Column: You can give relationship advice even if you haven’t been in a relationship

An absence of firsthand knowledge does not equal no knowledge.

Kennedy Horton is a sophomore at MU studying English. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life and social justice for The Maneater.

I’ve heard this before, nearly verbatim: “You can’t give relationship advice if you haven’t been in a relationship.” The comment may have been preceded by an “I feel like” to lessen the blow of such an obtuse statement. Either way, the idea is expressed that if you have not been in a relationship, you cannot give sound relationship advice. I would just like to, as nicely as possible, call BS on that.

First, “relationship” is often meant to imply a romantic relationship, also known as the end-all, be-all, holy grail, Arthur’s sword, philosopher’s stone of relationships. The idea that a lack of that specific relationship prevents you from a thorough assessment of one is foolish. Even if you’ve never been in a romantic relationship, most of us have bonds that are intimate in their own respects. A relationship is simply an agreement requiring at least two of the following: love, mutual respect and common goals. Sex and romance can be a part of some relationships, but they’re optional.

Everyone has been in a relationship. The relationship between you and a parent, for example, requires all three of the aforementioned requirements. They love you; you love them. You both want the best for each other. You don’t curse them out; they don’t kick you out of their house. It’s a no-brainer.

A relationship that doesn’t have love can almost be easier and less complicated, like the relationship between you and a co-worker. Take boring Brian who sits in the adjacent cubicle, for example. You don’t know him, you don’t really want to know him, and yet you two are in a relationship. There’s no love. You both want to coexist in a nonhostile work environment. And you respect him enough to not let him overhear you telling anyone how boring he is. See? It’s not rocket science.

Sure, there is something to be said for experience, but many people value and request objective opinions. As a person who has never been in a serious romantic relationship, I am often the go-to person when my friends have questions, comments and concerns about their current or potential romantic situations. Sometimes we just like to vent to someone on the outside. People often value an impartial perspective.

And people in romantic situations can often be blinded by their own emotions. An objective viewer can see things someone on the inside may not be able to. Someone may not feel what you feel, but you may not see what they see.

The saying goes, “Experience is the hardest teacher,” but it’s not the only one. My romantic info comes from four main places: the experiences of my friends, lessons from my parents, lessons from the Bible, and good old common sense. Just because I don’t have firsthand knowledge doesn’t mean I don’t have any knowledge. I don’t need to be stabbed to know it hurts or to know it kills. Some things are majorly obvious.

I’m not saying don’t seek out the best advice for your specific situation; I’m just recommending not being so quick to write off someone’s advice for the wrong reasons. Don’t let anybody, whether they’re your friend or not, devalue or invalidate your opinions or advice due to a lack of experience.

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