With a mere two-week stretch of Sunday school attendance as the extent of my religious practices, I’ve surprisingly always held the 10 commandments in high regard. They seem noble, really, and they're simple enough. Don’t lie, don’t steal and don’t sleep with your neighbor’s husband; I can get down with that.
When it comes to dating, we’ve all wished for some set of similar guidelines to let us know what rules to play by, a universal code that sets forth a collection of clear-cut understandings.
Unfortunately, no such rulebook exists. And until it does, the best we can do is rely on the traditional practice of living and learning.
After years of dating, I wouldn’t say I have it all figured out, but I definitely have a decent grasp on a few right and wrong moves we all make when seeking relationships.
Imagine how much easier things would be if we could all follow these 10 commandments of dating:
1. Thou shall not allow dating stereotypes to dictate one’s objective.
Okay, so we’re all fluent in the basics.
Wait two to four days before suggesting a second date, so you won’t seem needy. Wait an hour before responding to a text, so you seem busy. Never accept a first offer, so you won’t be considered too readily available.
In my experience, mixed signals are lame. Guys, if you like a girl, then ask her out. Ladies, if you don’t already have plans, don’t say you do.
Life is short, and compatibility isn’t easy to come by. By not letting stereotypes get in the way of what feels natural, you give yourself and your interest an even playing field to begin something authentic.
2. Thou shall keep reasonable expectations.
We all have a list of dos and deal-breakers, that mental checklist of things we will and will not accept in a mate. (I have a girlfriend who once swore off dating men who drove Mazdas.)
While it’s important to set the bar high for those we invite into our lives, it’s equally important to keep an open mind.
Everyone you encounter will have his or her allocated amount of baggage and quirks, but ultimately, all that matters is the person. You’ll only be putting yourself at a disadvantage in jumping to conclusions, and allowing your expectations to become unrealistic.
3. Thou shall not stalk a suitor on social media.
If I had a penny for every time a guy at a bar asked me for my Instagram name, I could afford to venture past ordering the “house red” when dining out.
The truth is we live in a technologically driven world, and depending on the Internet for information is now the norm.
Whatever we fail to learn first-hand about a new romantic interest, we’re able to learn with a WiFi connection. Upon meeting someone new, you are able to use his or her tweets, status updates, Snapchats and Instagram photos to become fluent in his or her lifestyle.
While it might seem easy, remember that anything worth having is also worth working for. I know it’s hard, but deny the urge to snoop.
Holding yourself back from sorting through someone’s virtual life will grant you the opportunity to get to know him or her through good old-fashioned time together. That’s as good as it gets.
4. Thou shall be cautious with casual encounters.
We’ve all walked the fine line between friend and friendlier. When attractive people of the same age get together, the odds of hooking up are pretty probable.
Hooking up is not to be confused with the art of dating. While becoming sexually involved with someone who runs with your group of friends or works at your job may seem carefree or convenient, more often than not it has a nasty habit of turning complicated.
If you’re sleeping with a friend and have no intention of dating him or her, know that one or the both of you will eventually wish to move on to a more substantial relationship.
5. Thou shall not lie about what one wants out of a relationship.
Trying to seem mysterious in the beginning seems sexy, but as dating progresses, it won’t help a suitor get to know the real you. Once you get past the initial stages of game playing, you realize it all comes down to fulfilling your personal needs.
Being upfront about what you need is crucial. Are you looking for no-strings sex, or wishing to start a family? Do you prefer to date multiple people, or are you a serial monogamist?
Remaining true to who you are and what you need out of life is the only shot you have at finding the right fit.
6. Thou shall try to remember the bigger picture.
Remember, dating is supposed to be fun. You can waste a lot of precious time analyzing the hours between calls and the meaning behind that last Emoji.
You could save yourself the trouble and premature wrinkles by taking it all in stride. Maybe it won’t work out, and maybe it’ll be the great romance of our time. Whatever happens, just let it happen.
Take a breath, relax and enjoy the ride.
7. Thou shall not fall victim to flashy or flimsy first impressions.
It’s true first impressions are important, but don’t be too quick to label them permanent.
Another good friend (who shall remain nameless) once starved herself for an entire day in anticipation of a first date dinner. By the time they made it to the restaurant, she barely made through her first cocktail before becoming violently ill.
After spending the rest of the date hungry and humiliated in the handicap bathroom, she was certain he’d never call again. They’ll be married this fall.
You see, you’ll have first dates pulled straight from Danielle Steel novels, and others will leave you uninspired. Whatever the case, don’t be fooled into believing the first date is the be-all and end-all. You can never be too sure; that second date may just be magic.
8. Thou shall never settle for less than one deserves.
Did you read this one too quickly? Read it again. Really let this sink in because it may be the most unheeded commandment of them all.
Though it’s important to keep judgement at bay, it’s imperative to know your worth and your boundaries. It can be exciting to rough it with the wrong people while you play with your ideals, but at the end of the day, be sure never to compromise your dignity or pride.
9. Thou shall not let booze be a scapegoat.
Choosing activities while dating can be difficult. You want it to seem personal without romantic pressure, but casual without seeming dull.
Sadly, many of us have traded creativity for laziness, and “grabbing a drink” has become dating protocol. Yes, meeting for a drink is a fun, non-threatening way to get together and encourage conversation in a comfortable environment. However, if you find the person you’re dating only wishes to “meet up for a drink,” kick rocks.
You’re looking to become someone’s partner, not a bar’s regular. If you’re into someone, try to think outside the box. Don’t rely on intoxication and loud crowds to carry the good time.
Grab coffee, go for a hike, or visit a museum. Switching it up lets you see how you both interact without all that muddy distraction that comes along with the bar scene.
10. Thou shall always trust one’s instincts.
Once you strip away your friends’ opinions, your mother’s warnings and astrological compatibility chart, it all comes down to the gut, that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach telling you which way to go.
Too often, we rely on the suggestive direction of our environment. We look for “signs” or “red flags” to help us make our dating decisions. The bottom line is that no friend, fortune cookie or horoscope can help confirm whether or not you’re making the right move.
You learn that all your own. Pay close attention to what your intuition is telling you. Throughout this life, your conscience will be your most primitive guide. Don’t doubt it, question it or second guess it. It will never steer you wrong.