demonstrates the complications and rewards of collaborating and communicating. If I compared communication struggles growing up to the very true story about the time my mother steered our canoe under a low-hanging branch straight into a tree trunk, the editors would (rightfully) claim my metaphor was too heavy-handed and strike the whole paragraph.

I tucked this bit of boat-based relationship advice away in my mind until the end of my undergraduate career, when I found myself offering my mom’s advice to the assortment of friends who announced their engagements. The canoe advice has since experienced a resurgence as a source of guidance and comfort for my residents and staff members. I find myself dispersing this piece of family wisdom often in my professional life, but the real surprise is how often I share it with students outside of a romantic context. And it is far from the only piece of dating advice I find myself doling out to students as they navigate the various complexities of college life.

When I slip into the role of counselor with my students, I pause and give them a big caveat: I am not, in fact, a counselor or therapist or licensed medical professional. I do have knowledge, skills, and trainings in certain things, but there are lots of folks who are smarter and better at various kinds of support than I am. Let me extend that caveat here: I am specifically not a marriage counselor. In fact, I am barely qualified to give any relationship advice. I am currently single, and I have been for a long time.

Despite being a “Chronically Single Person,” I have gathered a surprisingly large collection of relationship advice that college students seem to find useful in a variety of contexts. In addition to yelling these tips at my cats who saunter within hearing distance to my dilapidated armchair, I figure I should share them so that other humans may benefit from this knowledge.

Over the next few articles, I will share each of these three scenarios, tips, and thoughts. So, stay tuned to learn the surprising uses of dating advice.

Ethan Johnson is a Residential Learning Coordinator at Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana. He is a mighty stalk of majestic Midwestern corn. When he is not helping students or catching bats in his building, you can find him reading, watching Grace & Frankie, or tweeting at @ethantjohnson.


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