photo by Juan Pablo Serrano for Pexels
by Andrea M. Darcy
Dating is like building a house. A healthy foundation leads to a house that will weather the storm. An unhealthy base instead tends to instead lead to heartbreak and drama. So what are the dating rules that can help you avoid the latter?
(Already in a relationship and wondering if it’s a good one? Try our free quiz – “Are you in a healthy relationship, or is it time to worry?“).
Dating rules that NEVER work
First of all let’s get clear on one thing. There are a LOT of terrible dating rules out there. That are only going to lead to a dishonest and exhausting experience and mean you go further and further away from feeling loved and loving.
Any relationship rule that encourages you to lie or to manipulate the other person is never going to lead to love, or even to liking yourself. All you are doing is diminishing who you are and who the other person is. Is that really what you want? Or who you want to be?
Healthy dating rules to always keep
Here are ten dating rules to stick to that up instead of diminish your chances of finding a healthy, long lasting relationship. That work whether you are online dating or meeting people in person. And for any age, from over fifty to teen dating, and any religion, from Christian dating to Muslim dating. Good rules are universal.
1. Be honest.
You don’t have to tell someone you just met everything (that’s not necessarily healthy either, see ‘junkie communication’ below). But think twice before lying.
It’s simply not possible to build a healthy relationship on lies. Even more importantly, it’s bad for your self-worth. It feeds the message to your unconscious that you are not good enough just as is.
A study at Western University, Canada looked at how both men and women rate photos of potential partners. It found that if they were told in advance the person was honest, they were more likely to see the person as fit, in good health, and with a kind and attractive face.
2. Be yourself, the best relationship rule out there.
photo by Uriel Mont for Pexels
Agreeing with things you don’t? Saying you like things you hate? All in the name of being agreeable or making someone like you?
Pretending to be someone you are not is is an intimacy blocker. How can the other person connect with you if they are not even aware of who you actually are?
Nobody is the same all the time. But in general we have core values that dictate what we like and don’t — which leads to the next point.
3. Lead with personal values.
Healthy relationships work not because you share a sense of style or taste in music, but because you share personal values. You both believe in kindness, or freedom. Open-mindedness, or financial stability.
Whatever your values are, they are not going to change any time soon. They are intrinsic to who you are. And dating those who don’t share them just leads to endless conflict and misunderstandings.
4. Going slow is ALWAYS a good dating rule. No matter what excuse you try to tell yourself.
It takes time to get to know someone. Rushing into things is generally false intimacy, including thinking you are ‘soul mates’. If soulmates did exist, why would they be in a hurry anyway?
Take your time. Listen to and trust your own instincts. Don’t make excuses for someone else at the expense of your own wellbeing. Real love isn’t in a rush. Ever.
And if someone else is pushing you to rush? They are in no way an ideal partner and are clearly showing you they are needy and controlling. Is that what you want in a partner?
5. Stick to your boundaries.
Any time you are letting someone talk you into doing something you don’t really want to do, you are losing your boundaries.
And the moment you start losing your boundaries it’s unlikely to be a good relationship as the pattern is set. Either it’s going to be codependent, and you have gone into pleasing mode and need to get help dealing with that so you are even ready for a healthy relationship. Or, you are again dealing with someone controlling, who is enjoying pushing you to not listen to or respect your own limits. Never a good sign.
6. Don’t use someone else.
If you really don’t like someone and know they like you? And are stringing them along to amuse yourself?
Remember that your actions feed your unconscious information about yourself. If you deep down know you are not being the sort of person you want to be? It’s going to lower your self worth.
And the lower your self worth becomes, the less you will see yourself as worthy of love. The more your chance of picking partners who aren’t that nice to you. So all the times you tell yourself that ‘it’s okay to use people for fun and sex, I am just having fun’? They aren’t without a price like you thought.
7. Watch out for “junkie” communication.
Started texting someone from a dating site non stop? Telling them increasingly intimate details of your life? Or even things that you don’t tell friends?
It can be easier to ‘spill our guts’ to someone we haven’t met, and can temporarily ease loneliness. But it also backfires. You can be left feeling vulnerable if it goes too far. Or, if the other person back off, left feeling rejected.
And if you are allowing the endless communication to get in the way of work, self care like sleep hygiene and exercise, or maintaining your friendships? It’s become addictive and it’s time to take the issue seriously.
8. Don’t have ridiculous expectations.
Upset as he or she didn’t text back as an entire hour has passed? Or that they still have their online profile up when they claim they like you?
Unrealistic expectations like these are more about you than them.
If you want to have expectations of someone, then aim for positive over negative ones. Expect that they are doing the best that they can. That they have a busy life but will have valid reasons when they don’t reach out immediately.
A large-scale research overview on studies about expectations and relationships found that positive expectations, as long as they were realistic, could lead to better and longer-lasting relationships.
9. Don’t give in to the patterns you overcame.
Old dating habits can be like zombies. We thought they were dead and long buried, then we get a bit bored. And suddenly those old habits are rising from the dead.
Look out for these typical dating bad habits like:
10. Let the ex stay an ex.
Has loneliness started you thinking about your ex?
You broke up with your ex for a good reason. She was emotionally abusive, he didn’t want kids and you do. Whatever the reason, it was real. That has not changed.
What if an ex gets in touch? You don’t have to respond. Again, you don’t owe others. You owe yourself self-care.
Can’t stick to healthy rules for dating, ever?
Really struggle with dating? Find yourself always promising to not rush in, or not chase someone unavailable…. but fall into the same pattern every time? You are not alone. Therapy really helps, and enough people struggle there are even certain kinds of therapy that even focus just on helping you with relating.
Time to stop breaking your own dating rules and finally find the love you deserve? Book a session with a top London therapist now. Or use our booking platform to find an affordable UK-wide therapist or online therapist today.
Andrea M. Darcy is the editor and lead writer of this site, and has studied counselling and coaching. She used to teach a course called ‘the Dating Detox’.