May 29, 2024
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA
Dating advice Dating Apps

Common Dating ‘Rules’ That Are Actually Ruining Your Love Life

Dating 'Rules

Are Traditional Dating Rules, Well, Dated? Or is it Helpful to Have a Framework to Help Navigate New Relationships? 

Relationship experts – and by this I mean “tipsy friends at brunch” – adore giving dating advice on other people’s love lives. Often, it’s quite strongly influenced by their opinions and experience, so might not be relevant, and frequently, it involves some zany and inane dating rules, and then the odd tip about avoiding red flags. Actual therapists will probably avoid broad statements, yet ideas about when to have sex, how to avoid seeming desperate and how to do online dating are everywhere. 

Relationship rules: a contradictory concept?

 Here’s the thing: relationships are based on feelings; rules are based on facts. Dating, say, a single parent might seem like it could be complicated, yet if you fall for a charming mother and adore her rosy-cheeked child, the rules are ignored. I would argue that dating rules are made to be broken or ignored, instead of adhered to with incredible precision. Ultimately, you have to trust your emotional intelligence and gut feeling instead of, say, the amount of time it takes for someone to reply in a text conversation. 

Dating Rules

Waiting for sex

With that in mind, let’s look at some popular dating rules. One that’s fallen out of favour, somewhat, is that you have to wait for the third date to have sex. It seems like this might ruin the romance, really, because you can’t act out of a spontaneous desire on the second date or hesitate and feel anxious and decide you need to eat four plates of spaghetti before you’re willing to show a significant other your fancy knickers because you might ruin the new relationship. I advocate for approaching sex with desire, passion and perhaps romance, instead of formulaic rules and social expectations. 

Dating Rules

Time constraints

A rule for the 21st century is time limits. Respond to this text, check your WhatsApp, send a meme on Instagram, download BlueSky and try to figure out what it is, oh, and if you’re on the dating apps, keep looking through them. Digital burnout is common and it’s even more likely to happen if you’re putting all of your romantic hopes on some funny little dating app. Some people have chosen to set boundaries on their app usage, which sounds nice, even if I think the desire to check your online dating profile might get the better of you sometimes. There aren’t any easy answers, really. If you adhere to dating rules, you have to respond within a specific timeframe, but if you limit your app usage for your mental health, then you’ll break those rules. It sounds exhausting and unhelpful. 

Dating Rules

Is your life ruined?

 I don’t think that following dating rules will necessarily ruin your life, but they certainly seem to take the fun out of things. Sex and relationships should bring joy, hilarity, orgasms, and at least one awkward “date” which makes an excellent story. Rigidity and convention are, to me, antithetical to this. However, to be fair, there are some times when I think dating rules are pretty useful. For example, someone who hasn’t dated recently might find a framework helpful and be able to work out what is expected of them. Controlling and abusive partners will sometimes try to “speedrun” relationships to pass certain stages, and then turn nasty, so having an idea of how frequently you should speak and when you should think about moving in can aid someone in identifying red flags. 

Dating Rules

Unclear rules

The final issue is that not everybody knows the relationship rules. I understand them from the perspective of a younger, queer, feminine perspective, yet if you spoke to an older person, or a straight person, or someone from a different ethnic or class background, they’ll almost certainly have a different perspective. I know of the ones I’ve discussed here, yet there’s no guarantee that a person with a different group of friends and a list of rom-coms will know them. Equally, I haven’t religiously watched, say, How I Met Your Mother or Sex and the City, nor have I spoken to every relationship coach, so my own knowledge may have gaps. Assuming that someone knows and follows the same dating rules as you is a good way to create unrealistic expectations and get upset over nothing. 


 Dating rules are fun. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be used for actual dating, but for gossipy conversations with your friends. Coming up with ridiculous rules is extremely funny and can start conversations about what you’d like in a relationship, yet ultimately, they’re not a good way to establish a happy and healthy love life.
Rachel Hall, M.A., completed her education in English at the University of Pennsylvania and received her master’s degree in family therapy from Northern Washington University. She has been actively involved in the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, and coping with life changes and traumatic events for both families and individual clients for over a decade. Her areas of expertise include narrative therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and therapy for traumatic cases. In addition, Rachel conducts workshops focusing on the psychology of positive thinking and coping skills for both parents and teens. She has also authored numerous articles on the topics of mental health, stress, family dynamics and parenting.

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