Many single women are familiar with that popular mid-90s dating guidebook ‘The Rules: Time-tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr Right’. In fact, among most of my female friends, it was considered a second bible and they swore by it. Strangely a lot of them remained single, but more on that later.
The rules of which the book spoke were pretty simple and, to my way of thinking, could be summarised into “keep him wanting more” and centered on making the male pursue you rather than the other way around.
So there will be a lot of confused women this morning following new research from the University of Iowa that found The Rules may not be the formula for lasting relationships they thought.
The study has found that “a significant percentage of current relationships began with non-romantic sex.”
Anthony Paik, an assistant professor of sociology, told the magazine: “People now view hooking up as a predictable, normal part of life and don’t let it contaminate or poison the beginning of a relationship.”
Early sex is a no-no according to the rules (and casual sex doesn’t factor in at all), so the fact a shag can represent a strong starting point is not good news for the authors. But I could have told you that for free.
I am blissfully married. My wife used to use the rules. She didn’t use them on me however. In fact when we met we were both incredibly busy with our lives and agreed, on our very first date, that neither of us was looking for a serious relationship. Just sex.
It was a blunt honesty not common at the time but it lead to an openness that, for us, allowed us to very quickly get to a point where we trusted each other completely. After all, we weren’t second guessing thoughts or playing games.
But that’s not the only Rule that seems to not work. Rule 22 tells women to not move in with a man or even leave things at his place.
Bill Cloke, the author of Happy Together: Creating a Lifetime of Connection, Commitment, and Intimacy, told Women’s Health magazine that it is the reason for moving in together, rather than the act itself, that is so vital to be honest about.
“Couples just need to be honest about why they’re deciding to move in together,” he said.
As long as couples are on the same page as one another in terms of the future, and have made an emotional commitment to get there, living together before matrimony is no bad thing, he suggests.
Once again we shattered this one. We lived an hour apart so if we wanted some company (or ‘company’ in the early stages) it represented quite a drive so we often crashed at the other’s place. For her I was an exception because of the drive but it just made sense.
In fact, we managed to break quite a lot of the rules and still managed to end up together in a very strong, happy marriage. At a glance I can see at least 13 rules she broke with me.
(As a side note, one of the rules is “Don’t discuss the rules with your therapist”. Seriously? Applying the first rule of Fight Club to your book seems to suggest you don’t want too much scrutiny.)
As for my single female friends, many of them found The Rules were good for catching guys but not necessarily for keeping them and soon found themselves back to not having sex for three dates.
The problem with game-playing of course is that it invites game-playing in return. The guy version of The Rules comes down to “treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen”.
And I’m not alone in my thinking.
Dr Bethany Marshall, author of Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away, says that those women and men who follow regimented rules may have got it wrong.
“Playing by specific rules can make you less likely to pay attention to your own inner voice and experiences.”
So instead of worrying about strict rules – and ignoring the fact we’re all individuals and different – how about the singles try a mix of flirting, acceptance and honesty?
Huh. Honesty. Who would have thought?
On one of my non-rules-approved sleepovers I noticed the-girl-who-would-become-wife-one-day had a copy of the book in question. When I asked her about it she laughed and said it didn’t apply to me because she wasn’t looking for a relationship from me. If only we knew.
Do you follow the ‘rules’ or do you make up your own? Have you found yourself in a long term relationship that was the result of casual sex?