What Is The Three Day Rule In Dating? Here’s Why You Need To Stop Following It

The preliminary stages of dating involve an intricate back-and-forth of strategy that can sometimes feel more like a poker game than a romance. One of the most ubiquitous pieces of advice for people in this part of a relationship has been the three-day dating rule, which dictates that you should wait three days to contact the other person to avoid looking over-eager. But the world has moved on since the inception of this rule, and following it may actually ruin your chances with the person you’re using it on. Here’s why:

  1. Texting changes things. American adults under 45 send an average of 85 texts per day, while the total number of texts sent within that period is over 6 billion. People text as casually and freely as they speak to someone who’s standing next to them. In light of this, the three-day rule simply does not apply anymore, even though it probably did at some point. A hundred years ago, for example, when letters took about three days to arrive, it probably made a lot of sense. But now that we can send and receive messages within a split second, it looks archaic. If you don’t text someone within a few hours of your first date let alone a few days, they’ll think you’ve ghosted them.
  2. What are you supposed to do if you don’t like the person? The three-day rule doesn’t specify what to do when you go out with someone who you actually don’t want to see again. In my experience, it’s best to tell them right away that you’re not interested so that they can move on as quickly as possible. Sticking to the three-day rule only to tell someone that you don’t want to see them again seems a bit harsh.
  3. Dating apps have shortened our attention spans. We have so many options now, thanks to dating apps. If you live in a city, you could swipe through profiles for five hours straight without coming close to seeing all the singles in your area. At any given time, a person could be chatting with three, four, maybe ten people on a dating app and planning in-person meetings with all of them. This renders the three-day rule totally obsolete. By the time you’ve let three days elapse, your date has probably gone out with four more people and matched with another 20. These days, three days may as well be three years.
  4. Being cold isn’t cool anymore. Let’s hear it for emotional availability! The “bad boy” fetish is so 2010. These days, it’s all about the emotionally available men (and women, obviously). Being attracted to people who make you feel like shit is not healthy, and now that mental health is a mainstream topic of conversation, people are more aware than ever that gaslighting, ghosting, stonewalling, and codependency are toxic. If anyone I dated tried the three-day rule on me, I would worry that they were exhibiting the preliminary signs of all of those behaviors.
  5. Communication is sexy. Gone are the days when stoically aloof men and coquettishly demure women made the most eligible partners. Talking about thoughts and feelings has the same sex appeal as playing hard to get used to. In an age when dating is all about first impressions and instant gratification, there isn’t time to fake your intentions or pretend to be someone else. Being direct with people you go out with will get you a lot farther than trying to play games that undermine their self-esteem.
  6. If someone doesn’t text me right after our first date, I’m moving on. Call me sentimental, but I kind of like knowing that someone I’ve just gone on a date with likes me back. And I don’t want to wait three days to find out either. Not hearing from someone after having a great first date would give me the distinct impression that my perception of the encounter was not shared. If I got a text from him three days later saying he had a great time and would love to see me again, it would be too little, too late.
  7. No one follows it, so why should you? There don’t seem to be many people who are actually even aware of the three-day rule, let alone people who follow it. It’s a move that people either don’t know about or don’t engage in and is therefore guaranteed to be misinterpreted. If you’re the only one following it, you’ll come across as rude and disinterested, not socially savvy. Even leaving someone hanging for one day is a stretch. Three? Forget it. Your opportunity with that person is history.
  8. It’s not a great way to start a relationship. If you want to create a healthy, long-term partnership with someone, you should set expectations from the beginning. Ignoring the person and withholding affection is a terrible message to send. It isn’t making them more interested, it’s making them feel unimportant. I would seriously question the mental health of anyone who liked me more after I ignored them for three days. In other words: the three-day rule is a red flag for both the person who follows it and the person who doesn’t dump them as a result.

Alternatives to the three day rule in dating

Just because the three-day rule is garbage doesn’t mean you’re back to square one with your dating strategy. Here are some alternatives that will make you much more successful:

  1. Tell them how you feel immediately. The three-day rule is presumably intended to be a display of power: you’re showing the other person that you can dictate the pace of the relationship, and that you’re so busy that you’ve basically forgotten about them. But if you really want to make a power play, tell them how you feel. Emotional transparency shows a level of confidence that most people lack. Telling someone you’ve just met that you like them is a bold move. It will catch them off guard, flatter them, and set the bar high for their response. In short, it’s the kind of mind game that actually benefits both of you.
  2. Try the “three-hour rule” instead. If you like the idea behind the three-day rule, replace it with the three-hour rule. Instead of texting an immediate reply the second they send you a message, wait a few hours. This will show them that you aren’t hanging on their every word, and give you some time to choose a measured response. A few hours is enough time to prove your point without making them feel like you’ve completely forgotten about them or are intentionally ignoring them.
  3. Be flirtatious. If the three-day rule is meant to keep a person interested, flirting will get you weeks down the relationship timeline in a fraction of the time. Flirting makes you seem mysterious, sexy, and intelligent. Because it centers on humor and attraction, it will make both of you feel good, unlike the three-day rule which makes people feel rejected and abandoned. Flirting has also been shown to improve your mental health, so you’ll basically be dishing a wholesome green juice of sexual tension along the way.
  4. Have high standards. If you want to “play hard to get” while also being a grownup, simply set the bar high for your partners. The three-day rule is intended to show your date that you have a lot going on and aren’t rushing into the arms of the first person to show interest in you, but you could also communicate this by, for example, saying it. Your standards for the people you date are high because you value yourself. Tell them what you’re looking for and if they don’t fit the brief, you can both move on without hurt feelings or confusion.
  5. Go out with multiple people. Another reason people might be tempted to try the three-day rule is if they tend to get intense about people after a single meeting. Some people just run a little hotter than the rest of us, and one chat in a coffee shop is enough to send them plummeting headfirst into something that feels a lot like love. In this situation, taking a few days to cool off seems like a great way to gain some much-needed perspective and avoid making a fool of yourself. But another (better) option is to go out with multiple people. Instead of falling head over heels in love with one person, distribute your excess infatuation among a few prospects.
Rose Nolan is a writer and editor from Austin, TX who focuses on all things female and fabulous. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from the University of Surrey and a Master's Degree in Law from the University of Law. She’s been writing professional since 2015 and, in addition to her work for Bolde, she’s also written for Ranker and Mashed. She's published articles on topics ranging from travel, higher education, women's lifestyle, law, food, celebrities, and more.