A Study in Classics: Dating Tips from Jane Austen

In the age of online dating, it seems like finding the perfect partner should be a breeze. All we have to do is swipe right, right? In reality, dating is still just as difficult as it was before Tinder. Even though a million new obstacles are in our way, dating advice remains the same. Any episode of Sex and the City will tell you if he leaves the seat up at your house, put your guard up. If they leave toenail clippings all over the floor, if their mother calls three times during your first date, beware! 

My favorite dating tips, however, come not from Sex and the City but from a certain feminist author born in 1775.

Jane Austen has been teaching us how to navigate love for centuries, and her lessons remain relatable. While it’s true that certain social developments have made it a lot easier for us to find and choose our partners, the dating scene hasn’t changed all that much since Jane Austen made her living writing about it. I like to think of her as the Edwardian Carrie Bradshaw, only she’s writing less about sex and more about gender inequality and sexist property inheritance laws. 

Here are some dating tips gleaned from Jane Austen’s prophetic romance novels:

First impressions are not everything.

When Mr. Darcy first proposed to Elizabeth, he thought it would be romantic to list all of the things he hated about her. And while it might not have gone the way he planned, eventually he and Elizabeth realized that they were wrong about each other. Foot in mouth syndrome is real. So, if on your first date you blather on about how much you hate hair metal and then realize your date has been wearing a Motley Crüe t-shirt the whole time, don’t despair. True love overcomes! 

Never settle for less than you deserve. 

In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne says, “The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!” 

Marianne almost falls for Willoughby’s tricks, but realizes in the end that she would never have been happy with someone so selfish. She knows what she is worth, and it isn’t a money-hungry jerk. 

Know your worth! If you leave a date feeling worse about yourself than you felt going into it, it might be time to delete their number. You don’t have to settle for someone who puts you down. What do you require? Will you settle for less than that?

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Don’t put all of your self-worth into each date you have. You’re more than a sucky Tinder date. When you lose your faith, follow Jane Austen’s advice: go for a walk, a hike, a year-long backpacking excursion in the desert. Or, if you’re a little less dramatic than the rest of us, curl up with some tea and watch David Attenborough documentaries. It’s what Jane Austen would have done. 

“Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.” 

This advice from Northanger Abbey might be the best dating advice Jane Austen ever gave us. If you’re ever feeling scorned in love, you’re not alone—so don’t go through it alone! Call your friends. Show up at their doorstep with takeout Chinese food and cry in their arms. That’s what friends are for. In the morning, you might realize that friendship is the finest balm for heartbreak. And don’t worry if you feel like you’re imposing on your friends—someday, you’ll return the favor. 

There is a reason readers have loved Jane Austen for so many centuries. She understands love better than anyone. She understands heartbreak. She understands how to deal with rude relatives (I’m looking at you, Lady Catherine). 

Jane Austen was the first Cosmopolitan Magazine. Her words ring truer and truer every day. So, if I can offer my own snippet of dating advice—if you’re heartbroken, read Jane Austen. If you’re in love, read Jane Austen. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you should probably read Jane Austen. You can thank me later.

Jerakah Greene

Jerakah Greene is a genderqueer lesbian from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They are soon to graduate from Columbia College Chicago, where they study fiction, literature, and gender studies. Most recently, they have had prose and poetry nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2019 for pieces published in Crabfat Magazine and Impossible Archetype. They are editor-in-chief of Antithesis, an academic journal out of Columbia College Chicago, and interned in the summer of 2019 for F(r)riction and the Brink Literacy Project. When they are not writing intensively about the queer experience, Jerakah can be found baking chocolate pies and hiding from tornadoes.

Gresham College

Image courtesy Gresham College, public domain.