The advice is endless. Always do this. Never do that. Rule after rule after rule as if every relationship were a simple formula of "person + person" and all other variables are to be disregarded.
That's the single largest issue I have with relationship advice. People do not fit into neat little categories and therefore relationships cannot be simplified to a list of rules and regulations to follow.
Successful relationships are the result of hard work, compatibility, sheer dumb luck and following your own rules. Obviously, there are the general principles that stand for all – honesty, respect, and the like – but beyond that, really anything goes as long as all parties agree.
Personally, I've broken these common ones, and I have no regrets.
Friends Before Lovers
I met my fiancé on OkCupid, a dating site with an intolerably corny pink and blue color scheme and abundance of ill-matches.
I was on the verge of quitting the site when he messaged me. We went on our first date less than a week later. We were officially exclusive after 11 days and three dates. After eight months, we moved in together.
Today, we're planning our wedding. We have never been "just friends," but he's definitely one of my best friends now.
I get the value in really getting to know someone before deciding to commit. Red flags like bad tempers, criminal records, a propensity for cheating or lifestyle choices that don't sit well with yours take time to show themselves.
I'm not saying going slow is a bad thing. It just isn't always necessary. Sometimes, you just know that someone is right for you. It's not just infatuation, warm fuzzies or sexual tension that makes you want to skip the get-to-know-you phase, but a deep sense of belonging and connectedness.
Sometimes, your gut is just as adept at sensing when something is good for you as it is at sensing when something is bad. Like I often tell people when they raise their eyebrows at my “how did you meet?” story, sometimes you just know
No sex before…
Depending on the rule book you consult, the end of that sentence can vary from “…knowing each other's names” to “…your bones turn to ash in your grave.”
The most popular rule currently standing on this subject is the 90-day rule, widely attributed to Steve Harvey as he writes about it in his book "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man."
The rule basically states that a woman should wait 90 days before having sex with any prospective partner. In an interview, Steve Harvey explains that he based the 90-day rule on the probationary period a company gives you before hiring you full time and providing you with benefits.
I can tell you I tossed that rule right out the window without a second thought.
I get the reasoning; you want to be sure someone is worth your intimacy. If you're looking for more than sex, you don't want to sleep with someone who just wants to get in your pants. I just don't think there's a set time frame that can guarantee that.
There are people willing to wait out a 90-day period just to hit it and quit it. The only certainty that comes out of enforcing a 90-day rule is that you give yourself a three-month dry spell.
Your body, your feelings, your decision.
When you have sex with someone should be when it feels right to you, not based on some arbitrary number tossed out by a relationship guru. Your body, your feelings, your decision.
Leave Exes in the Rearview
We've seen the memes. "An ex is an example of what I don't want."
In a lot of cases this is true. Most breakups happen for a reason, and a lot of us use loneliness and familiarity as a reason to jump back into toxic relationships.
This rule definitely has its place, but I broke it anyway. A lot.
My fiancé and I have had our share of breakups. They were shitty, as breakups usually are. We were young, foolish and had a lot of growing to do. If I'd stuck to the advice to stay away from exes, I'd have missed out on what is now a healthy, supportive relationship where we bring out the best in each other.
Leaving exes in the past isn't the kind of advice that applies to every situation. Like most of the other rules I've broken, it boils down to discernment.
You have to know for yourself if a relationship failed because it was unhealthy or if there were issues you could smooth out. Getting back with someone because you've figured out why it didn't work out and have committed to fixing it is different from jumping back into a toxic relationship just because.
Don't feel bound to any of the rules of dating and relationships if they don't make sense for you and your partner(s). The pace of your relationship, how soon you have sex, how monogamous or open your relationship is, who does what domestic tasks and how the bills are split are all factors that can vary greatly depending on the individuals involved and the circumstances of your relationship.
Relationship advice can be great, but it's just that: advice. You're free to take it or leave it. Follow the rules that work, break the ones that don't and make your own up as you go.