Many women worry about how their early dating behavior is coming off to prospects — at least vocally. I’ve frequently sat next to concerned friends at happy hour, on a Friday night, on my patio. I listen to their dating problems, and they hem and haw about what they should and shouldn’t do.
While every modern guy seems to be afraid of the label “creepy,” every modern woman seems to be afraid of the label “crazy.” Sure, being too interested could kill attraction, but daters these days run the risk of not seeming interested at all.
There are tons of ways to filter prospects in and out of your personal dating pool. However, my absolute favorite way is probably the simplest: Be real. Do whatever you want to do! If you are consistently gut-checking, wondering if your behaviors read “too interested,” then you’re not acting crazy. The good guys have perhaps barely registered your interest at all, and you’re not filtering hard enough for the bad ones (we’ll get to that; keep reading).
Though women are more empowered than ever before, I still find many heterosexual female daters to be adhering to old-school rules. These rules are limiting, and they don’t match our current culture’s pace and need for filters to determine who’s genuinely worth your time and effort.
As loads of social scientists have told me, the ancient framework for relationships doesn’t exist anymore. I am here today to release you from the chains of gender norms that deprive you of your valuable time and aren’t giving you all the information about dating prospects you could have. Here are some rules I want you to break.
Despite what He’s Just Not That Into You taught women to believe, I do not believe a guy who is into you will always contact you first. After talking to hundreds of men at this point in my career (and life), I’ve seen the view from the other side; they talk themselves out of women they like as often as they talk themselves into them. This means you can’t sit back and do nothing á la The Rules — or you can, but you’ll miss out on some good guys.
The beauty of texting first is three-fold. I like to use it as a filter to gauge interest. Use this trick early on, either right after you’ve met someone in person or after a first or second date for the best results. What to do: Send the text you’ve been asking all your friends if you should send. You should see the following:
If a guy isn’t fully interested in you for whatever reason, whether timing-related or he’s just decided it’s a no-go, he will respond to your text by putting you off — or not responding at all. That’s fine; you’ve saved yourself time, and can move on to other prospects.
If he’s a player and he’s been toying with you, his interest will drop off a cliff when you start reaching out. If your allure lies totally in “the game” and being unavailable, a player will stop chasing you when you’re no longer running. Texting first can rid you of a bad apple.
If he’s a good (perhaps reluctant) guy who’s truly interested in you, he’ll be excited to hear from you — and you’ll be able to sense that interest. He’ll carry the ball, ask questions, maybe even suggest you meet up. While I don’t believe men who like you will always call or text you, I do believe they will respond positively when you reach out.
If I had a nickel for every guy who’s told me, “I’m not a good planner,” then I’d be rich. Women, on the other hand, are typically able to tell me five events they’d like to hit in the next two weeks. And yet for most of history, we’ve let men take the reins and plan dates. Whaaaa?
Yes, historically, men have been in the driver’s seat as we mate and date. Today, as we are now dating our full-fledged equals, some norms need to hit the wayside. Letting guys plan dates is one of the first I’d get rid of. Men, who typically tell me they’re spontaneous and easygoing, would feel a lot less pressure if women gave some suggestions. This is sometimes why dates are so-o-o-o delayed among the career set; men have to think about it, they’re not good multitaskers, and they haven’t had the time.
Don’t cripple the already plan-averse man, who barely knows you, by making him come up with something you may or may not like to do and figure out when to do it. Consider planning a team effort — and another way to gauge true interest. If a guy mentions he’d like to see you, make concrete suggestions, like, “How about such-and-such concert on Friday at 7 p.m.?” Boom. So easy for us women, see?
If he’s serious about exploring your connection, it won’t matter how the date arises; there will be way less pressure on him to be the right kind of fun for you, and he’ll find time for the date (or make another suggestion if he simply can’t make yours work). If he’s stringing you along, he will never create and stick to firm plans. Remember that.
Perhaps this is an unwritten rule, but it’s something a lot of female daters have historically done. We have been taught, in all areas of life, to be the extremely accommodating sex. We’ve been socialized to do this; any woman who seems the slightest bit demanding draws ire in a way men probably would not. As a result, most women don’t assert themselves or their needs as much as they really should. In modern dating, I think it’s a huge setback.
A friend of mine just lamented to me about the time, money, and headspace she’d spent on dates during the month of May. She’d changed her schedule to accommodate these “super-busy” working men, spent money on everything from a book to a new outfit, and had generally been confused by their behavior from start to finish. By the first day of June, she’d discovered that both guys she’d seen were playing her and weren’t actually serious about dating at all. Oy vey.
We live in an era of ghosting and constant prospect shuffling, where nothing is certain; people come and go all the time. If you’re into the adventure of it all and don’t feel any stress while dating, cool! — keep doing whatever. But if you want an additional filter, before you begin to make major accommodations for anyone, I want you to make sure those people are around to stay by setting boundaries.
Don’t change your schedule for just anyone. Put your work, friends, family, and hobbies first. Suggest low-key meet-ups to start. Make sure you’re not stressing or over-investing during the first several dates.
My favorite first few dates are really the simplest. A drink in a cool setting; meet a guy for happy hour, right after work, someplace that isn’t a headache to get to, or grab an 8 p.m. coffee around the block from your apartment in a comfortable outfit. See if you have enough to talk about two or three times, and he wants to see you a third, before you start changing your schedule and investing in the odds ’n’ ends of dating.
If he likes you for you, he won’t even notice you’re trying to keep it low-key on purpose. You’re still going to bring your best, most authentic self to a date. You’re still going to see if you feel chemistry and could be compatible. You’re just also going to take the pressure (and disappointment) off the whole situation if you ultimately find out a guy isn’t in it for the right reasons. In the meantime, you’re seeing if he can actually set a date and stick to it.
I’m not a proponent for inauthenticity at any time, of course. If a guy suggests some cool date early on and you really want to go, yet it might require a schedule change or some extra time/money, do it. Don’t hold back. However, I like to look for patterns in dating today; words mean nothing, actions mean something, but patterns mean everything.
Until a guy has created a pattern of honest investment in getting to know you, and you feel real potential through these mini dates, save yourself the roller coaster of disappointment and keep it chill for a while. When the relationship heats up, you’ll feel it — and you can invest more.
Read more from Yahoo Beauty:
- If Someone ‘Ghosts,’ ‘Benches,’ or ‘Zombies’ You, Do They Ever Deserve Another Chance?
- Two Simple Questions Can Tell You If Your Relationship Will Fail or Flourish
- The Simple Reason for Ghosting You’ve Never Heard Before
- The No. 1 Thing Everyone Gets Wrong About Breaking Up
Jenna Birch is a journalist, dating coach, and author of The Love Gap (Grand Central Life & Style, January 2018). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo every Friday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “YAHOO QUESTION” in the subject line.