Here Are the New Rules of Dating

Love and dating have become disparate endeavors thanks to pop culture, media, and social reinforcement. But it is high time to change the conversation, to clarify the rules, to go back to basics, and to redefine dating from a healthy perspective.

My rules of dating are going to sound unconventional. But consider this: have any other dating rules worked for you before? Even if you are currently in a relationship, how many time have you had to revisit some old thing from the past to rectify it, to apologize, to set things straight?

There are so many stories, cultural mores, and media giving everyone bungled dating advice which is so categorical and confident sounding. And it is not usually right. Dating is about finding your life partner. As such, here are the new rules for dating:

  1. Yes, you can have a committed relationship. Date to find your life partner. Even if it seems daunting at first and contrary to popular culture; you don’t have to wait to be rich, successful, famous, or any of those things. A committed partner (the right committed partner) is the best asset you can have as you go through life. It might take a long time to find this person. And that’s ok. Don’t give up. How many best friends do you have? One?
  2. Be authentic. There is no “waiting for the right moment” to tell someone about your needs. Be upfront, tell your date about what you expect in a relationship; don’t save that for 6 months down the road. That’s too late. If your list of demands and requests puts off your date, then, so be it. Don’t play games. Move on, and let the other person move on as well. All you’ve gambled is one or two dinners, and not months or years of heartache.
  3. Have honesty and commitment. I bundled these two because they are so inextricably linked. When we like someone our instinct is to put our best self forward. But, little white lies are also lies. Be honest about where you were, what you are doing, who you are, and be committed to the one person you’re with. If you can’t do this, then move on.
  4. Have self-knowledge: Being in a healthy relationship with another person means being open to questioning your deeply-held beliefs, or at least bringing them to the surface so that you can examine them together. Intimacy requires this level of transparency and self-knowing. Self-knowledge is the gift you can bring to the table, and intimacy is the invitation to examine your lives together, to know the root of why someone acts a certain way, or the desire behind their requests.
  5. Mindful cultivation and development: In order to develop as a person, we must be willing to constantly question our motives, understand ourselves more deeply, and fight against impulses which are harmful to us and to others. As humans, we are never free of this effort. We cannot rest on our laurels when it comes to being mindful people. So it is with personal development, as it is with development within a relationship. Cultivating a partnership is just as much about constantly cultivating the self. Relationships are hard, and being a good person is harder. A good partner can help you make good decisions and push you to endeavor to do your best.
  6. Be giving. So, give to your partner. And seek to find someone who wants to give to you.
  7. Intimacy doesn’t need to be physical. In fact, leaving the physical out of intimacy can actually help you hear one another better without the distraction (which can make everything seem awesome, when in fact it may not be). Use the passion of those early days to motivate emotional and verbal intimacy.
  8. Seeing the divine in one another. Regardless of personality quirks, you can step back once in awhile and really see that this person has qualities that you admire or aspire to. Choose a person who has values, morals, character, and faith that you can respect. You cannot respect someone you don’t admire, and think of them (at least a little bit) as ‘superhuman’.
  9. Talking about talking. Communication is layered and complex, it takes a lot of effort to learn how to communicate with each other. The mainstay of your relationship will be a friendship, so talk about stuff. A lot. Talk about how you will talk in the future. Talk about silly things as well as difficult things. Have the capacity and range for these topics and the ability to handle the resulting emotions.
  10. Pay attention to red flags. Anything that does not bode well with you from the start is bound to come up in your relationship over and over. Say something, sort it out, or move on.
  11. Have hope. Don’t be in a relationship to fill time. It is the ultimate dead-hope move: it is unfair to the other person (and perhaps morally questionable). Just because you haven’t met your person yet, doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Being hopeless is shutting the door “Well, I’m not ready yet..” or “I’m just going to date around a lot, cause I don’t think I’ll meet him/her for another 10 years.” These are familiar excuses. You know that guy or girl who goes on dates with incompatible people because they have a narrative in their head about how they perceive their luck at dating, and their behaviors strengthen that narrative until it becomes true. But hope is an awesome, uplifting feeling that requires a little perseverance and patience. Hope is a habit that you can build over time and use to get through other difficult times in the future.
  12. Being lonely is human. Being lonely is a human proposition, and nothing is more lonely than being apart together.

I see this in therapy, and as a fellow human: people are mostly concerned with love: how to get it, keep it, and have it fulfill their deepest needs.

It has also become clear to me that people have tried almost every method by which to find love. And over time the very definition of dating has eroded. Sites and apps have cropped up that promote attractiveness over attraction. People have even relinquished love as if it were a dare to entice love.

If you are working on yourself and have an interest in being in a relationship, then you probably already know everything you need to know in order to be in a relationship. You might ask Well, doesn’t being in a relationship now prepare me for other relationships in the future?

What are you preparing for? You need someone who can go through lifewith you, not a fair-weather friend who comes to visit only after all your storms have subsided. You’re also making the assumption that a trail of broken hearts is preparation for a wholehearted relationship. This is a faulty assumption.

Here is permission to change how you perceive relationships. You might find that — embarked upon authentically — it is a deeply worthwhile trip. It may come with pain and the discomfort of being different, but change isn’t possible without breaking some old rules.