13 Taylor Swift Songs That Actually Have Good Relationship Advice
Swiftie or not, it’s hard to deny that Taylor Swift is an incredible lyricist.
From her self-titled debut album to the release of sister albums Folklore and Evermore in 2020, Taylor has blessed fans with songs that are both beautiful and relatable. Many of her songs are about relationships, and some of them offer great relationship advice.
1. Stay Beautiful
Best lyrical advice: “You're beautiful, every little piece, love / Don't you know you're really gonna be someone? / Ask anyone / And when you find everything you looked for / I hope your life leads you back to my door / Oh, but if it don't / Stay beautiful.”
This song is pretty mature for a 16-year-old, as it’s thought to be about a guy Taylor dated when she was still in high school. I think “Stay Beautiful” is one of the most underrated songs on her debut album, and it’s a shame because it’s one of her sweetest songs. Taylor recognizes that there’s a good chance the relationship won’t last forever, but she doesn’t wish any harm on him if it doesn’t work out. I like this wise and generous advice because, even though it comes from a younger Taylor’s perspective who has yet to experience heartbreak, it’s still good advice for an adult.
Best lyrical advice: “In your life you'll do things greater than / Datin' the boy on the football team / I didn't know it at fifteen / When all you wanted was to be wanted / Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now.”
We all know this song is a letter to Taylor’s 15-year-old self, and the advice she gives herself is just as important as it was when Fearless came out in 2008. As teenagers, we often think that our social and relationship statuses are the most important aspect of our lives. If I could give my 15-year-old self one piece of advice, I would tell her the same thing (and that straight side bangs with curly hair isn’t a good look). Though we can’t time travel to advise our younger selves, it’s good to hear this advice because many of her younger listeners will get the message.
Best lyrical advice: “And I remember that fight, 2:30 AM / As everything was slipping right out of our hands / I ran out, crying, and you followed me out into the street / Braced myself for the goodbye / 'Cause that's all I've ever known / Then, you took me by surprise / You said, ‘I'll never leave you alone.’”
Though most of Taylor’s songs from her early albums are autobiographical, “Mine” is about a girl who’s terrified to fall in love after watching her parents’ marriage fall apart. She expects her boyfriend to leave her after a blowout fight because she doesn’t know any different, but is surprised and relieved when he wants to work it out instead of calling it quits. The message behind this is that relationships are tough, but they’re worth fighting for. Another important message is that even if you’ve never seen a functional relationship, that doesn’t mean that you’re destined for the same fate – you deserve to find happiness and can have a healthy relationship.
Even if you’ve never seen a functional relationship, that doesn’t mean that you’re destined for the same fate.
4. Girl at Home
Best lyrical advice: “And it would be a fine proposition / If I was a stupid girl / But, honey, I am no one's exception / This, I have previously learned.”
“Girl at Home” is about a guy who’s either married or taken trying to hit on a girl at a bar. It’s always a scummy move, but we all know girls who ignore the giant red flags and hook up with him anyway. Taylor recognizes that she’s worth more than being someone’s side chick (note to all the ladies reading this: you’re worth more than just a side chick), but also feels for the other girl because she later mentions that she was once in the same position. Guys who do this are THE WORST, and young women should recognize their own worth, respect the wife or girlfriend, and turn that dirtbag down.
5. I Knew You Were Trouble
Best lyrical advice: “I guess you didn't care, and I guess I liked that / And when I fell hard, you took a step back / Without me, without me, without me / And he's long gone when he's next to me / And I realize the blame is on me / 'Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in.”
Like many Taylor Swift songs, I felt personally attacked when this was released. How did she know that I knew that guy was trouble when I first met him but ignored my gut instinct? Did she read my journal? Did she talk to my friends? HOW DID SHE KNOW?!
One of the many reasons why Taylor is so successful is because her music is relatable, and I think this is one of her most relatable songs. Falling for the "bad boy" while subconsciously (or consciously) knowing he’ll screw you over is an experience many young women can relate to, making Taylor’s advice to listen to your gut instead of falling for that guy all the more powerful.
Listen to your gut when it tells you to stay away from the “bad boy.”
6. Begin Again
Best lyrical advice: “And we walked down the block to my car / And I almost brought him up / But you start to talk about the movies / That your family watches every single Christmas /And I want to talk about that / And for the first time, what's past is past.”
Breakups suck, and sometimes it’s easy to become bitter after a bad breakup. In “Begin Again,” Taylor is clearly hurt by a previous breakup (*cough* Jake Gyllenhaal), and though she’s excited that a new relationship is blossoming, she can’t help but think about her last boyfriend and how he hurt her. At the end of the song, she accepts that the breakup is in the past and that she’s finally ready to move on to someone who treats her right. This song is perfect for anyone struggling to find the light at the end of the tunnel after a tough breakup because it offers hope and encouragement that the pain will heal and that you will find the right person someday.
7. All You Had To Do Was Stay
Best lyrical advice: “People like you always want back / The love they gave away / And people like me wanna believe you / When you say you've changed / The more I think about it now / The less I know / All I know is that you drove us / Off the road.”
