We all have our own set of rules that govern us, in life and in love. Sometimes these rules make no sense, but other times they are based on tried-and-true methods of keeping ourselves safe (yes, emotional safety counts, too). There are bound to be differences from person to person; it’s inevitable.
I understand that these rules might not resonate with everyone, but I wanted to take a minute to share my own personal dating rules – things that help to guard my heart from people with bad intentions.
Of course, they don’t work 100% of the time (is there anything that really does?) but simply thinking about them may help you to prioritize your own needs above the requests of your partner. (I know, for the hopeless romantics out there – this can be really hard sometimes.)
1. Don’t let your partner (or prospective partner) mold you into someone you’re not.
It can be tempting to let your partner change you. After all, especially when we love someone, we tend to want to bring ourselves as close to “perfect for them” as we can. But it’s important to remember that changing the fundamental aspects that make you unique won’t make you perfect for your partner – it’ll make you fake.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t change and grow over the course of the relationship, as you definitely should. Just make sure those changes are actually improvements and not just “modifications”.
2. Don’t dress in anything that makes you uncomfortable.
I actually had someone tell me once that I should “dress for the girl I’m trying to woo”, and I think it’s important to note that that’s bad advice. After all, wouldn’t you prefer someone who’s attracted to your actual style? Sure, you should dress nice when you’re trying to meet someone – but not outside of your style. (Besides, you’ll be more confident if you wear something comfortable, and confidence is very sexy.)
The same goes for makeup. I never wear makeup on a first date, because I rarely wear makeup in the first place. If I wore makeup for a first date, it would set the assumption that I wear it all the time – and then I would feel pressured to actually wear it all the time, which would be uncomfortable for me.
3. Don’t dish out every detail right away.
I’ll admit that I have made the mistake of telling too much of myself to someone new, and they totally used it against me. Of course, this built the necessary safety net – I reveal slowly until I know that the person:
- wants to know these things;
- will accept me for these things;
- and won’t use these things against me.
It’s never easy to tell, but if you tell too much, too soon, you’re likely to alienate people. The best girlfriends will care, will accept you, and won’t use your secrets to hurt you – but how do you know if she’s like that from the start? Make sure you’re not sharing more than she is.
4. Don’t make promises in the beginning.
I’m the sort that hates making promises, because I feel like I’m bound to the soul. I’ve met plenty of women who didn’t feel this way, and it completely baffles me. How can anyone not feel the need to be true to their word? I guess I just don’t know how to deal with disloyalty.
For the women like me who feel obligated to keep their promises, it’s best not to make promises too early into the relationship, as there’s no actual guarantee that you’ll be able to keep them – and then if you aren’t, you’ll feel a great deal of guilt.
For those women who don’t feel like they need to keep their promises, I urge you to stop making promises in the first place, because chances are, some woman is going to take your words for truth – and then you’re going to hurt her. Please don’t do this.
5. Don’t make a big deal out of things that don’t matter.
Apparently I’m in the minority, because I’m very selective about which issues are worth fighting over. But it comes from a place of self-preservation. If you’re bickering and fighting over every little thing, you’re not allowing yourself to appreciate your partner as she is. Instead, keep in mind a few things you won’t tolerate, and go from there.
Which brings us to…
6. Don’t keep putting up with the same nonsense.
Maybe your last partner was a cheater, so you decide you won’t deal with cheaters anymore. See someone who’s showing signs that she’s unfaithful? Definitely call her on it! No one has the right to abuse your emotions. But at the same time, we teach people how to treat us. Whether it’s putting your foot down with a partner you’ve been with for awhile, or establishing what you absolutely won’t deal with in the future, you shouldn’t back down from the things you consider necessary.
7. Don’t let people make you negative.
There are a million people in this world who have nothing better to do than bring others down. The worst thing you can do is let them get you down!
This isn’t really limited to dating, of course, but there have been a number of haters in my dating history that made me feel terrible about who I was.
It’s important that you pick yourself back up and don’t let them to get to you again. Once they’ve shown that they’re a negative person, they’re likely to continue being negative.
8. Don’t give it up too easy.
I’m not judging those who have sex on a first date – in fact, I’ve been that person a few times in my life. But if you’re not at least making the other person work for it, you’re likely undervaluing yourself. You should make sure that the person you’re planning to have sex with thinks you’re at least worth making an effort for.
Why wouldn’t you be? After all, if we don’t think that it’s worth putting forth the effort behind having sex with someone, then we don’t really want to have sex with them – we just want to have sex in general. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of that.
9. Don’t be inflexible.
It’s highly unlikely that someone is going to come along and magically be the answer to every problem. It happens in movies and sometimes in books, but generally speaking, people are flawed. We don’t want to expect perfection because we can’t deliver perfection in return. If someone doesn’t meet all of your criteria, but they cover all the basics (the things you really shouldn’t compromise on), why not give them a chance? Limiting yourself to just your “ideal preferences” could mean that you’re missing out on valuable new experiences.
10. Don’t be mean.
It should go without saying – if you want to be attractive to a partner, you should be nice. I don’t believe the idea that the “nice guys finish last”, and you shouldn’t either. Maybe it takes us a little longer to find someone, because we’ve been used by the wrong people too many times – but it should be more about the quality of your date than the quantity of dates you have. If you’re nicer, you’re more likely to attract people who are nicer.
Of course, this isn’t guaranteed. There are some mean people out there who will flock towards the nice girls with the intention of taking advantage of them – so it’s in your best interest to be able to weed them out from the people who are genuinely worth your time.
11. Don’t settle.
It might seem like this contradicts rule #9, but there is a big difference between being flexible and settling. When you’re flexible, you’re giving up on your preferences. When you settle, you’re giving up on your needs. Naturally it may be difficult to tell the difference between your needs and your wants, but if you care about your feelings (which you totally should) you need to figure out the differences and refuse to settle for less than you deserve.
12. Don’t rush into anything.
This one seems like it goes hand-in-hand with a few other rules here, and in some ways it does. But it’s important that you don’t get ahead of yourself when it comes to your dating life. Sure, the rush to find someone new after you’ve been hurt can be overwhelming – but it’s best if you don’t give into the temptation. If you take your time to know yourself before you begin trying to know a partner, you’ll be able to fully understand your wants and needs (#11), your style (#2), and who you really are (#1).
13. DO be your own true love.
Ladies, I can’t tell you how important it is to love yourself. While I don’t believe in the saying “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else”, the fact is that self-esteem issues rarely make you more attractive to someone (as the only people who are specifically attracted to confidence issues are those who plan to use it against you). You should learn how to love yourself, even if you aren’t able to do it before you begin a relationship.
One of the easiest ways to love yourself (if you’re struggling in this area) is to find something you’re really good at, and run with it. There’s always going to be something that you have a tremendous amount of skill at – but no one is perfect. There’s always room for improvement. Develop your skills; there’s nothing that’s quite as much of a confidence boost as being proud of yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to be proud of you, when you can begin being proud of yourself.
I understand that mental health issues may make this difficult for some women, and simply “loving yourself” isn’t going to fix your depression, anxiety, etc. Most mental illnesses are neurological in nature and a simple attitude change won’t make them go away entirely. But it’s an important first step on the long road to love and happiness.