Dating Rules: Pitfalls, Mantras and Freedom

This is a guest post from Barry Cooke.

“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all we’re not savages.”

- Jack, from ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding

 The human race has always lived by rules of some description, many of them written, and others that are just “known.” 

There is one code of conduct, however, where failure comply will result in a fate worse than mere imprisonment or a fine. This is the code of dating.

And a Herculean code it is too; there are hundreds of dos and don’ts to observe and not only are they different in every culture but nobody has taken the time nor claimed the authority to make them official. 

There is documentation, of course, where industrious self-help gurus looking to make a quick buck will take advantage of the lovelorn by selling their own Magna Cartas of romance. 

The more savvy of us worked out very early on that no-one can ever truly master the ins and outs of the dating game, mostly because its very nature is elusive. If you’re any good, you won’t get much time on the field.

The question on every unlucky lover’s lips is WHY; what reason could there possibly be to have so many rules for something that comes so naturally (or should)? 

For example, even the ritual of events preceding the actual date is riddled with pitfalls for both parties involved. The man is expected to make the approach in most cases but if the female decides to take the initiative she is putting herself at risk of confusing him. To avoid this awkward social situation and to ensure that the male doesn’t neglect his part of the deal it is her duty to make eye contact, affording him the opportunity to move in for the kill.

Once that tricky business is over and a conversation has been struck up it is frowned upon to express any form of clear admiration from either side. Instead, you must trade witty remarks that verge on insults until one of the parties involved (again, usually the man) finds a reason to swap contact details. 

What follows is perhaps the most notorious dating statute which consists of waiting for a set period of time - approximately 48 hours - before getting in touch to organise a rendezvous. Any more than this suggests a lack of interest while any less reeks of desperation. 


Most of the dating rules we live by are rooted in the 1950s and have very little to do with the small, balanced world we now inhabit. Firstly the man is no longer duty bound to fulfil these conventions and it is now totally acceptable for a lady to make the approach or to be the first one to call. 

While it is acceptable to break the rules, however, it can also start the entire relationship on the back foot and the male may have issues further down the line, as old habits (and insecurities, and cultural norms) have a tendency to die hard. 

One mandate that has strengthened its resolve is the 48-hour calling rule; although some may consider a quick phone call to be a sign of enthusiasm, it also translates as desperation to many others who reason that person has no other social life to speak of.

As a great number of us turn our attention to dating websites and meeting potential partners through social networking, the laws that we have grown up with are subverted in front of our eyes. 

Whereas approaching a member of the opposite sex was always tainted with the possibility that your ‘target’ was not in the market for attention, at least as a member of an online dating site you can be sure of why your peers are there in the first place. Anonymity affords shyer users the chance to try pick-up lines they would never consider using in person, often with mixed results.


We may protest at the number of rules we have to live by, and the fact that goalposts are moving all of the time, but the advice always comes back to that old adage; “Be yourself.” 

This article was written by Barry Cooke. Barry is a respected usability consultant who has been working in the Internet market for over 15 years in a number of different sectors. He is also a social media expert and a passionate user of social networks such as Twitter and Badoo.

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