Break the Dating Rules—And Win!


One author finds that listening to herself—instead of the dating rules—pays off.

Having been thoroughly indoctrinated by those girl-power dating books—The Rules, He's Just Not That Into You, and, most recently, The List—I am fairly cutthroat about dating lulls. You know: you go out with someone a couple of times and then … nothing. Sometimes it's eternal—you never hear from him again. Sometimes it's the more intense pain of a short-term silence, which finds you incessantly checking your voicemail, your email, your text messages. Girl-power daters have been taught to give such situations not so much as a backward glance. Move on with your head high, and someone better will come along. In fact, here comes someone now.

In theory, this works quite well. I definitely want a relationship in which I know for certain that he's digging me. I don't want to be a pathetic man-chaser. I have dignity. But late last year I experienced a crisis of faith—in the rules, that is.

I'd gone on a Sunday-afternoon first date. We had lunch, did a little shopping, and walked my dog. He chivalrously carried my Christmas tree home from the store, even though he had a pretty bad cold. In short, it was a success. We hugged goodbye.

The next day, he sent an email thanking me for a great time. (Oh my! Could I have stumbled onto a List guy?) I reciprocated, going so far as to say our date was "wonderful," because by then I was feeling slightly guilty for letting him schlep my tree home when he could barely breathe. So far, so good. I assumed we'd go out again, probably the next weekend.

Then it happened: nothing.

Four days of nothing. I was baffled. And because we'd met online, I had no way to check out what his story might be. Should I figure that he'd met someone else? That I'd misread his initial enthusiasm? That he'd died of pneumonia? I could have gone on like this for days. (And sometimes have.)

I asked a few friends what they do in this kind of situation, and got these responses:
• "I do something that makes me feel great about myself—get a facial, climb a mountain, talk to my best friend, buy a hot dress."
• "I go out with other guys. It reminds me there are other fish in the sea."
• "I focus more on whether I like the guy or not, versus whether the guy likes me or not. When I was younger, I spent so much time wondering if the guy was interested that I never really put much thought into whether he was a good match for me. Nowadays, I am a much better reader of whether we're a good fit, so I spend a lot less time wondering if he is going to call."
• "I call my ex-fiancé and meet him for a drink. It makes me feel attractive again and I'm out of the house."

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