As technology became an omnipresent force in our daily lives, it has even managed to get itself involved in the way we form relationships and meet potential partners. Dating technologies such as dating apps have become the norm, resulting in many of us going through more relationships than was ever possible before. But with such an acceleration came the need for more structure—more advice, if you will. That’s where dating and relationship coaches really blossomed.
Although I’ve never considered reaching out to a dating expert myself, I know for a fact that many find it helpful. Having previously spoken to the likes of Trina Leckie, Gigi Engle and August McLaughlin, I thought I knew more than enough about the profession. I had heard of sex educators and dating coaches, however, I didn’t know that consent empowerment coaches were a thing. Until I met Erin Tillman, also known as ‘The Dating Advice Girl’.
I spoke to Tillman about her modern approach to dating advice through her career, which centres around the world of dating, consent, and empowerment, and asked her to answer six questions submitted by our readers. You asked, we delivered!
Tillman started blogging “over 10 years ago when dating apps and the social media platforms we now use on a daily basis were only just gaining popularity.” As someone who had always been frustrated about the double standards around sex and dating when it comes to gender, she initially started writing about her opinion on the matter. “There weren’t a ton of voices exploring that subject back then.”
Shortly after that, Tillman was offered the opportunity to produce and host a dating-themed radio show at a local radio station in Los Angeles, which has now morphed into her current podcast, The Dating Advice Girl. “That started my journey of contributing dating advice to different magazines and newspapers such as The Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, Elle Magazine, Men’s Health, and more.”
Tillman also started speaking at colleges and on panels about dating app safety as well as the evolution of dating and relationships. “Though my career started as fun, the last few years, especially the #MeToo movement, caused me to see that I could really make a difference with what I do in the dating, relationship, and boundaries space,” she shared. In 2018, Tillman published her book called The Consent Guidebook, which is an easily digestible boundaries and consent crash course featuring over 30 of her colleagues’ advice to help the reader in all areas of life.
In 2020, she went through a sex ed certification training and is currently finishing a 60-hour intimacy coordination certification training for TV and film. “I still infuse fun into everything I do, but when I saw the impact of helping people feel more empowered, I really started to lean into this becoming a career that I never dreamed possible when I began over a decade ago.”
As Tillman mentioned above, she witnessed first hand the shift the dating industry went through in the last decade. But what more needs to change, according to the expert? “Sexual shame as well as shame around identity. Feeling shame can cause anxiety, lower our self-confidence, and can make us feel depressed and unworthy,” she answered.
“One of the biggest battles younger generations are facing is comparing themselves to others that they see on social media in regards to dating, relationships, body image, and sex. But again, I think that’s something that all ages are struggling with, but since younger generations have grown up with the internet and social media, it has become a huge part of their lives and therefore a huge influence.”
And what does it mean to be an inclusive dating and consent empowerment coach? Are prejudice and gender biases even impacting dating pros? Of course! “So many coaches give advice that is very gendered, specifically speaking in terms of ‘men’ doing one thing and ‘women’ doing another thing, which can exclude other identities and also play into stereotypes,” explained Tillman.
“Also, a lot of coaches focus on the ‘goal of monogamy’ which excludes other lifestyles too. Dating is not one-size-fits-all, and therefore, I really try to make my advice, tips, and coaching more inclusive of these things. My clients and followers know that my advice is judgement-free and will be more inclusive to identity and lifestyle compared to the majority of coaches.”
When it comes to consent and having healthy dating etiquette, Tillman recommends having a “baseline set of boundaries that you have thought about and have in place before dating someone new.” In other words, before diving into another relationship, start thinking about what would or wouldn’t work for you first. “So much of the power dynamics in relationships are set early-on. As far as respecting the boundaries of others goes, it’s really important to check in regularly with partners, normalise having conversations about likes and dislikes in sexual and non-sexual situations. By framing these convos as a way to ‘make things more awesome between you’, your potential partners could feel more enthusiastic about having these convos in the first place.”
Now that you’ve met ‘The Dating Advice Girl’ and learned more about her modern approach to dating coaching, it’s time for her to answer some of the best questions our readers have previously submitted.
You could make it about you explaining that you’re not ready for a serious relationship, you are looking for something specific, or you are only interested in something more casual right now. Kind honesty is really important here! It could end badly if you’re not honest and the person you’re dating thinks you’ll be together forever. You are not a bad person for ‘not feeling it’ for someone.
Sometimes, there just isn’t chemistry and sometimes you’re simply looking for something, or someone specific. But the longer you aren’t honest, and the more time passes as things potentially get more serious, the deeper the feelings could get and the higher the chance that feelings could be hurt.
When it’s safer to attend small gatherings, meeting friends of friends could be a good way to go. Also, stay open to virtual gatherings with people who have similar interests as well! These can be great ways to initially meet more people that you might want to get to know better in person.
Clear your energy: any sort of energy cleansing techniques and practices such as reiki, yoga, mediation, a healer, could be helpful here. Also burning sage and taking cleansing Epsom salt baths can be helpful.
Get support from friends, family, therapy: surround yourself with supportive people who think you’re amazing! If you’re open to it and want to turn the breakup into a learning experience, your circle of support could also offer constructive feedback about what they observed about your relationship that could be helpful moving forward.
Make a list of things you’re happy to let go of: remember that thing that your partner used to do that really annoyed you? Well, now it could be helpful to focus on that and other things that you no longer have to deal with. Making a list of your ex’s not-so-great traits can be helpful during the process of letting them go.
Consider all the possibilities that lie ahead: you now have the freedom to explore and create new connections with new people who are more in alignment with you and enthusiastic about being around you…when you’re ready!
This is a tricky one. It can be an awful feeling to feel that something could shift in your relationship. Communication is key here. Is there something your partner could do to ease your mind? Is there something they could do to make you feel more secure? Maybe you’d feel more confident if you talk on the phone once a day. Maybe it would be helpful to have a conversation with your partner about what you like about each other.
On the other hand, is there a reason that you think they might leave you? Is your intuition speaking to you? Has their behavior changed? Bottom line…gather info, talk to your partner, figure out what could make you feel more secure in the relationship and go from there.
If you feel that someone is worth your time, effort, and energy, including flaws, that’s a pretty good sign that you feel that person is worth it. If you see a future with someone, you think about them constantly and can’t see your life without them, you’re excited about the next time you’re going to see them and miss them when they’re not around, and there is mutual respect between you, these are all good signs that there is serious potential!
‘Dancing On My Own’ — Robyn
‘Kiss it Better’ — Rihanna
‘Elastic Heart’ — Sia
‘Human Nature’ — Michael Jackson
‘Where Does My Heart Beat Now’ — Celine Dion