Is There Any Such Thing as a Relationship “Expert?”

I’m sitting in a cold conference room, almost done with my lunch, when the man next to me says, “Okay, so we’re going on a date tonight.  What are you going to wear?”

His question hasn’t come completely out of the blue—our initial introduction revealed that the man in question used to be a relationship columnist and we’ve been debating the notion of “expertise” as it applies to dating and relationships for the past few minutes—but I’m not sure where he’s going with this.

“That depends,” I reply.  “Where are we going?”

“To a club.  We’re going dancing.”

“Okay.  In that case I’m wearing heels.”

“What color?”


“Good.  What else?”

“A black dress.  With beige shoes actually.”

“Beige?  Why beige?  I liked the red.”

“Because I just realized that the dress I’d want to wear with my red shoes is in the laundry.”

“You’re laundry is all clean.  This is hypothetical.”

“Right.  The red shoes then, with a different black dress.”

“How long?”

“Knee length.”



“What about the back?  Is it low cut or…”

“Average.  This is only our first date.”

“Fair enough.  Anything else?”

“Earrings.  And chopsticks in my hair.  Red, obviously.  They’re my signature.”

“So black with red accessories?”


“I like it, but…”  After a brief pause, he leans forward in his chair and asks, “This whole outfit you’ve put together.  Who is it for?”


“See?  That’s what I’m talking about.  How can you claim to be ‘good’ at dating when you haven’t given me a single thought?”

“Of course I have.  I’ve selected an outfit that makes me feel sexy, and if I feel good about myself, I’m going to have a better time, which means that you in turn are going to have a better time.”  (This, readers, is Dating 101.  Seriously.)

He sighs.  “The point I’m trying to make is that no one’s an expert at dating.  Or relationships.  We’re all just…”

“Figuring it out as we go?”


I should confess that this conversation took place at last month’s CORD/SEM conference and the stranger I met over lunch in the conference room was one of the 900 or ethnomusicologists in attendance.  (Now do you see when I want to quit CORD and join the SEM instead???)

When I later relayed the story of my hypothetical date, my dissertation supervisor asked, “How on earth did that conversation come about?”

“I don’t know,” I confessed.  One minute we’d been seated in a conference room for one of the graduate student luncheons (“Strategies for Balancing Artistic and Academic Pursuits”) and the next we were… you know.  (What can I say?  I like to multitask.)

Although our hypothetical date never came to pass, our conversation helped me to see the real difference between dating and being in a relationship, and its way more complicated that a simple change to one’s Facebook status.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to get back to that tomorrow because I’ve got some more pressing matters to attend to (logistics for my night out with The Wedding Date on Friday and an apology to Date #7 for the b*tchy text message I sent him last night.)

In the meantime, what do you think?  Is it possible to be an “expert” on relationships or are those who claim to know it all actually full of sh*t?

17 Responses to “Is There Any Such Thing as a Relationship “Expert?””

  1. Meghan

    I don’t think anyone can be a relationship “expert.” Every relationship is different. Measuring yourself and your significant other against what you see your friends doing or what TV characters are like (Carrie Bradshaw, anyone?) is a one-way ticket to unhappiness. The only people who ever really know what go on in a relationship and are able to judge it are the two people in the relationship. The rest is just advice (some pieces of which are more valuable than others) and speculation.

  2. clariice

    No. There can only be guidelines and sharing of experience but there will never be an expert. One should pick and choose accordingly and apply to your own relationship where you feel it’s appropriate. Each individual is different and has different expectations and needs. If your friend expects her bf to cook very well(all the time) because she likes to eat, are you going to get upset and break up with your bf(who has only started cooking for a couple of months) just because he burnt dinner a couple of times?
    Even if you know your friend might be the best person you know with values you admire but trying very hard to pick up, the advice she dishes out might not be applicable to you as well. Because she might behave differently within her relationship and tells you things which does not apply to you…
    There is also another part we should not neglect – although she might have meant well, the things she says to you are only valid based on the stuff you relate to her. And depending on whether you want a supporter or anti-supporter for your relationship, you realise that you start to tell only half the stories. As women, we tend to relate our emotions rather than facts. Misunderstandings are definitely not included in the storylines and historical data have been excluded during story-telling.
    Taking all of the three factors into consideration, how can anyone claim to be an expert? But I would say, relating to your friend and getting another perspective while being neutral will help tremendously. Especially if you are upset, and it will help you to calm down before you flare into an unnecessary rage at times. So, I would like to reiterate – no experts around, but only people offering advice/guidelines for your reference and hopefully meant for your own good.

