Dating by the Rules

I'm a girl who is really strong on rules when it comes to guys. When I was younger, I was more naive and didn't understand men or realize the importance of playing "hard to get." Then I read the book The Rules, which led me to change my views on how I should interact with the men I date. Essentially, it taught me to treat a guy I like the way I would treat a guy I don't like- because the men that women aren't interested in always seem to be very attracted to them and vice versa. Therefore, in order to win the guy you really want--you have to appeal to that competitive side of him that causes him to want what he can't have. Some of the ways that I play it cool are to never call men that I meet and/or keep myself "busy," so that I have little available time to go out.

When I follow these rules they work well for me. My problem is that I met this man at a function the other night during which I foolishly had too much to drink. He asked me back to his place and I went. We didn't sleep together, but we did kiss quite a bit and talked until 9 in the morning, when he gave me a ride back to my place. Over the past two days we have been emailing each other and last evening he said repeatedly that he can't stop thinking about me and can't wait until he sees me again. He then asked me out for a drink this week-end. My rules usually prohibit me from going for a drink on a first date because I believe the man would take me out for dinner if he were really interested. I really like this guy but fear that his attraction to me will be less because I went to his house the other night. Should I tell him I am busy and cancel the date? I don't want to appear too eager and ruin something that I think could be great. --Ms. Rule Breaker

Dear Ms. Rule Breaker--

While I am a strong supporter of following established rules that have been shown to protect and benefit the people who adhere to them, as well as those around them- I would advise you to reconsider your strict adherence to "The Rules," which are based on a specific set of (negative) beliefs about men and their attitudes and behavior towards women and dating. Essentially, they instruct women on how to protect themselves from the inevitable bad behavior of men who want what they can't have and don't want what is readily available to them.

What these rules don't address or even acknowledge is that no two men (or women) are the same and that healthy relationships do not happen when they begin with games, deceit, and a negative perception of how "all guys" are. Dating is about getting to know someone and determining your compatibility--which is based on good chemistry and overall rightness for one another. Successful dating requires honesty, openness, mutual respect and trust, which are the essential pillars of all lasting relationships.

Instead of blindly following The Rules, consider coming up with your own set of standards for your dating life--ones that reflect your values, goals and present needs. Approach each new man you meet with an open mind and give him the same respect that you would want and expect from him. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into doing anything that doesn't feel right or true to your own self. Follow your instincts, communicate, learn all you can about each other--and base each small (and large) choice you make along the way on its rightness or wrongness for you at this time in your life and this relationship. Make sure you remember to relax, have fun and be yourself. If this is the one for you, his attitude, behavior and desire for commitment will tell you all you need to know.

(from September 2006)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"Always the girl friend, Never the Girlfriend"
List of more
"Help With Dating"

"Phobic About Bad Dates"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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