No one ever said dating was easy. First dates are awkward, second dates are expectant and the dates that follow that — during which two people really start getting down to the business of getting to know each other — present hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities for missteps, faux pas, blunders and mistakes. That is to say nothing of the myriad chances for problems to which you could fall prey while arranging, planning and preparing for dates.
We call too often or not enough, we’re too available or never around, we wear sandals to fancy restaurants, laugh hysterically at bad jokes, show up with blue carnations, gab on our cell phones during dinner and commit countless other dating crimes, mostly without realizing we’re doing it. No doubt about it — bad dating behavior is a rampant affliction, and it’s time to cure it with some common sense advice.
If dating is a game, then just like any other game, there are rules you need to study, learn and follow. After all, you wouldn’t take the field without knowing where the base lines are, would you? (For those of you who are immune to ball field metaphors, the answer is “no.”) While none of these do’s and don’ts are set in stone — and, as your mother told you, there are obviously exceptions to every rule — here we attempt to equip you with an idiot-proof playbook for the fast-paced, intense, exciting, full-contact sport of searching for someone with whom to fall in love.
Dating Rules — Do’s
1. Do try to always look your best and be punctual. Showing up late or looking messy gives the impression that you don’t care — and, if that’s the case, why go out with this person in the first place?
2. Do try to enjoy yourself on dates. Yes, finding your soul mate is serious business, and it can sometimes even be a scary endeavor, but keep in mind that this is supposed to be fun.
3. Do compliment your date on how he or she looks. Men and women tend to put a lot of effort into getting ready for a date, and it’s nice (and flattering) to hear that all that energy paid off.
4. Do be interested and interesting. Ask questions, share insights and pay attention when your date is telling you what they like to do, read, watch, listen to, etc.
5. Do tell someone directly if you’re not interested in seeing them again. Lying and stringing people along simply because you’re too scared to tell them the truth is selfish and hurtful. If you don’t want to go on another date with someone, let them down as gently — but firmly — as possible.
6. Do date only people you’re attracted to, no matter what your friends say. Approval by your peers doesn’t prove a thing.
7. Do stay positive, even when dates don’t end well. It is most certainly true that you will date a few frogs before you find a prince. Along the way, you will probably meet some pretty nice people.
8. Do plan ahead. Dating is a creative diversion that requires concentration and energy, so make arrangements ahead of time and let your date know you put some thought into the evening.
9. Do be proactive about finding people to date. The man or woman you’ve been searching for your whole life is probably not going to come ring your doorbell and beg you to go to dinner anytime soon. Dating requires action, so get out there and meet as many people as you can.
10. Do surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who are dating, too. Part of the fun of dating is celebrating, comparing notes and commiserating with your friends. Surround yourself with positive people who are rooting for you to succeed at love and will be there for you if/when you need emotional support.
Dating Rules — Don’ts
1. Don’t call, text message or email someone you’ve just started seeing more than once a day unless they reply (or in the event of an emergency). Desperation and instability are major turnoffs.
2. Don’t date the kind of people who’ve hurt you in the past. Many of us are attracted to people who are bad for us, but it’s important to break these patterns and seek out healthy relationships with matches who won’t demean you or make you feel bad about yourself in any way.
3. Don’t be late for a date. It’s just rude. If you have to change your plans, give the other person as much notice and consideration as possible. And always apologize.
4. Don’t lie to your date or about any aspect of your life, even if the truth isn’t as sexy or you’re worried they won’t like it. It would be awful to ruin a potentially life-changing relationship with your perfect match because of some silly lie you told early on to impress him or her.
5. Don’t be too available. We don’t mean you should play games, but if you’re free every night, you’re probably not taking care of yourself, pursuing your own interests and spending time with your friends — which means you’re probably not very interesting to talk to. People with full, exciting lives make the best dates.
6. Don’t give away too much about yourself at the beginning. Revealing your innermost secrets on the second date can lead to rejection. Don’t be scared to open up, but remember that getting to know someone takes time, and you should let your relationship evolve.
7. Don’t check out other people when you’re on a date. Ever. This is just tacky. You may think you are subtle, but while you’re scoping the cutie in the corner, your date will be heading for the door. Extend your partner the courtesy of concentrating solely on them while you’re with them.
8. Don’t be rude or get drunk on a date. Courtesy and manners will get you everywhere.
9. Don’t ignore your personal safety. Carry your cell phone and keep it charged — and make sure to tell your friends where you’re going and when you’ll be back. First dates should take place in well-lit public places. Don’t ever let yourself be coerced into going anywhere or doing anything that makes you uncomfortable.
10. Don’t give out personal information like your home phone number or address on the first date. Keep these details to yourself until you trust the person you’re dating.
11. Don’t have sex on a first date. If you like someone and are interested in getting to know them better (and possibly having a relationship), sex on a first date will likely ruin everything. It’s much too soon, it’s not romantic and it communicates to the other person that you’re more interested in their physical characteristics than in finding out who they are.
12. Never date a married person. Statistically, it is very unlikely that they will ever leave their husband or wife for you. Dating someone who’s married is the best way to serve yourself a heaping helping of misery, lies, deceit, sadness and heartache. If you are married, separate before dating. If you’re single, don’t be a shoulder to cry on — you deserve better. Go out and find someone who’s emotionally (and legally) available to you!