    • Kat Richter

      Ain’t that the truth! I always have to remember that when people give me relationship advice based on my blog, it’s based on just that: my blog. Not the whole story…

  3. Katherine Gordy Levine

    It isn’t even possible to be an expert on one’s self. Just to collect various opinions and make a leap of faith on any issue. Helps if opinions are diverse.

    By the way have you ever been to Media? My home town and when I grew up there “everyone knew my face” and I could ride a horse from there to Newtown Square and never pass a mall or development.

    Staying strong and see you are too.

  4. Philly Tap Teaser

    Do you mean experts who help you get into a relationship, or experts who help you solve problems and stay in a relationship? For the former, Cosmopolitan Magazine. 🙂 For the latter, I can see the value of therapists or counselors, especially if two people are deep in the throes of a chaotic issue or problem that they can’t seem to solve.

  5. m campbell

    hahah can’t believe i stumbled onto this. great stuff Kat. Have our ice skating skills improved? How are things?

    • Kat Richter

      OMG! You are the first man I’ve ever dated who’s been brave enough to comment on my blog 🙂 Good to hear from you– unfortunately my skating skills are still fairly sub-par. (Which is weird considering how many hockey players I’ve dated… I don’t even like hockey!) How are you?
      PS: How exactly did you “stumble onto this?” I always thought you’d seen it this time last year.

  6. Oh, my roaring 20's...

    I agree with what he said, that no one is an expert, and we’re all just figuring it out as we go.
    Even in a long-term relationship, I find myself figuring it out as I go along.
    We as people change over the course of a relationship, over the course of a year… even the concept of dating changes over time.
    When I was 16, we didn’t have facebook or cell phones readily available. We actually CALLED each other on our home phones.
    Today, it’s not as clear cut.
    So how can anyone be an expert on something that changes so often that most people find they can’t keep up?
    But I definitely do agree with the fact that it’s important that YOU feel good about yourself, because if you are feeling sexy and fun, then it will come cross in your behavior, and your date will have more fun 🙂

  7. stevesw

    Simple answer is no. Well thought out answer…no. Anyone who claims to be a dating expert has missed the most fundamental aspect of dating, ‘the unknown’. Experts want to control the situation, and what fun is that. I like your response “Of course I have. I’ve selected an outfit that makes me feel sexy, and if I feel good about myself, I’m going to have a better time, which means that you in turn are going to have a better time.” It would work for me. One should dress appropriately for the situation and activity; and, of course, remember that this is a date, you are with someone, and not dressing to play the role of the decked-out top down convertable in the dealer showroom.
    P.S., make sure you bring first aid supplies for the gent when he approaches from behind, puts his arms around your whist, leans in to kiss your neck, startles you, and stabs himself on the chopsticks.

  8. Lost in France

    To be an expert at something you have to have a wide experience of the subject, therefore you would have needed to be in many relationships, but the fact that you have had many relationships would tend to imply you are not in fact very good at them, so the logic sort of diasapears up its own…

    So which date was he I can not recall an ice skating date.

  9. Chicago-Style Girl

    You can be an expert on a certain type of relationships. I know some guys who are experts at dating crazy women. And the He’s Just Not That Into You people cover another niche. So unless you know exactly what type of relationship you want to and are capable of having, you should stay far away from the experts.

  10. Sara

    Heya! Are you using WordPress for your site platform? I am a little green when it comes to the blogging scene but I am trying to get started and create my own. Do you require any html coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!


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