Over the last few years, my takes on romantic relationships have solidified. Here they are! I wouldn't take them as "advice" so much as "Evan's values."
1. You just pick someone and love them. People get too caught up in finding a perfect person, and don't understand that their partner is fluid and ever-changing. Love is a choice. If someone asks you why you're with your current partner, the answer should always be "because I chose to be." If that choice is dependent on your partner remaining fixed in place, or dependent on a fantasy version of them you have in your head, then you have fantasy love. Love is not desire or admiration, it's acceptance. It's saying "I love the person you are, whoever that may be today."
2. You should just be clear about intentions. These days, when I ask someone out, I say "date". Not "hey want to go to thing together". Date. "You seem cool, let's go on a date." Not "hey, let's go do something 1-1 in a way that's ambiguously could be a date."
I typically ask folks out this way and occasionally, other men will comment on it.
They'll say "You can't do that, what if they say no?" -> Then they say no! It's possible that I've never experienced this as a problem in a way other men seem to fear. Most people who have said no when I asked them out went on to be good friends. I think many other men fear that simply asking is "creepy" and don't understand that "creepy" is not taking no.
They'll say "You can't just ask someone out immediately, you have to spend time with them and build up rapport and see if they want to even go on a date with you!" -> Or you could just ask. The point of going on a date is to learn about the other person. People are not Pokemon to be worn down slowly over time until you eventually get a chance to capture them. If you want to ask someone out, just do it.
They'll say "You can't do that, what about the women who want to slowly transition a friendship into a relationship and don't like direct forwardness?" -> Not sure! I don't encounter this much, though I'm sure it's real. My guess is that the women I'm attracted to are the sort of person who want someone who is clear and direct, and so there's a selection bias.
Similarly, if I'm going on a date with someone, and I'm not having a good time, I'll just end the date. If I'm seeing someone and it's not going well, I'll just say so. It's better to end things early than to drag people on for months.
3. You can just build any relationship you want. There's no rules. Each person I've been with wants a different set of things from the relationship smorgasbord, but most sort of assume that everyone else wants the exact same slice. So get specific. Ask for what you want and be clear about what they want. If that changes, talk about it.
Sometimes when you're around someone, you may morph into some version of yourself that you don't like. I used to believe this was a problem with me and the other person: unfixable, requiring a split. But this is something you can cultivate too, if you're aware of it. You fix it by noticing which habits cause you to be that way. If you express it, your partner is your teammate in getting you back to the person you want to be.
4. When someone is upset, respond with love. You may come close to the person and they'll hiss and claw at you. If you think "man, this person hates me" or get defensive and you try to throw the person out, you're doing the wrong thing. Instead, just love the hiss and claws. You have to actually love the ups and downs. People aren't really themselves when they're going through strong emotions and really just need support. Love is saying "yes, I choose you, even now."
5. When you are upset, respond with trust. When you're going through strong emotion, your brain may try to push you away from the person in front of you. Instead, ignore the feeling and respond with trust. Literally saying "look, I know you mean well", giving a small gift, or anything that short-circuits the need to defend yourself. You're on the same team.