Following These Outdated Dating Rules Is Probably Keeping You Single

The “rules” of romance come in all kinds of sneaky forms. From self-help books and pop culture references to well-intended advice from Mom, there’s a whole head-spinning mythology of dos and don’ts. If you’re a stickler for proper dating protocol but still find yourself single, these outmoded ideas might be the problem:

  1. You never approach him first. You’re not even supposed to make eye contact, laugh at his jokes, or acknowledge his existence in any way. I guess the idea is that if he’s interested, he’ll be so magnetized by your aura of nonchalance that he’ll traipse right past the friendly eye-contact-making girls to buy you a drink. What’ll really happen? Some goof you didn’t want to talk to in the first place will come pester you all night while you attempt to send the true object of your affection telepathic signals.
  2. You end an amazing first date after an hour to make it clear that you “have a life.” It’s one thing if you have to call it an evening because you’re legit busy. It’s another if you want to keep hanging out and you make some exit excuse to screw with his mind. Why not stay out as late as you like and enjoy solo time tomorrow night?
  3. You make a science of text-back times. I know you want to see him in person, not waste all your time glued to a screen, but there’s no need to deprive yourself the occasional fun of a texting marathon. What works better than being artificially incommunicado? Leaving your phone on silent while you go for a hike or attend a cooking class.
  4. You lock down your feelings about him to avoid coming on too strong. Guys aren’t uniformly aggressive alpha pursuers any more than women are uniformly submissive nurturers. if you’re scared to face potential rejection, remember that all kinds of dudes out there truly do appreciate a woman who’s straightforward in her romantic interest. Expecting the man to go first every time is boring. Shake up the routine a little.
  5. You expect him to pay for everything. You wouldn’t dare fumble for the check. Yes, you consider yourself his equal, but you believe guys are always supposed to pay the tab. While your strategy helps you to avoid moochers and deadbeats, it could also be causing the guys you date resentment. Buy the fella a drink sometime, then let him treat next time.
  6. You hide your feelings about sex. Sex is so burdened with cultural expectations and judgment, no wonder you don’t trust yourself to know when (if at all) you want to share your body with him. Did you wait long enough? Too long? Truth is, if he’s worthy of you, there’s no way to sleep with him too soon or wait too long. As long as you feel comfortable discussing your needs with him — and he respects those needs — you need only one relationship rule about sex: be safe.
  7. You adjust your diet and exercise to be more appealing. It’s great to eat wholesome, filling, foods to boost your mood and energy. It’s admirable to run a marathon or pump some iron to improve your fitness and confidence. Just remember who you’re doing it for: you. Any guy who makes you feel insecure about your body or eating habits as they stand is NOT relationship material. (Or first-date material, for that matter.)
  8. You always dress for him and pretend to like all the things he likes. You gather intelligence to figure out precisely what will turn him on. If he favors sky-high heels, you splurge on a killer pair. If you’re a natural blonde but he has a thing for brunettes, you bust out that Clairol.  If he’s into baseball and you prefer soccer, you sport a Cubs cap. Wouldn’t it be easier to give up all the recon? A good man wants to be with a woman who’s proud to be herself. And I promise there’s a guy out there who’ll love a soccer-playing blonde who wears flats.
  9. You fall for the one who does everything “right.” He’s as dedicated to this rules game as you are. When you back off, he comes on strong. The rules are working, but you notice that when you do slip up and show your mind, he shrinks from you. You tell yourself need to follow the rules more carefully to hold on to the boy. Instead, you might consider ditching the rules AND the jerk.
  10. You intentionally make him jealous. You believe a guy needs to know that you have other options. A casual mention of your ex who’s still in love with you here, a little reminder that guys still flirt with you there. You’re not impressing him — you’re convincing him that you’re unattainable and that he should move on with a woman who’s actually available for love.
  11. You occasionally hang out with a so-called nice guy. Your friends and a million articles on romance have told you to be sensible. Find a nice guy. Love is about putting in the time, not yielding to unsustainable passion. It sounds reasonable. But this guy hangs around mostly to criticize your life decisions and remind you why you should give a “good man” like him a chance. He’s bitter AF about being in the friend zone. You don’t reject him outright, figuring you might develop feelings for him… eventually. Trust me — if he “grows on you,” it’ll only be as a parasite.
  12. You see dating as a competition. Maybe you don’t do it consciously, but on some level, you use television as a template for relationships. The guy is the prize. Every other woman in his vicinity is your adversary. Perhaps you throw in a couple of romantic comedies about weddings to deepen your understanding of this method. Please skip “The Bachelor” for a night and binge on TED talks instead.
  13. You believe that snagging the guy is the only path to fulfillment. It’s the ugly unstated rule at the heart of all these other ridiculous rules. You live life as though boys matter the most. It’s not your fault, either. You probably get more attention and excitement from friends when you announce a new relationship than when you announce a promotion at work. Now, instead of being a fun adventure, getting a boyfriend is an anxiety-riddled nightmare. Who can sustain a relationship under those impossible conditions? Take every piece of advice with a grain of salt and remember: the rules were made to be broken.
Jackie Dever is a freelance writer and editor in Southern California. When she's not working, she enjoys hiking, reading, and sampling craft beers.