The dating game in today’s day and age is proving to be very fast-paced and energetic. Since most youngsters are opening themselves up to newer experiences and exploring newer people, dating has grown and evolved into a unique and separate arena of modern-day interactions.
This chaotic arena comes with its own rules (read: modern rules of dating, unspoken rules of dating, rules of dating texting) and endless expectations. Navigating the dating landscape these days is confusing at its best, and deeply disappointing at its worst. That’s why the unwritten rules of dating become a necessity that should be diligently followed.
To help you get a fresh perspective, we have an expert on board – counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Master’s in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades.
What Are The 17 Unwritten Rules Of Dating?
Melissa Moeller wrote, “I could earn my master’s degree with the amount of time and energy it takes to determine whether or not my casual hookup actually has feelings for me.” She’s hit the mark, hasn’t she?
The no-strings-attached world is tough to sail through for many of us. Who should pay the bill? How long should I wait before calling? Is this casual or serious? All these questions (and more) can get overwhelming at times. So, while these unspoken rules of dating are not some kind of magical fix to help you jump into a loving relationship, they are an easy way of figuring out how to go about the process.
Dating is supposed to be more exciting than worrisome. To avoid your dating experience from becoming a highly tumultuous or confusing affair, here are a few simple tips for you to keep in mind during your dalliances. These are the basic ground rules for dating that you need to follow.
1. Arrive on time
What not to do in early stages of dating, you ask? Seeming too laid-back and pretending to be less interested than you actually are to gain the other person’s attention really does not seem to work. Trying to arrive late in order to downplay your efforts might make you seem frivolous rather than attractive. This is old-fashioned dating etiquette, but arriving on time is a must.
It is the job of both individuals to value and respect time. If you are running late for genuine reasons, be sure to text or inform your date beforehand instead of showing up 30 minutes later without any explanation in advance. That will mean nothing but a lousy encounter.
2. Keep your expectations to a minimum – Modern rules of dating
The rules of dating someone new include keeping your emotional requirements in check. Not everyone around is looking for the same things as ourselves. It is necessary to gauge and identify the intentions of your date before jumping in with your needs.
Do not disregard your expectations but take some time before showing all your cards. You don’t want to intimidate your date too soon, do you? A good way to keep your expectations in check is by gaining clarity by yourself – what are you looking for?
Kavita explains, “Outline the purpose behind wanting to date. Is it short-term? Casual? For marriage? Then proceed to check whether your date is on the same page as you are. Being on different trajectories can get very messy, very quickly. So make sure there is a congruence in vision and intention.”
Related Reading: How To Date A Girl Out Of Your League
3. Give your date the space they need
One of the most important and defining rules of dating is to effectively give space and keep healthy relationship boundaries. While old-fashioned dating etiquette might teach you to jump into relationship labels and exclusivity tags sooner, modern-day dating just does not subscribe to that manual. Female dating rules have changed, and you have to get comfortable with the absence of labels.
Kavita puts it best, “A common mistake that people make in the early stages of dating is trying to ‘seal the deal’ with gestures of commitment. Saying ‘I love you’, asking them to move in with you, or proposing marriage are milestones that should be reached very organically. Forcing them along the way is a recipe for disaster. Don’t try to ‘lock it in’ the first chance you get.”
We are used to meeting so many people at once, that not everyone is eager to announce their loyalties too soon. Time is of the essence. So give your date the space to decide when it is time for them to be exclusive to you. Do not be disheartened either and use that same time to keep your options open.
4. Space out your interactions
Meeting often is great since it establishes that you are both ready to invest time into your dates. But one should try to not seem too overbearing or desperate. Take days off between dates to avoid smothering your potential partner. One of the most vital dating rules for men is not being a needy boyfriend.
Just like you need rest days in between workouts to allow your muscles to recuperate, take rest days in your dating life to ease into the process. Do not exhaust yourself or the other person by having to constantly make efforts. Regular intervals will also ensure a good consistency of your presence in the other person’s life.
Trying to meet them as often as possible with the intention of speeding things up is a big no-no. Kavita says, “Don’t rush it. Don’t sacrifice your time, money, social relationships, etc. to ‘get ahead’ in the relationship; making it your whole and sole is quite unwise. Allow things to take their natural course… Be patient and give it time and space.”
