The New Dating Rules

For over months now, I’ve been trying to write something with the title, “Is He Really Just Not That Into You?” (kind of my response to the movie. Yes, I just watched it. Shocking, I know!)I even asked for some feedback on my social media accounts to try to gauge guys’ opinions on the film.…


Text size

For over months now, I’ve been trying to write something with the title, “Is He Really Just Not That Into You?” (kind of my response to the movie. Yes, I just watched it. Shocking, I know!)I even asked for some feedback on my social media accounts to try to gauge guys’ opinions on the film. I feel really bad for all the people who took time out of their day to respond to me because I am not going to write that article. I can’t. I won’t. And I don’t want to anymore.

Somehow in the lives of most heterosexual females, it seems that everything always ends up being about boys. How to be the girl who guys want to marry, date; the girl who guys want to want. I know independent, brilliant, educated, talented, successful women, and no matter how much of these things we are, what guys want us to be is in our subconscious as a matter of social conditioning, if nothing else. John Berger’s now classic article, “Way of Seeing,” which was my first academic introduction to the male gaze, states that, “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” And we do; well, in the spirit of non-generalizing, let’s just say I do.

But what does this have to do with dating rules? I think it has everything to do with dating rules. Men are the ones that are looking at women and are doing so from a position of power. Women are watching themselves being looked at and doing so powerlessly. We perpetuate and maintain these positions because of our socially constructed concepts of gender roles. And from these, we develop rules. And although these rules are at least subject to disagreement, dissent, and flat-out rejection these days; they are still the default logic for many of us. Our rules include that guys must make the first move, they must be the aggressive ones; guys must lead. And women, well, we should be more passive and gentle and allow the man to lead of course.

I consider myself someone who is fairly cosmopolitan and modern in a lot of ways yet when it comes to guys, I retreat to these customary dating expectations under the guise of being a “traditional girl.” And there’s nothing wrong with being a “traditional girl” if that’s what you want, but there is something wrong with thinking that this is the only way it should be. Women have to dance around and play this game and be this supposed girl that guys “want to end up with” even if we would be faking it to do so. And the more I think about these rules, the more I question them; and the more I question them, the less I would like these rules to be our default logic.

Take the well-known, “He’s just not that into you if he’s not asking you out” rule. But, what about her? Why is she not asking him out? And I have definitely come across many guys who have wanted to ask girls out but they thought that the girls weren’t into them for one reason or another. But what if the girls were into them? What if the girls were into them but were waiting for the guys, “to lead.” What if the girls solely abided by, “He’s just not that into me because he’s not asking me out,” and then decided to move on? My point is following dates rules can cause people to miss out on each other because we’re playing these games and abiding by supposedly unwritten natural laws to maintain the status quo. And I get it, conventional is safe. But does it always work? I don’t think so.

There is nothing in nature that explicitly indicates that a guy should be the one to ask girls out. Or make the first move or any of that jazz. Something also tells me guys today are a little confused. Women have come a really long way in the last century and their mentality has changed a lot. They can be assertive and aggressive in many facets of life. I know I am. So to all of a sudden cower into this, “traditional girl” who is waiting around for the guy to ask me out is well, bewildering. It’s mixed signals. And I can tell you first-hand that this “let the man lead” thing has never really worked for me. Granted, I like a man who can lead but sometimes you literally have to grab a guy and show him the way. Because there’s different kinds of guys just as there are different kinds of girls. And you’ll just never know what kind will give you those butterflies in your stomach when they’re around. So you’ve got to work with what you’ve got and be willing to change as needed.

Dating is confusing. Men are confusing especially when you like them. And yes, women are confusing too. But do we have to complicate the matter further by creating rules and then calling them unwritten? Rules are for sports games and sharwama eating competitions, not people who are interested in other people romantically. Stop waiting for him to text or call you first if you want to call him first. Stop waiting for her to give you a sign and give her a sign — a clear, unequivocal, sign. Men — man up and women — woman up; and let’s forget about what we think are the dating rules, and dare to write our own.

