New Rules of Dating: What I’ve Learned



I’ve been dating for 18+ years. And occasionally it still drives me insane. During one of those moments of insanity, I sat down and channeled my frustration into a set of dating rules. Warning: These are my own rules – born of trial and error and years of experience. I take full responsibility for them. I aspire to live by them and I fail daily.

  1. Be human. Embrace real emotions. Share real emotions. Don’t try and pretend you’re not affected by them. We all are – no matter what age.
  2. Be kind. This is critical. You’re dealing with real human emotions (see #1). Some people confuse being kind with being perceived as kind. True kindness is considering the long term effect of your actions on a human being who has feelings like you.
  3. Be honest. With yourself and with a potential partner. This is just as important as rule #2. Ask yourself: Is it true? Kind? Necessary? Send a clear message in a kind way.
  4. Be deliberate. If you don’t like them enough to deliberately date them, than you probably don’t like them enough. Never use another person to simply satisfy your physical or emotional needs. Or worse, waste time and energy cause you worry you’ll hurt them. This is confusing. And in the end violates rule #2.
  5. Learn how to flirt (and distinguish flirting from rule #2). I don’t pretend to know anything about this. But from what I can tell, it’s critical.
  6. Learn to be comfortable on your own without trampling out the yearning for companionship. If you don’t know how to be alone, you’ll create relationships for the wrong reason.
  7. Notice the insanely powerful human emotions in you without taking immediate action. Notice the desire to text / call / flirt / kiss. Notice and do nothing. Watch it fade. Watch it grow. Practice control. Practice giving in. Practice walking away. Notice what feels right and happy and good.
  8. Be aware of a false sense of connection! Relationships aren’t built through texting or kissing (although these are all awesome in their proper place). Strong connections are created through quality conversation and shared experiences.
  9. Be present. This is hard with so many distractions. It’s worth the effort! Put your phone away and focus on the person next to you – your mom, your sister, your friend, your date. Practice listening and feeling. If you have to pull out your phone, tell the other person what you’re doing and then go back to being present when you’re done. This is basic respect and leads back to rule#2.
  10. Respect agency. You may be sorely tempted to write a crazy love letter, but don’t be surprised when it doesn’t get returned. He or she makes choices. You make choices. Grieve. Then move on.

If you want to read more, you should read the New Rules of Marriage, by Terrence Real. It changed my life.

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