5. Avoid calling immediately after a date
Here comes one of the best early dating tips. Even if your date has gone phenomenally well, calling them the same night might reveal your feelings and expectations a little too soon. Perhaps drop a text indicating that you enjoyed yourself very much. Leave it at that. But try to avoid seeming too eager as this might intimidate the other person. Perhaps, save calling up for the following day. In a nutshell, exercise moderation.
6. Keep the duration of the date short
Two hours should be your cap. This is one of the most important rules when dating somebody new. Even if you are thrilled on your first date and cannot get enough of the other person, know that unduly extending your date can eventually turn your date into a drag.
A dragged-out and boring date can reflect poorly on your personality. Do everything you can to evade that possibility and snip it when the going is still great. Place emphasis on quality over quantity; you don’t want your date sneaking out the restaurant back door because you refused to call it a night.
Related Reading: 20 Valuable Tips For A First Date After Meeting Online
7. What not to do in early stages of dating? Don’t mention the exes too much
On a date, while it can be interesting to mention previous relationships and encounters to give the other person a feel of who you are romantically, it is important to know when to stop. No one wants to spend an evening listening to someone’s past relationship tales.
You do not want to give off the vibe that you are still emotionally invested in an older relationship or are setting specific standards for your date. (Never talk about missing an ex.) Keep the stories fun, short and also keep an eye out if you are making the other person uncomfortable.
8. Elevate your texting game
Yes, there are some unwritten rules of online dating as well. Online dating relies heavily on texting back and forth. Your texts become a prelude to your personality. Make sure you pay attention to how you’re texting and how often the other person likes to text. Keep your messages consistent, considerate, short and interesting.
Try not to reply too late since that can take away the spark from the conversation and change the whole mood. Many people in their 20s measure the time it takes for their partner to reply and try to match that time delay to avoid seeming eager. This virtual dating mistake can become toxic and make it a game of egos, a game that you do not want to play.
Kavita says you should avoid falling into these traps, “Mind games are incredibly unhealthy. They are usually driven by your insecurity and ego. Not checking messages on time, gaslighting them, keeping them hanging, or being inconsistent in your responses are all red flags. Keep it simple and straightforward.”
9. But also do not bombard them with texts
Yes, the rules of dating texting have their limits too. Double texting too much or demanding excessive attention can become exhausting for the other person. Do not try to drag a conversation when it is clearly heading nowhere. If things are becoming dry, try to change things up by playing an online texting game or asking if a phone call would be okay.
Keep a watch out for signs of disinterested behavior. The best way to engage someone in a conversation is by listening as much as you speak (or type?). Don’t talk about your own self constantly; being a good listener goes a long way in a connection. These are some of the early dating tips that will help you the most.
10. Ask reasonable questions
One of the unwritten relationship rules is to ask interesting questions to know them better. The key to getting to know another person lies in asking the correct questions. You want to know enough about them to determine whether you like them or not, but you also should refrain from getting too personal on initial dates.
Unless they are clearly willing to delve deep into their personal histories, do not go poking your nose in places your date might not be comfortable. A friend of mine once stopped seeing a guy because he constantly pestered her about her family history which she wanted to avoid speaking about on the first date. Therefore, do not breach boundaries.
Related Reading: What Not To Do On A First Date – We List 15 Things!
11. What’s one of the best early dating tips? Drink responsibly
Unless the two of you have sparked a charm between yourselves like you’ve been pals for years, drinking too much on initial dates is not advisable. To get to know and understand someone, you want to be fully present at that moment and receptive to their stories. You should also be willing to show that you can be responsible in your social interactions.
Moreover, drinking rarely ever increases somebody’s glam quotient, so do not keep those martinis coming. Kavita gives us a good reminder, “Exercising safety is also crucial. You should place trust in your date, but be watchful of your surroundings. That’s another reason to keep your drinking in check.”