Relationships are hard work, and it’s worth it to put your all into them, but it’s also important to know when to throw in the towel. “All You Had To Do Was Stay” is about being in a relationship with a guy who’s indecisive and wishy-washy and then realizing you’re worth more than someone who won’t reciprocate and give you their all. Realizing that your boyfriend isn’t putting the same effort into the relationship you are can be difficult (especially if you really love him), but it’s important to realize that one-sided relationships aren’t healthy and that you’re worth commitment. When a guy plays games or refuses to commit, it’s time to move on. Life is too short to spend it with someone who doesn’t want the same kind of loving relationship you do.
8. Call It What You Want
Best lyrical advice: “All my flowers grew back as thorns / Windows boarded up after the storm / He built a fire just to keep me warm / All the drama queens taking swings / All the jokers dressing up as kings / They fade to nothing when I look at him / And I know I make the same mistakes every time / Bridges burn, I never learn / At least I did one thing right / I did one thing right / I'm laughing with my lover, makin' forts under covers / Trust him like a brother / Yeah, you know I did one thing right / Starry eyes sparkin' up my darkest night.”
Most fans (myself included) believe that “Call It What You Want” is about Taylor realizing Joe Alwyn was the one for her after he stuck by her side during her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Joe was loyal throughout the scandal, proving himself to be the best boyfriend she’s ever had. This song shows that the right guy will stick by your side through the good and the bad, as well as see the best in you when you can’t. Everything Taylor went through was worth it to realize that Joe was the one for her, and this song reminds listeners not to settle for a guy who doesn’t love you in the tough times too.
The right guy will stick by your side through the good and the bad, and see the best in you when you can’t.
Best lyrical advice: “Hey, it's all me, in my head / I'm the one who burned us down / But it's not what I meant / I'm sorry that I hurt you.”
Fighting with your boyfriend or husband always sucks, but it’s also tough to admit when you were at fault in the argument. In a culture that believes women are always right and men are always wrong, owning up to your faults can be difficult. “Afterglow” is about swallowing your pride and admitting when you were wrong. Taylor apologizes for the pain she caused and realizes that she loves the guy enough to work through their problems. This is one of her best pieces of advice because a relationship can only last (in a healthy way) when conflict is properly handled (it helps to view conflict as a way to get to know yourself and your guy better) and both people can humbly admit when they were wrong and work to repair the relationship.
Best lyrical advice: “I once believed love would be burning red / But it's golden /Like daylight.”
In "Red," Taylor talks about a relationship that’s “burning red” with passion, but in hindsight, the relationship was dysfunctional and toxic. We often believe that love is about passion, and though it’s true to an extent, true love often feels more like contentedness, comfortableness, and belonging. In “Daylight,” Taylor realizes that none of her past relationships worked out because she was operating with an incomplete definition of love. Knowing what true, lasting, healthy love looks like is essential to being in a good relationship.
11. Invisible String
Best lyrical advice: “Cold was the steel of my axe to grind / For the boys who broke my heart / Now I send their babies presents.”
In “Invisible String,” Taylor comes to terms with the peace of being in a healthy relationship while reflecting on her past relationships. She’s happy that all of her past relationships led her to finally find a healthy relationship and also discusses how she’s grown over the years. She talks about how she’s been petty in past breakups (haven’t we all?) but has forgiven some exes who once caused her pain. That forgiveness is key – releasing the desire for revenge, releasing the bitterness, releasing the hold they have over you allows you to have the mental and emotional space for new, good things. It’s very freeing. (Many fans believe that Taylor is referring to Joe Jonas after the two reconciled as it’s believed she sent a baby gift to his daughter Willa. Since Joe’s wife, Sophie Turner, has publicly praised songs Taylor wrote about Joe, there’s a strong possibility that this theory is valid.)
Releasing the hold they have over you allows you to have the mental and emotional space for new, good things.
12. Tolerate It
Best lyrical advice: “I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it.”
Though Taylor has many songs that encourage young women to never settle for anything less than what they deserve, this song takes it to another level. Possibly the saddest song on the list, “Tolerate It” is about a woman who loves her husband unconditionally, only for him to not pay much attention to her or show her any appreciation. Though Taylor doesn’t say whether or not the woman in the song leaves her husband (she seems to be considering it), the sadness throughout suggests that she wants her listeners to know the pain of being taken for granted and feeling unseen and not understood. If your boyfriend (or any friend, for that matter) only “tolerates” you, then it’s time to break up.
Best lyrical advice: “There'll be happiness after you / But there was happiness because of you / Both of these things can be true / There is happiness.”
We often think that breakups are a huge mess and whirlwind of emotion, and either one or both of you are at fault for the relationship ending. Though this happens, sometimes relationships run their course with nobody to blame. This is the kind of breakup Taylor sings about in “Happiness,” suggesting that a breakup can be both amicable and painful. The lyric “nobody tells you what to do when a good man hurts you” is another powerful line in this song because we’re often led to believe the other person in a breakup is the villain, but the truth is often as simple as both people realized the relationship needed to end. This song recognizes the complexity and paradox of breakups – the relationship had its happiness, but there will be more happiness in the future with someone else as well.
Taylor Swift is a masterful singer, songwriter, and storyteller, but what sets her apart from other artists is how much she relates to her listeners through her music. Fans are not only entertained by her music, but can also learn life lessons along the way.
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