The Rules of Dating According to Rae


A lesson from the Dalai Lama: “Follow the 3 Rs: Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility for all your actions.” This sums up my feelings about the rules of dating. There are many published books in which others have enumerated dating rules and/or etiquette, including what to wear, what to say, when to call, when not to call.

With ever changing and evolving means of communication, I’m sure there are new additions like when to text, tweet, snapchat…how often, what not to say via text or snapchat, etc.… In my opinion, some of these “rules” involve game playing, and games and dating don’t mix. The Dalai Lama’s lesson is all you need in order to understand the true rules of dating- be respectful to yourself, be respectful to others and take responsibility for your actions.

Respect Others: Treat Others as You Would Want to Be Treated

When dating and trying to decide how to handle a difficult situation, I ask myself: how would I want or hope someone else would treat me in the same situation? If you’re serious about finding a relationship and looking for a potential life partner, there will be many people whom you’ll inevitably turn down.

This is your journey. You have every right to not be interested and to say no. But try to do so as kindly as you can. Let the person know you’re not interested in a respectful manner and don’t lead him/her on. “Respect” also revolves around how you treat your date during the date itself, and around how you communicate before and after. Don’t be rude, and don’t intentionally hurt someone. Act with conscience.

Respect Yourself: First and Foremost, Love Yourself

If this comes first, why am I putting this second? Because it’s easier to explain self-respect after having explained the concept of respecting others. There are some people who do treat others well, so much so that they do this at the expense of their own happiness and sanity.

As I’ve mentioned, this is your journey and your life. YOLO- (yes, I said YOLO-You Only Live Once)- do not continue to date someone because you “feel bad” or guilty. You are allowed to say no. Treat yourself with respect. Respect your choices, your feelings, your opinions and your beliefs. Respect the gut feeling you have when you’re with that person.

Respect yourself enough to give yourself a voice, and act accordingly. Ask yourself, is your partner treating you the way you would treat yourself if you were dating yourself (I know this sounds funny). Is he/she showing you the respect that you would be showing a potential partner? If the answer is no, think about how you would like to proceed.

Take Responsibility for Your Actions

It’s important to be aware that your actions are your own. You’re choosing to act a certain way. You choose how you treat others and you choose how to treat yourself- these are active choices. You choose to stay in a situation or leave. Take responsibility for these actions. Please, if you’re capable, choose to act with conscience. Take into account other’s feelings as well as your own.

A Few Examples in Dating

It’s important to strike a balance between the three aforementioned ideas in any situation you may find yourself in. What would that look like? Here are a few examples. Note: these are my suggestions. This is not a hard science, so if you disagree with me, that’s ok, however, I recommend that you find your own way of respecting yourself, respecting others and taking responsibility in all dating situations.

  • When people message you online or on apps, or approach you in person
    • If someone messages you, you absolutely don’t need to respond if you’re not interested, even if you’ve already started a conversation. This is the way online dating (or app dating) works and it should be general knowledge to anyone participating. If you feel like explaining to a person why you wouldn’t like to date him/her, go right ahead, but do so kindly, and ask yourself if letting this person know would be helpful or hurtful.
    • In person it’s a bit trickier. If you’re not interested you can smile, say no thanks and walk away (this is what I tend to do), or you can engage the person in conversation but not give your number. If you feel uncomfortably pressured, you could either give your number and then say “no thanks” via text, if messaged, or you could give the wrong number. I don’t encourage being deceptive, especially with loved ones, but at times, in order to save yourself from an uncomfortable situation in the dating world, when it’s not with a loved one, it may be necessary.
  • When messaging others online or on apps, or approaching in person
    • Send someone you’re interested in one message. If he/she responds, great. If not maybe send one more message. If you don’t hear from him/her, please stop. Please don’t send an angry message about the fact that he/she did not message you back.
    • In person, approach someone. If he/she says no, or doesn’t seem interested, continue on with your night. Don’t be forceful or rude if someone isn’t interested. No stalking.
  •  On a date
    • Be kind and respectful. Don’t play on your phone (unless you have an emergency). Don’t play Pokemon Go. Be fully present with your date- listen to him/her and get to know each other. Ask questions, make eye contact, keep breathing, be yourself. If you’re not interested, don’t be rude. You’re just having a conversation with another human- you can finish up the date and then not go out again. If you feel highly uncomfortable or annoyed by the person, excuse yourself and end the date…It should go without saying, but I will say anyway- be mindful and respectful when it comes to physical/intimate activity. Never be forceful. (Unless you both agree to use force, but that is an entirely separate blog post.) Take cues from each other and when in doubt, communicate respectfully and ask your partner if he/she is ok with what you are doing. Also communicate if you are not ok with what your partner is doing to you.
  • After a first meeting/date
    • If you’re interested, be in touch with each other via text/email/phone. Don’t be overly concerned with frequency. If someone likes you, it won’t matter. (Unless you flood someone with texts/emails/calls- don’t do that. Ever)…. Try to strike a healthy a balance between showing interest by responding, and living your life outside of this person. On the flip side, don’t ignore someone or play games. Write/call when you can. You two will eventually take cues from each other and figure out how often it’s appropriate to call/email/text. This can be different with different people- with time, you two will find your own normal. This is not game playing- it’s adapting to each different person and respecting his/her space while simultaneously showing interest.
    • If interested, ask him/her out again, or wait for him/her to ask you out. Try to be tactful and plan a few days ahead- it shows respect for your date’s time and your own, and makes it clear you are aware that your date has a life and a schedule, and that you do as well.
    • If you’re not interested, unless the date went terribly, don’t ignore the person. If the person asks you out again, thank the person, but let him/her know, as soon as you do, that you are not planning on going out with him/her again. Do so tactfully. Don’t lead anyone on. If he/she responds combatively or questions why you’re not interested, you can absolutely ignore this.
  • After going on a few dates
    • Same as number four. Although the more dates you go on, the more important it becomes that you don’t ignore a person if you decide you’re not interested. This is called ghosting. Don’t ghost anyone. This creates confusion and more hurt than if you had actually said no. Also, don’t lead someone on- once you know you’re not interested, please don’t continue to date the person just to have someone around when you’re bored/lonely. This is called benching. Not ok. End things with tact and move on.
    • After going on a few dates, it’s important to communicate what you’re looking for in dating this person. If you’re interested in “just having fun” as opposed to a potential relationship, be clear early on, out of respect.
  • Navigating monogamy
    • Unless you have “the monogamy conversation” you don’t have to stop dating others, nor does the other person… But this can get tricky. Think about it- you’ve gone on a few dates, things are getting physical, and you really like him/her, and then he/she sees you out (or you see him/her out) with someone else. Even though you’re technically not doing anything wrong, feelings will likely be hurt. Again, choose your actions based on respecting yourself and respecting the other. If you’re not ready for monogamy, then absolutely don’t force it, but recognize the fact that your partner may be dating others as well. How do you feel about that?
  • Once in a relationship
    • This article only goes through the dating phase, so I will stop here. Though the same lesson applies- choose to act in a manner that allows you to respect yourself and your significant other. If things get complicated and you’re having difficulties being respectful once in a relationship, make an appointment to see a couple’s therapist- come see us at Therapy with Heart!!

When in doubt- just remember: respect, respect and responsibility!

Wishing you all well!!

Warmly, Rae

This Post Written By:
Rachel Freidus, LAMFT, MS – Therapy With Heart
8737 E. Via De Commercio, Suite 200
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258
Phone: (480) 888-5380
Fax: (480) 203-2881

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