12. Do not watch their social media like a hawk
A few likes and an occasional comment on posts or pictures should be harmless when interacting online. But do not constantly use Instagram story reactions to start a conversation. It is a tried and failed method. Show that you are interested and appreciate the things that they share. Be careful however and do not stalk (or at least don’t make it obvious that you do).
Also, during conversations, try not to bring up any very old posts or pictures they might have posted. They’ll know about your pre-bedtime online stalking ritual. There’s a thin line between freaky and interested. Female dating rules dictate not snooping around too much; girls say creepy things on dates every now and then. Let’s strive to avoid that.
13. Keep your phone on DND during the date
This is one of the most important unspoken rules of dating. You do not literally have to use the DND feature but try not to check for text messages or succumb to your notifications. It can be considered rude in most social situations. You should know that gadgets ruin relationships.
If you have to check your message, make sure to clearly say “excuse me” before you do. Clearly indicate that you know you are stepping out of your polite zone. No matter who texts or calls you, do not keep a conversation hanging or going while you are glued to your screen. I would certainly rank this first in the list of dating rules.
Related Reading: Dating Etiquette – 20 Things You Should Never Ignore On A First Date
14. Ground rules for dating: Offer to split the bill
Rules of courtship are over. Modern rules of dating are here instead. The other person (especially the man) paying the bill should not be an assumption or an expectation. Keep it cool and in any and every case, offer to pay for your share at least. If they insist on paying for you, it is entirely your call whether or not to accept.
But know that no matter how well a date goes, nobody is obligated to pay for your share of the date. Old-fashioned dating etiquette says the guy has to pay, but new-age dating etiquette says the bill should be split or the lady can also pay. Female dating rules have undergone a major makeover, right?
15. Do not keep breadcrumbing
Breadcrumbing is a modern dating term for someone who keeps a potential partner hanging by keeping them on a hook but denies any kind of accountability or clarity. After a point, you must come clean about your expectations. It is NOT cool to lead someone on.
Do not insinuate any false goals and excite hope in the other person. If you are wary of dating them further, honestly communicate your feelings to them instead of leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to follow you into a potential heartbreak. Being kind and compassionate is a prerequisite for dating.
16. Your date isn’t your therapist
Don’t launch into a dramatic monologue about your problems. People like dating because they just want to have a good time. Oversharing in the first go is a mistake you should avoid at all costs. Steer clear of morbid subjects and keep the conversation light. This is one of the most essential ground rules for dating.
Kavita explains, “Keep things airy in the initial phase. On the first few dates, don’t bring up your family problems, financial issues, and so on. It gets quite overwhelming for the other person. You don’t want them to think that maintaining a relationship with you is impossible.”
17. Stay true to yourself
It goes without saying that being your most authentic self is vital. Keeping up appearances is not advisable, and neither is it sustainable. Don’t be embarrassed by any aspect of your personality. What are the rules of dating someone new, you ask? This comes first.
As Kavita says, “Never hold yourself back. If you’re someone who’s a hopeless romantic, someone who loves PDA and physical intimacy, don’t keep it to yourself. Be your truest self; don’t try to be someone your partner wants. It is only when you are honest about yourself that you can see if you two are a good fit.”
While these basic dating rules should keep you afloat in the dating world, everyone still has personal preferences about how they like to go about this process. Opening up to somebody can be a huge deal to many people and some others like to jump right into the deep end.
Understand the balance and align your paces. Be open to change, carefully observe your partner’s reactions and most importantly, have a fabulous time. Be sure to keep these rules of dating someone new close to your heart.
Some of the unspoken rules of dating are arriving on time, not asking too much about the ex, keeping your phone on DND. not calling immediately after the date and texting more often. Yes, asking interesting questions of course.
It is said the third date is the crucial one. This is when you decide that you can become serious about dating each other and some people even become physically intimate on the third or fourth date. While women can make a decision more quickly, men often are indecisive even after the tenth date.
Arriving on time, paying for the lady, holding the door or holding back the chair, are some ground rules for dating. In case you are late or need to cancel the date you need to let them know in advance. Dropping the lady home is also old-fashioned dating etiquette.
That’s a million-dollar question. The third date is the crucial one. After the fifth, it’s considered serious and by the tenth actually, you can say you are a couple.