Former Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles Discusses How Women Can Find Worthwhile Love During College

If you’ve ever googled “first time sex tips” or “how to tell if he likes me,” then you’ve likely ended up on an article from Cosmopolitan or read something produced under the direction of Joanna Coles, chief content officer at Hearst Magazines and highkey dating guru.  

As one of publishing’s biggest stars and someone who’s regularly center stage in women’s media, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that Joanna is chock full of all the essential, everyday sex and dating advice that college women crave, picked up from her years of experience serving at the helm of Cosmo as editor-in-chief. Now, access to the mass reserve of Joanna’s relationship advice just got easier with the release of her book, Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World (which you can pick up on Amazon here).

Described as “a diet book for romantic relationships,” Love Rules compares resisting junk food with avoiding partners and dating habits that are bad for you. Joanna talked to Her Campus about how college women can utilize her love rules when navigating everything from swiping right to closing the door on an old love.

This interview has been edited for length.

Her Campus: What was the most significant thing you discovered while writing Love Rules?

Joanna Coles: One of the things that most alarmed me was that people are finding dating – which should be really fun – fraught and confusing. Also, that we have in society stopped prioritizing real relationships as an important part of our psychological nutrition. Instead, we spend a lot of time trying to build up audiences of fans and followers and Facebook friends, and behave as if they have the same value as a real relationship – which we know they don’t. An online partner is not the same as an actual partner, and online communication, even if it’s funny and flirty and fabulous, is not as valuable as a real conversation.

HC: In Love Rules, you emphasize continuously that dating apps are convenient, but just not comparable for meeting someone in person. Can you speak more to this?

JC: They’re not. The thing is that they are incredibly useful for connecting people, but they are connecting tools, they are not an end in itself. The amount of time that I have seen young women and men, and older women and older men, wasting on these fancy relationships online, especially when you’re texting back and forth – and the person may be a very entertaining texter – but it’s not going anywhere if you don’t speak on the phone or you don’t meet in person.

HC: What do think is one of the more important aspects of building an online dating profile to get those connections later in real life?

JC: I’m not saying the physical photo of somebody is not important, but what you want to look for is how they are expressing their values, and how you are expressing your values. In the end, that’s the connective tissue that will allow you to create an important relationship... You’re looking for people that have got similar interests, people who are active, people who seem to be in an appropriate place in their life and that speak to you in words that you would use.

HC: Out of the 15 love rules, what is the one rule you feel women should be prioritizing the most?

JC: I do think “clearing out your cupboards” and not sleeping with an ex are really important. It’s this idea that you can somehow simmer people on the back burner... and then re-engage with an ex when you feel like it over a weekend if you’re feeling lonely. These are not good habits to get into, and they stop you from moving forward.

It’s already very hard to close the door on the relationship, and it’s impossible to stop staying connected with someone because we’re all connected online. It’s easy to follow what someone is doing, and it’s easy on a low moment to text them or to start following them on one of their social media channels, and actually, that makes it even harder to get over someone.

HC: How should women who want to go about building real, authentic relationships approach hook-up culture during college?

JC: This is my comparison to fast food: I really do think the hook-up culture is like french fries; that it’s delicious in the moment, but it leaves you with an aftertaste... and it’s essentially emotional calories. You have to go into a hook-up very clear of what you want out of it. If you’re the kind of person that could go into a hook-up and be absolutely fine knowing that you may never see this person again... then that’s okay. But it’s hard for hook-up sex to be good... because you don’t know each other’s bodies so you don’t know what turns each other on.

Over the long haul, sex usually gets better when you have a degree of trust with someone because you can build up the communication tools to tell someone what you like. Hook-up sex might be energetic sex... but it’s unlikely to be very satisfying because you don’t know each other, and this is a bit of a risk...

You also need to be really honest about why you’re having the hook-up, and if it’s just to have a bit of physical fun, that’s fine. But if what you actually want is a bigger connection, then it’s unlikely you’re going to get it from a hook-up—especially with a random stranger.

HC: For rule 14, you talk about pinpointing a relationship role model. In your personal life, who has been your relationship role model?

JC: I think it’s changed over time. I’m still figuring out who my relationship role models are. My parents are still married and have been married 54 years. I don’t necessarily want their marriage, but I’m impressed by how they’ve pulled it off... So probably my parents, and my grandparents who were very happily married.

As you get older you appreciate the longevity of relationships more. I have a few friends that I’m sort of impressed with the way they’ve held it all together. But I think throughout your life it changes, as you go into different stages and if you have children, you realize that you want different things out of different people.

Order your copy of Love Rules now, and follow Joanna on Instagram to keep up with her latest adventures.