Dating can be a complicated and frustrating social practice. In order to simplify baffling situations that invariably occur when we attempt to determine the suitability of another as a potential mate, society has conveniently created a set of rules that most people abide by. Following established “dating Dos and Don’ts” may seem convenient on the surface, as it allows for predictability and clearer explanations when trudging through the dating mud. However, ironically, the rules that intend to simplify dating have instead turned it into a manipulative game resulting in unfavourable consequences. Dating rules assume that people are predictable and alike. When the dating process inevitably allows for the discovery of another person’s individuality, and when a situation occurs that we cannot neatly prescribe to the Dos and Don’ts of dating, it can cause shock and lead to dating failure. I’ll explain.
I admit, I am an avid reader of woman’s magazines. I also enjoy reading chick lit and watching a good chick-flick movie. This has allowed me, like many other people, to become quite knowledgeable and well versed in dating rules. One famous well-known rule is Never Have Sex on the First Date. It is popular belief that when a woman has sex with a man too early in their relationship, the man will assume she is only interested in him for sexual purposes. To him, she will never be wife material, only a fuck buddy that will serve him until something more wife material comes into the picture. Another dating rule you’ve probably heard of is Wait Three Days to Call. After a date, it is a social faux-pas for a man to call a woman right away. Never mind if the date was really good, and both interested parties would like to see each other sooner. And if waiting three days causes the interested female anxiety and she is left wondering if she did something wrong, so be it. Waiting the prerequisite Three Days is a dating must. A third popular dating rule that has been slightly adapted to suit feminist standards is A Man Must Pay on the First Date. This is a traditional dating rule. Although it is now socially acceptable for a woman to offer to go dutch, the man must never take her up on this offer. This would mean he does not have a) either enough money to be a good provider, or is b) too inconsiderate to pay. Translation: he is a poor potential mate that probably shouldn’t be granted a second date.
It seems that when it comes to dating, most people have a Deal Breaker. Even if the person you just had a date with has the physicality of Ryan Gosling and is funnier than Seth Rogan (or whatever floats your boat), and he/she lacks this one important trait or interest you deem to be Very Important, they are out. For a soccer player, not having an interest in sports may be that one character flaw that overrides every other positive personality trait. For a computer programmer, not understanding the binary code may be theirs. A bad kisser may be non-negotiable. The Dating Deal Breaker make people forget that people can have different interests in a relationship, and (shocker!), the relationship can still be happy and successful.
However, it is just not all women’s magazines articles, movies and books that are to blame. Men are not immune to the pre-established rules of dating and they are key players in the dating game. The website Askmen.com published 10 Timeless Dating Rules. Included in this article are gems such as Thou Shall Not Place her on a Pedestal (“It may seem romantic to revere your girl like Aphrodite, but it comes across as desperate and overbearing”), Thou Shalt Not Seem Too Enthusiastic (“Like the old showbiz cliché says: Always leave them wanting more. Try to follow the 3-for-1 Rule: Don’t initiate contact more than three times in a row; let her come to you once in a while”) and my personal favourite. Thou Shalt Not Share Excessive Details about Your Past (“You have a past; she has a past. Bringing up all the fine details of your old dating triumphs and troubles is unnecessary. It’ll only lead to jealousy and pointless competition. Don’t give her graphic details of your best one-nighter, and don’t badmouth the ex”). This same article advises men to treat dating like you are presenting your CV to a job interview. It suggests men should “give the woman a few details to display your credentials, but not enough to show that you are a psycho.”
So what is the harm about following these Dating Rules? After all, now we don’t have to decide what to talk about during a date, who should pay, if we should have sex afterwards and how long we should wait to call. However, if we only abide by these rules, we forget about individual differences that are necessary to consider if we are going to engage in a relationship with another person. Our culture likes to pretend that men and woman are very different and mysterious to each other. We need articles in Cosmopolitan Magazine and chick-flick movies to explain their actions, wants, and needs that are difficult to understand. Instead of actually communicating with our partner, we can instead use the “sage advice” provided by popular culture to explain their behaviour instead.
I am actually probably not the best person to give dating advice. I am in a long-term relationship and my last date was almost a decade ago, at sixteen. I have actually ever only dated two people. But this date at sixteen was with my future husband, so it was successful as far as successful dates go. Maybe it was because we were new to the dating game, or immune to a lot of popular dating culture that we didn’t follow any Dating Rules. From the very beginning, we communicated how we were feeling. Kyle didn’t need to pursue an Ask-Men article to tell him what to do or not to do on our date. I didn’t rush home after our movie to read a Cosmo magazine to help me interpret the subtext of our conversation. He knew that I was interested in him, and I know he was interested in me and there was no second-guessing about it. When we were dating, hardly anyone had cell phones. I didn’t worry about obsessively analyzing his text messages, and he called me the next day. I didn’t even know this was a faux pas according to the Dating Dos and Don’ts. We never played any games and we communicated our feelings. Oh, and about Deal Breakers? I am glad my Star Wars obsessed fiancé (who has a pair of Boba Fett sneakers hanging in a protective case on his wall) never stopped dating me because I hadn’t seen any of the movies. Or thought Darth Vader was actually called Dark Vader.
So ironically, I’ll end this article about not following dating advice by providing some dating advice. I think it’s time to take the game out of dating, and to be mature in our adult relationships. How about we drop the dating rules and pretences, communicate our feelings, and act according to the individual circumstances, not how society expects us to act? Dating rules which were created to help us find somebody better suited to us have now become so out of control and absolute that they prevent us finding who we are really looking for. If we let the other person know how we feel, there is no need for second guessing or interpretation. If you want a second date, tell him/her. If you want to have sex on the first date but are still hoping for a potential long-distance relationship, let that that person know. This will allow you to get to know the other person better, and decide for yourself if they are a suitable potential mate, which is what dating is all about. The idea that dating is complicated may provide for a good chick flick script or help to sell an article, but dating is actually simpler than you have been led to believe.
By Laura Fagan
(Image via Shutterstock).