Are there Modern Dating “Rules”?

What even are they in a world of dating apps?

Dating profiles are helpful only to a point — most people are trying to get past this as quickly as possible, and you should too.

The first thing to say is that the dating profile has become the lens through which we are first exposed to people, if you’re going down the online dating route (and let’s face it, this is how most people tackle dating in big cities like mine). This is a very peculiar lens, because it is a cultivated set of information you choose to reveal about yourself. It obviously doesn’t include a lot of the negative truths about who you are as a person — but nor does it include the really magic details that make you interesting and unique. Dating profiles tend to be as generic as humanly possible. Sometimes, people don’t write anything, depending on the platform. So the profile is a really limited first glimpse. This makes it really hard to figure out if you have any interest in someone.

Everyone will likely be dating a thousand other people, so be mentally prepared for that.

I have to say that I was never any good at dating more than one person at once. It’s just too hard; but a lot of people do it. In fact, pretty much everyone does, these days. So be mentally prepared. They are trying to fit in getting to know you around getting to know however many other people, as well.

If you’re going for a very specific kind of relationship, there’s probably a specific place for you to look for that. Go there.

This applies equally to people who are looking for a specific kink to be fulfilled as it does someone looking for a more traditional heterosexual relationship. Do everyone a favour, and make this clear in your profile or go to a place where you can specifically get that relationship type. Don’t waste people’s time by asking if they’re up for a “cuckhold relationship” when they have literally written “I’m looking for a [singular] nice guy/gal to travel and spend time with.” Maybe that person does want that kind of relationship, but unless they’ve explicitly said so on their profile, it’s really unlikely.

There is no ‘first date’ or ‘third date’ rule any more

The big thing I noticed is that first and third and whatever date rules are entirely out of the window. In my experience, there were guys I went on 6+ dates with and never slept with or knew much about — these inevitably dissolved into nothing, as the chemistry was absent, but the point was that sometimes sex happens and sometimes it doesn’t, and nobody seems to have a clear number for when this should happen, any more. It has to work for you.

If they don’t answer in a given time frame, move on. If they cancel, move on.

Learn to balance interest with disinterest. I know this is really hard — I found it almost impossible. But it is something you have to get to grips with in modern dating. People will blank you, people will be unresponsive — especially on dating apps, where the sheer number of people does mean that it’s hard to sustain conversations with everyone for a long period.

You’re pretty unlikely to hear anything if they don’t like you.

The sad truth is that people are crap at confrontation. And having to say, “Hey, sorry, I don’t think this works for me,” is something a lot of people struggle to say. This is equally true of women as men — ghosting is everywhere. I know it’s really awful, and it is a tribute to one particular person I dated a few times who actually called me up and said, “I’m really sorry, I’m getting more involved with someone else.” It was disappointing at the time but really the best way to go, and the clarity was very much appreciated.

Real life always trumps online. So don’t just use apps.

I think this should be a rule for anyone who is really wanting to find a match. Dating apps are a gateway, but in the end we all have to actually get to know each other in real life, anyway. So balance your online activities with real life activities. After all, if you’re doing things that you find interesting anyway, that’s a fantastic way to incidentally meet people.

In conclusion…

Make your own rules, and make them clear.

As I’ve already alluded to a few times, it really is up to you to figure out what you’re willing to put up with, how long you’re willing to wait, what is for you a good or bad sign. Figuring out what you value, what interests you, what you’re hoping to find, are all really important. They will inform your own approach, your own rules, to a world in which “rules” are largely irrelevant.

Romance is still totally possible, so don’t lose hope.

Finally, I want to reiterate: romance is possible. Love is possible. If you’re in dating hell right now, I feel you. But I know love is out there for you, so don’t give up if this is something you want for your life. Of course, it helps not to focus on it too intently — these things have to happen, as annoying and frustrating as that can be to hear at times. But I want you to know that it will, if it’s something you really honestly value and desire. And if it’s not something you need in your life, all power to you! Everyone has to figure out their own way.

Emerging fiction author, London Writers Award 2020. Working on my debut novel, rep’d by Kate Evans @ PFD. Podcasting on Author Not Present.

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