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Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider wrote a dating advice book called “The Rules” in 1995 to discuss the dating norms of the day. The book promoted a slower, more traditional way for women to date. The authors claimed women using their tips would have men ready to say, “I do!”
“The Rules” sold 2 million copies, and Oprah featured its teachings as a new movement in the dating world. The detractors called the book anti-feminist and full of antiquated gender stereotypes such as men don’t like funny women. Are the dating rules helpful to modern daters? I’ll give you my take and outline some dating rules that I find more practical and effective.
Many years ago, I picked up “The Rules” at a used book fair to see what it had to say. I only made it halfway through the book. Just about every other page had notes like “No!” and “what?” and “stop playing games!” Suffice it to say, I was not a fan.
So much of the dating advice in “The Rules” goes directly against my personal experiences and my understanding of relationships. It’s not just outdated — it’s wrong.
Recently, I was approached by the publisher of “The Rules” and offered a pre-release copy of the new book: “The Rules Handbook.”
I was curious to see what, if anything, had been updated in the almost 30 years since the first edition of the book. Well, not much, it seems. Let’s take a look at some of the dating advice from the authors, and I’ll offer my own counter advice as a men’s dating coach.
The authors say, “Your fear of being alone forever has to trump your fear to motivate you to get out there.”
Well first off, coming from a place of fear is not really a great way to go through life. We should be coming from a place of joy! I know it’s not always as easy as that, but it’s what we should strive for.
If you met a potential partner who was scared (desperate?) of being alone and another date prospect who was happy to be alive, which one would you want to spend more time around?
The goal is to become someone so interesting and dynamic that you draw people to you. That doesn’t really work if you’re scared of solitude.
“Most men don’t have an intense need to communicate,” according to “The Rules Handbook.”
Making broad statements about men is uncool. I think what the authors mean is that men don’t TALK as much as women, which may be true. But everyone has an intense need to communicate and be heard or seen.
Sometimes I communicate with my guy friend by sitting in silence, playing video games. That’s how we bond. In fact, one of my favorite interactions with a guy was only six nods and not one word spoken, but we had a whole conversation!
Me working in my garden, man passes, nods appreciatively. (Nice garden)
Me: nods back (thanks!)
Him: nods (looks like it took a lot of work)
Me: nods (it did, it did)
Him: nods (well, have a good one)
Me: nods (you too!)
The authors advise, “Even on your worst day, don’t let your partner see your lower self. It’s self-centered and needy.”
This is just sad! I couldn’t disagree more. In a healthy relationship, your partner should be there to support you through the good times and the bad times. On my worst days, I need my partner there! That’s what being a supportive partner is all about.
It also seems like it would be exhausting trying to hide what you feel inside of you. How long can you convert up your real and vulnerable self?
Having feelings and needing support is not self-centered or needy. To claim otherwise is toxic. I hope the next generations don’t really ascribe to those archaic rules as much.
The book outright tells women to ignore the men they like — “Showing no interest or very little interest works best because men want what they can’t have. Don’t even look at him. Talk to the walls, but don’t talk to him first.”
A lot to unpack here. I guess the authors are getting at the whole “playing hard to get” thing, which is a tired trope in and of itself. But this seems to be taking it to extremes!
First off, the data is wrong. In “I Want You to Want Me: A Qualitative Analysis of Heterosexual Men’s Desire to Feel Desired in Intimate Relationships,” author Sarah Murray’s conclusion is simple: Men like women who like them! Being seen and desired can actually be a turn on.
Life is too short to play games. If you like someone, let them know. Don’t be pushy about or annoying about it, but let them know. Most men have been rejected many times in their lives. If they notice a pretty woman that won’t even look at them at TALKS TO THE WALLS instead of to him, why would he expect a warm welcome from her if he approached?
“The Rules Handbook” supports passive dating, telling women, “Let the guy do all the texting, asking out, suggesting, and sending links and photos for the entire courtship. You can respond, but you can’t initiate without risking rejection.”
I wouldn’t even know how to make this work if I tried. This is just weird. Relationships are about compromise and give-and-take. If I had to do ALL the heavy lifting, emotionally labor and logistics, I would get very tired, very quickly.
If I encountered a woman who never initiated, I would see her as someone who would not be helpful toward the bigger goals in life.
You want to know your partner can help in a pinch. Also, not every interaction risks rejection. Sending each other funny memes and suggesting possible fun things to do over the weekend can be an enjoyable part of a relationship. This isn’t the 1950s — women can and should take the initiative!
Finally, the book offers this gem: “We don’t recommend you pick or pursue your partner.”
This is just plain defeatist! How would it feel to go through life never choosing or pursuing what you want? Is it really a better strategy to cross your fingers and hope the right relationship falls in your lap? Sure, you can just wait around for someone to notice you, but it’s not exactly a fast or foolproof plan.
Wouldn’t you want some say in who you’re with for the rest of your life? Singles who want love and marriage can’t afford to just sit there watching life pass them by.
You won’t be successful idly hoping something good happens on its own. That’s no way you get what you want. Successful people know what they want and go out and get it!
I don’t want to bash “The Rules Handbook” and its authors. I just think there are much better ways to go about dating and getting what you want. I favor dating strategies that are more authentic and straightforward. But look, there are some good nuggets in the book.
“You need to put your most confident self out into the world where there is a possibility of meeting someone.” Yes.
“If you are looking for Prince Charming as a soulmate, you need to be charming yourself!” Also yes.
“Don’t be in competition with his kids.” Again, yes, but…duh!
Ultimately, like anything in life, it’s good to get a lot of different points of view, and then craft what you think works best for you. I would advise singles to take all of these dating and self-help books with a grain of salt and adapt the best ideas that suit you best!