With dating experts giving us advice for our love lives left and right, it's easy to find ourselves torn between competing dating rules. Should you make the first move or play hard to get? Should you reveal your true self on the first date or hold back the baggage? And are matters of the heart as black and white as some rules make them out to be? We spoke to three different dating experts for the final answers to our most confusing dating rules!
“Never settle” VS. “Don’t be too picky”
We’re always told that we should have high standards and never settle for less. We’re also told that our standards are sky-high and our definition of “the best” doesn’t exist. So which piece of advice do we follow?
“If you don't find anyone attractive, you're being too picky,” says Lisa Shield, a Los Angeles-based relationship coach. “There are tons of great people out there but you have to open up and let people in. One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that if they make an elaborate list of what they want in a partner, it will help them will get what they want. Usually, this can weed out too many prospects because no one can fit the entire bill.” Still, it’s important to keep your standards, especially if they concern your core values, which are the defining principles that make you who you are; like religion, politics, marriage, or monogamy. These are what Shield calls “non-negotiables,” although she advises against having more than five.
Christine Hart, a dating coach based in Toronto, suggests making a list of minimum requirements so that you can get rid of excessive, and maybe unnecessary, qualifications on your list. She suggests focusing the minimum requirements on his character traits and how they will affect your life. “You won’t be too picky if you stay [true] to the character of the guy and give way to how he’s going to show up in your life.”
“Play hard to get” VS. “Make the first move”
You don’t want to seem too eager or you’ll scare him off but at the same time, you don’t want to come off as uninterested and lose your chance altogether. These are two fears that have been instilled in us since our middle school days. Girls are told that guys like the chase, but what about the shy guy who prefers a girl who makes things easy for him?
Adrian DeTorres from the University of British Columbia prefers it if a girl plays hard to get—to an extent. “I think it would be interesting to have the girl make the first move. Ultimately, I prefer if they play hard to get, [it's] more exciting.”
Make sure you let the guy know you’re into him. Let the guy pursue you and give you a call—just don’t play mind games. “It’s up to you to let him know if you’re interested and then he can take it from there,” says Hart, who believes in good old-fashioned courtship.
“Don't sleep with a guy until you've been exclusive for three months” VS. “Sleep with your date whenever it feels right”
Love and relationship experts have suggested various waiting times for when it’s appropriate to first sleep with the guy you’ve been dating. We’ve seen it range from three dates to three months to even six months. So is there really a certain amount of time you should wait before hopping in bed with your guy?
The experts say that depends on what you want. If you want a boyfriend, both Shield and Hart agree that you should not have sex for the purpose of getting a meaningful relationship. Although their waiting times vary (four months for Hart, six to eight weeks for Shield), they both agree that it’s important to take it slow. “I don’t think you should sleep with someone until you can honestly say ‘I can be myself around this person and he accepts me for who I am.’ If you can’t say [that], then you shouldn’t be sleeping with him,” says Hart.
“Opposites attract” VS. “Date people with common interests”
So he’s Jewish and you’re Muslim; he’s outgoing and you’re an introvert; he’s a business major and you’re in art school. The attraction is there, but will it work? They say that you should date someone with similar interests and beliefs, because you’ll have more to talk about. But others say that opposites attract for a reason and that dating someone too similar could get annoying.
“If you’re going about trying to get someone attracted by harping on what your common interests are, it’s not [going to] work because that only matters after you’ve created attraction,” says Scot McKay of dating and relationships advice company X & Y Communications.
In other words, it doesn’t matter how similar your lives may seem. If you’re not attracted to a person, you’re not going to date them, no matter how much you both love cooking or The Office. You should not put as much focus on similarities, instead, you should question how the guy makes you feel, says Hart. Ask yourself whether you feel good about yourself around him and focus on his character traits.“Interests, I find, don’t hold a lot of weight because the common interests could easily go by the wayside.”
“Be upfront about who you are” VS. “Hold back your baggage”
When it comes to crazy ex-boyfriends, money troubles or criminal records, many dating rules advise us to keep shut on the first date. But others tell us to be open about our past and present so that we don't waste our time with someone who won't stick around because of things we can't change.
“You might feel like you're making a deep connection with a date when you open up and share the private intimate details of your life, but this can actually turn someone off,” says Shield. “I would be careful about sharing TMI [too much information] right away. Less is more. If you do share something heavy, keep it short and always put a positive spin on it.”
When taking in dating advice, look into the reasons behind the rules and why they were made in the first place. Remember, rules differ because opinions and values differ. If they don’t fit your beliefs, don’t fret. Think of these “dating rules” as simple suggestions, not laws to live by!