In the age of Tinder and social media, dating has turned into a bit of a minefield. There have always been some set rules and expectations about what you should and shouldn’t do, but as the landscape shifts, some of the basics are being forgotten. We live in an entirely different dating world than we did 10 or 20 years ago, but there are still some golden rules that will never lead you far wrong. Here are 5 do’s and dont’s that will prevent you from overextending your boundaries and setting the wrong precedent.
Let’s start with the do’s
- Do Be Upfront and Clear About What You Want from the Relationship
This is something that can be especially tough for some people. There’s this feeling that if you make it known too soon that you’re looking for something serious, the person you’re dating is going to get cold feet and look for someone who’s a little less forward. But you also need to acknowledge that if that’s their mindset, it’s better to get it out in the open straight away rather than invest days, weeks, and months of your time only for them to then say, ‘I’d just like to keep things causal.’ If you’ve put in all that time and effort only to get rebuffed in that way, it’d crush you. And it’ll take far longer to get over that rejection and potential you’ve ascribed to the relationship than it would to simply be upfront straight away. You need to do this not only for the sake of your emotional health but also your integrity.. Being open and honest about your feelings doesn’t make you desperate. In today’s world, it’s refreshingly honest. If someone’s going to bail on you for sharing your actual intentions, they’re not worth the effort. Move on.
- Do Keep Dates Short and Sweet (To Begin with…)
Or, another way of phrasing this is the 90-minutes rule. And it can be a real lifesaver in getting you out of some awkward situations. If you’re going to play the dating game, you need an exit strategy, so you can politely excuse yourself if things aren’t going the way you expected. According to relationship experts, the ideal amount of time for a first date is around the 90-minute mark. That’s just the right amount of time to figure out if you like someone or not. You should be able to get a good read on any of their red flags and figure out if they’re second date material or not. To use the 90 minutes rule, all you have to do is set the expectation that you have to be somewhere 90 minutes after the date begins. That way you have your time of departure already set up well in advance of meeting up.
- Do Dress the Way that Makes You Feel Most Comfortable
And this is one that goes against the grain a little. But might make you breathe a sigh of relief. There’s been a certain obligation in the dating world that you have to dress to impress at every opportunity. But in reality, it doesn’t show the real you. It’s a heightened version that’s been manufactured for the specific purpose of getting someone to like you. And this applies to both sexes. Why not break the mould and wear your favourite outfit, even if it’s not necessarily your best outfit? Wear something that reflects your personality and the person you are deep down. Because if you do enter into a serious relationship, that’s the version your partner’s going to be 95% of the time. It’s best just to be yourself right from the start and if they don’t like you. Well, you’ve both saved yourself a whole lot of time.
- Do Listen Actively to What’s Being Shared (Ask Follow-Up Questions)
Once you’re on the date, what do you do? Let’s assume you’ve kept it simple and gone for a coffee date. You’ve got your 90 minutes on the clock – how do you approach the conversation? If you’ve met online, you could use the shared experience of bad dates or interactions to find some common ground. Or, if you’ve already met in person, you could use the FORD method to get things going. That’s an acronym that stands for: family, occupation, recreation, and dreams. But asking questions about these topics is only half the battle. You actually need to listen to what’s being said and ask appropriate follow-up questions that show you’re taking an interest. Reeling off a list of pre-prepared questions will make your date feel overly clinical and like an interview. The goal of active listening is to show empathy, which, if done in a naturally authentic way will go a long to sealing that elusive second date.
- Do Take the Initiative
Again, this is something that a lot of people have difficulty gauging. Who should make the first move? Should you ask for a second date or should you wait for some sort of clear sign? And it’s understandable if you’re struggling with this aspect and your main obstacle is the fear of rejection. But the truth is it might always be a no unless you ask first. You need to take that chance. It could be that the person you’re dating has set expectations about who asks who for the second date. If you’re on a first date with a shy, conservative girl with traditional values, she could be waiting for a date that never comes. She could go home, thinking the date was a disaster when in fact, you didn’t have the courage to voice your intentions. And, of course, this isn’t a gender-specific issue. The rule here is if you want it, go for it. You’ll never regret asking and getting turned down. But you’ll definitely regret never trying.
And now, here are 5 things that might be killing your chances of getting a second date.
- Don’t Bring Up Your Ex (Unless Explicitly Asked…)
This is an absolute first date taboo. You’ve surely had the experience where your date turns up and all they talk about is how their ex did this or their ex did that. The date quickly devolves into a therapy session, and you wonder how on Earth you can get out of this awful situation. This is where that 90-minute rule comes in real handy… Conversely, if you’re the one talking about your ex, apart from it being inappropriate, it gives off all the wrong signals. It can show that you still clearly have feelings for this person, might end up getting back together with them somewhere down the road and could represent the very real threat of infidelity. And, of course, finding out about how someone’s last couple of relationships ended can give you a lot of clues about their personality and what might be in store for you if things get serious. But it’s definitely not first date material.
- Don’t Lie to Impress Him/Her (It’ll Come Back to Haunt You)
And now, this one might seem like the most obvious of obvious things to say.. And yes, you can and will naturally embellish your stories a little bit for the sake of being a more fluent conversationalist. But there’s a big difference between minor embellishments and outright lying to someone to get them to like you. You’re only going to get caught out in the long run. So don’t make the main topic of conversation the fact you’re a successful entrepreneur when you’re actually in a corporate sales position. If you’re going to base your relationships on a foundation of lies, it’ll come tumbling down in the blink of an eye like the proverbial house of cards.
- Don’t Use Cliches (Like Don’t Ever, ever…)
It’s a massive turn-off for people. Leave your parent’s jokes at home. In fact, don’t take dating advice from any of your parents and definitely don’t try and emulate what you see on TV. It’s a recipe for disaster. If you want an example of what not to say, hilariously bad puns are almost always rough – unless you’re specifically looking for that special geeky person to share your life with. Anything that involves intense flattery of someone’s physical looks. Anything that involves you overreaching to make an emotional connection like, ‘I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.’ Or, ‘do you believe in love at first sight?’ You get the idea. If it sounds like it could be a line from a movie in 1950s golden-era Hollywood, you should probably steer well clear.
- Don’t Unload Your Entire Family History or Life Story
Or, in other words, don’t overshare. This is especially true of first dates, but it’s still a good rule of thumb. And sometimes, it can be really hard to stop yourself from doing it. But exercising restraint is a must. Keep it simple. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to get everything in all at once. Some things, once said cannot be unsaid. Play into the art of pacing your narrative/story. You can always add to it later. Basically, avoid anything heavy that involves trauma or painful memories that people might not have a specific reference point for and struggle to relate to. If you really value this person, you don’t want to scare them away. Give it time and these things will surface, naturally.
- Don’t Follow the Rules if They Don’t Make Sense in the Moment
I think it’s really important to finish with this caveat. Rules are there as general guidelines, and not every date is going to fit neatly within them. You need to be adaptable and let things flow naturally. So, let’s say someone brings up their ex was a narcissist and so was yours. It’s the first date, but who cares?! That’s common ground and something you could both mutually bond over. As unorthodox as it is, it gives you a chance to show real empathy because you’ve also had the same experience. The same goes for your style of humour. If you can tell you can go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go, and you know your date will be receptive, go for it. The rules are there to be broken. Don’t turn yourself into a cookie-cutter version of what you think people want. Remember the rules, but don’t forget to be yourself and take chances. Relationships and dating is all about being spontaneously yourself.