8 Dating Rules You Should Break14-06-2011
There’s a hilarious scene in the movie Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks's character contemplates getting back into the dating game and wonders if the rules have changed. If that describes you, back in the saddle again after a hiatus, divorce or widowhood, know that yes, the rules have changed—and for the better.
Old credos, like waiting a certain number of dates before having sex or insisting that the guy should always pick up the bill, may be officially outmoded, but they still linger in many people’s minds. Why? “Because one of these rules might have worked in one situation with one person,” says Gary Lewandowski, Jr., PhD, associate social science professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey—which by no means makes it something that everyone should live by. Read on for eight dating rules ripe for the breaking.
1. Don’t have sex on the first date, but be prepared to jump into bed on the third.
Rules about when or whether to hit the sack with a new partner can be confusing. Sometimes, especially if you’re not necessarily looking for something long-term, moving fast feels right (as long as you stay safe). But conversely, believing you should have sex after a specific number of dates can feel artificial, not to mention scary in some cases.
A better rule: “Let the connection between the two of you develop, and allow sex to happen organically,” says Dr. Lewandowski, whether that takes a week, a month or more. If he’s expecting you to move faster, ditch the pressure—and possibly him. On the other hand, if you’ve been waiting and he’s not quite there yet, it may be time to move on, since the two of you aren’t quite in sync. The point is that rules don’t help you figure out the right time to have sex––your own feelings and instincts do, says Dr. Lewandowski.
2. A woman should never ask a man out.
This one, says Wendy Lyon, PhD, psychologist and relationship coach, “is an old-fashioned rule that says he should be in charge and be the ‘hunter.’” The idea is that if a woman takes the initiative, the man won’t feel, well, manly.
A better rule: If you’ve met a guy at a party and are having a great chat, there’s no reason you can’t say something like, “I’d love to keep this conversation going. Can we get together for coffee or a drink?” To summon the courage, remember two things: One, a guy who might be scared off by your “forwardness” isn’t worth your time anyway. And two, “men are as afraid of rejection as you are,” says Dr. Lyon . “A guy who’s interested will be relieved that the burden’s not on him this time.”
3. Never talk about your ex-boyfriend or -husband on a date.
There’s a grain of good advice in this rule, which is that you don’t want to spend the whole date bad-mouthing an ex and coming across as bitter, says Dr. Lyon. But the idea that you should never bring up your past is outmoded. “You want to be open and honest and not act as though your history is a taboo subject,” says Dr. Lewandowski.
A better rule: “Think of talking about a past relationship as a way to communicate what you want out of a new relationship,” says Dr. Lyon. Just save certain insights––such as how you learned that you prefer a man who loves his family, which your ex did not––for when you’re ready to take your relationship to the next
4. Always avoid touchy subjects like religion and politics.
The reason this rule gained traction is that making strong views known used to be seen as unladylike. Plus, it could cause friction between you and your date, and the last thing you’d want is to end up in a mighty Red State/Blue State battle over margaritas.
A better rule: Though you don’t need to demand to know on date number two how he voted in the last presidential election, “you do eventually want to know these vital things about a potential partner,” says Dr. Lewandowski. “You might as well get things out of the way that could be deal breakers down the line.” Plus, if you find out that your views are aligned—or even if they clash in just the right way—you’ve got some spirited and interesting conversations ahead.
5. If you’re divorced, wait one month for each year you were married before dating.
Your friend, colleague or mother might tell you this rule in a kind attempt to keep you from leaping into a poor match out of post-divorce loneliness, but “these limits are arbitrary, and have nothing to do with when you’re really ready to find love again,” says Dr. Lewandowski.
A better rule: Spend time figuring out what you want and then decide when you're ready—either for casual dating or a new relationship. “You have to let go of the old relationship, and when that will happen is not the same for everyone,” says Dr. Lyon.
6. The guy should always pay.
This rule got its start back when nearly all men had more disposable income than women, who were probably dating while still living in their parents' home. These days, not only are you not a jobless youngster, but you might be more financially secure than your date. Not to mention that you may not want to be beholden to him either.
A better rule: Forget the “always” or “never” rules about paying, says Dr. Lyon. “Who pays will depend on your generation or who did the asking out,” or just your impulse at the time the check comes. Try not to make a big deal out of it either way. Better yet, be upfront when you go out: “This one’s on me” always sounds good. In the case of a check tussle, use it as an opportunity to have a laugh, and go dutch.
7. If you don’t feel an immediate sexual spark, forget it.
This may be an effect of too many romance movies; we all can easily fall under the spell of the idea of love- or lust-at-first-sight, a notion that is as old as Romeo and Juliet. It’s easy to think that if you don’t feel the tingle at the outset—or at the very least, the first kiss—there’s no way you’re going to make it over the long haul. But that sort of thinking might cause you to overlook the quiet-but-intriguing guy whose company you enjoy even though you don’t feel a spark just yet.
A better rule: “Sexual chemistry is important, but you may not feel it initially,” says Dr. Lewandowski. “It can develop after you've known someone for a while.” That said, adds Dr. Lyon, “there has to at least be an ember!” If you’re truly not feeling it, it’s better to let things go gently now rather than hang around waiting and hoping for a match to flare.
8. Don’t reveal your desire for children, a new career or any other life goal.
It’s mighty old-fashioned to be so demure with a new guy that you don’t reveal your true wishes for what you want out of life. In the past, you may have been told to keep your desire to have children, for example, under wraps out of fear that you might scare away a guy who isn’t quite ready to settle down yet. Following this rule is, in addition to being outdated, dishonest and disingenuous.
A better rule: Sure, early on you don’t want to blurt out, “If you don’t want kids, tell me now.” But at the same time, you shouldn’t deny your own basic needs, wants or ambitions, says Dr. Lewandowski. Don’t be afraid of revealing that you’re in the market for a long-term serious relationship and potential father for your children, or that you plan to go back to law school or move to Africa. “Anyone who is scared away by your revelations is someone you want to send packing,” says Dr. Lyon.
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