The Rules of Dating...

My friends make fun of me sometimes because of 'the rules,' but for me, there is a certain rationale to having a few basic ideas that you can rely on. People sometimes call this Common Sense.

I guess this first started with a roommate I had in college who had a simplified view of the world that he based his decisions on. Simple things that are sometimes stupid, but at their core, they make sense. Some people call it wisdom.
Over time but especially when I was first dating after coming out of the closet, I developed a set of rules, the core of which are these:

  1. Don't date someone new to town
  2. Don't date someone in the closet
  3. Date someone +/- 5 years of your age
  4. Don't date friends
Digging a little deeper, here's my logic for each of them.

Don't date someone new to town. When you have someone fresh off the boat, they don't have an established social network. If you start to date, you become their world. It's very important that both people in a relationship have their independence. People need their space. I need to have my friends and my stuff, and you need to have your friends and your stuff. We can do things with both groups, but when someone is new to town and only has the people you've introduced them to, then there is a lack of diversity that evolves--they don't have their own stuff.
Everyone needs to escape to a place that doesn't revolve around the other person... trust me on this. I need away time from myself, so I know someone I date is going to need it sometimes also.

Don't date someone in the closet. This is a no brainer. I spent 30 years in the closet; it's not a healthy place and I don't want to go back in. I understand that some people can't come out of the closet because of their career. But when they aren't out to their closest friends or their family then they're not out at all. When you date someone completely in the closet then it takes you back to that dark place where you lie to people you care about and have to fabricate stupid things like "where did you meet so-and-so?" or "are you dating anyone?" or even simple stuff like "what are you doing this weekend?" Honestly, this is one of the bigger reasons why my ex and I had issues. For the record, my ex is a great guy and has since come completely out of the closet, but while we were dating this was an issue for me. He was out to his best friend and to one of his brothers. He wasn't out at the office, and for good reason--it was an old school company and it would've ended his career. Ironically, it was the random people who had no bearing on his career or anything that really got to me. When people like his hair stylist, or the guy he played tennis with on Saturday, or a person at a resident's happy hour would ask him "are you single" or "what did you do for your birthday," instead of saying "I'm dating a great guy" or "my boyfriend took me to my favorite restaurant" he'd lie--and that wasn't acceptable to me--I little by little lost respect for him. I knew that the person I date and that I loved had more integrity than to lie and be ashamed about himself or his feelings for me, especially when people of such little consequence would ask a casual question.
If his boss had asked--sure, be safe and use the gender neutral pronoun game like all of us do before we come out of the closet, but don't lie.
Really that's the short-term reason to not date someone in the closet. The longer-term reason is what if this person is the guy I'm going to spend the rest of my life with? Will we never share a Thanksgiving dinner with his parents? Will I never get to go golf with his dad and brother?
It was important for my ex to meet my sister and my best friends. It helped him understand who I am and where I've come from. Likewise, I want to meet the amazing people from his world too.
My experience is that when you meet someone that takes your breath away--whom you fall in love with--then you don't want to hide them.... You want to show them off and share them with the important people who are special in your life.

Date someone +/- 5 years of your age. This is a bit flexible. The common sense part of this says, "if you're 35, don't date the 23 year old retail guy from Banana Republic." The thought process that leads to credibility for this is two people should basically be in similar states of their life.
If you're dating a guy 15 years younger or 15 years older, then you probably don't have a lot in common with each other outside of the sex.
On a more micro level I think the phases of life come down like this: high school, college, out on your own, established career, etc. A guy in college may be very "mature for his age" (or however you rationalize it) but if he's at a frat party and you're working to make mortgage payments, you aren't in the same frame of mind when it comes to making most of your decisions.
More shallow things are, you probably won't like the same music or t.v. and he won't get your pop-culture references.
When I would chat on the net, some 22 year old kid with a smokin body would message me and try to convince me that he was someone I could date because he was "mature for his age" and he "gets along better with people older than him because guys his age are too juvenile." I'd run away--and for good reason! If the guy doesn't remember the first space shuttle exploding, the first President Bush, or the first war in Iraq, then there's a good chance that we're coming from different places. My youth was a cold-war-youth that shaped my psyche and how I developed. Along those same lines, if Kennedy's assassination shaped your youth then I'm probably too young to be your date to the prom this time around too.
I appreciate and crave diversity... but generally age is a big hurdle when it comes to dating, even when compared to things like being from different cultures of having different backgrounds.

Don't date friends. This one is fuzzy. When I was straight, I used to adhere to the "When Harry Met Sally Theory of Dating" which says that you become friends before you become lovers. I guess at my core, I still believe this too. Your partner in life really should be your best friend. But it's easier to move from an initial physical attraction to a deep emotional connection than it is to move in the other direction. (I'll work on a blog entry about the 3 aspects of attraction sometime soon).
The evolution of this rule came about when a friend once tried to convince me that being a "cuddle buddy" was a good idea----it's not. Someone is going to get emotionally attached and the other one isn't. That's a recipe for disaster and a destroyed friendship. This is also why "friends with benefits" won't work for me. Maybe it does for you, but I'm guessing that eventually someone is going to get hurt, and it'll probably be me.

A bonus rule.
Don't date before Easter. This is more of a theory than a rule. I thought of it last summer, but it's not developed enough to make the numbered list.
The idea here is that in the winter there's not much to do on a date. You basically have dinner or a movie and that's about it. It also gets dark too early which makes it harder to do more interesting things after 5p.m. when it gets dark.
My dates after Easter (or at least after the spring time change) become much better and must make me seem more interesting. The "dinner or movies" list is augmented by picnics, concerts in the park, hiking, camping, festivals, going to the lake, etc.
CLEARLY those are more interesting things and will make me seem like a more interesting person. This obviously will give the relationship a better kick-start at the beginning of everything.
... like I said, this one hasn't been fleshed out as much.

I am a work in progress.



Fancy Pants said...

Ok so now I'm going to have to write a blog about this subject as well, it's one I've been thinking a lot about. I used to be against rules for dating, as I tend to be a very spontaneous person. But all of a sudden I'm in favor of them, if only because the results of ignoring some pretty normal rules has been fairly disastrous for me.

The =/- 5 rule is a pretty good one, one I've violated several times, although it's also very much about where someone is in their life. I am 33 and dated a 26 year old last summer who was actually more mature than some of the guys my age, but then he had a job already, a mortgage on a 3-bedroom house, and was pretty professionally much farther along then me. Anyway, I'll save the rest for my own blog, but keep writing, I'll keep reading.

dan said...

my rule has always been 7 years. the age rule is true for every reason you post. nice job.

nothing to do after dark in Dallas? really, no museums open on thursday nights? no museum lectures, short film festivals, weekend fundraising events, concerts?......, and here I thought it had SO much more to offer than okc...... (ha). later.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the closet one is really so open and shut? I tend to see being out as a spectrum. Some are out more than others. No family, close family, some family, all family...for example.

But, I see what you're saying. And I'm for sure taking notes! :)