But what do you think? Should we remain with the status quo or shall we live a little?

Image via Jolana Malkston


  1. Cavey
    Yes! Yes! Yes!!!
    Personally, in love/relationships, the only rule that should exist is that there are no rules. I mean, who laid down these rules? Who threw down the gauntlet? And just because it worked for you doesn’t mean it should work for me. So what if a girl asked me out? So what if she decided to pay for dinner? So what? So what if I ask for airtime? As long as I still appreciate and respect her as a man should a woman, irrespective of her (in)action, being comfortable with all these doesn’t make me less of a man.
    1. Od
      Dude, getting asked out by a woman doesn’t make you anything. You’re only less a man if you want to ask a lady out but can’t pluck up the courage until she has to do it herself. If anything, asking you out makes her more a man than she should have to be. As a woman, believe me, subtlety is her most powerful and ready ally in romance.
    2. Twisted
      Haha cavey! I see this brought you out if whatever hole you’ve been hiding! Whatever you do please don’t ask for airtime!
      Don’t ask why…just don’t????????
      1. Cavey
        I’m guessing you are also ????
        How ’bout you give me yours and I’d mail you and if not, send me a DM on Twitter maybe?
  2. Od
    I agree that dating can be weird. I only quit modern feminism completely within the past few months after taking a very slow exit beginning about two years ago or so. So I used to hold to the idea that it didn’t have to be the man leading all the time. I was the type of guy that wanted to be sure that the woman wanted to be kissed before I kissed her, that she wanted to hang out before I took her anywhere etc (not that that’s wrong but if you have to ask to know, bro, then you probably doing something really wrong). I believed that the only difference between men and women was their physical anatomy (or, at least, the belief was implied in my behavior). The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that that contributed powerfully to the dysfunction in my relationships. I waited on women who waited on me, lol. It was crazy.

    I think that gender roles are real in dating. I think that the very anatomy that seems too little of a difference to matter weighs in a lot on what we can do, um, comfortably.

    I have learned that looking for safety, certainty and security is ok for women (in a sense, women have a lot more to lose in a relationship than men do). So it doesn’t seem quite right to demand that she be the rock. Now I don’t expect her to ask me out or say anything about what she wants for us. She can if she wants to. I truly don’t mind that. But I am finally comfortable with leading, with looking into the future and daring to take thwarting challenge to harden a mere wish or desire into reality. That’s what I have come to learn that being a man is about. I used to demand this ability of women I dated. And it constantly exhausted me to see that they just couldn’t handle it. I think it was always too scary or something for them to take on uncertainty. I thought it was wrong. I don’t think that anymore. I know that losing a woman you love because she senses fear or uncertainty in you about the future hurts like Brutus’s knife in Julius Caesar’s back but now I understand that it’s perfectly alright for a woman to wait until you can see your way clearly and know what you can do before she makes a move.

    That’s the traditional girl, right? I think she’s ok. And I find it hard to believe that there’s any other kind out there. I’ve dated from and interacted with a wide enough pool to extrapolate expectations, so I wonder if

    “…but there is something wrong with thinking that this is the only way it should be…”

    is right. I mean, how can you be sure that there is something wrong with thinking like that? What is wrong with thinking that way?

    And this:

    “There is nothing in nature that explicitly indicates that a guy should be the one to ask girls out.”

    The certainty in that statement makes one wonder. Both men and women have testosterone but the levels differ significantly between each. That hormone affects behavior. It alone is a natural indication that men are more aggressive even romantically than women. It’s not social conditioning. A man may be flustered and confused when he falls in love but he is still more driven by nature to pursue the woman he loves than a woman in love would be driven by nature to do so.

    1. O'Kel
      I am still trying – very hard – to understand what it is with this generation and cracking nature, recreating sanity and redefining every thing under God’s earth. I understand and agree that certain norms should be broken, certain institutions, e.g. those primitive institutions founded on the principle of exploitation and manipulation of perceived weaker classes, should be razed. But what I don’t yet get is this trying to totally recreate the human being.
      What I mean is this. God created Adam, and gave him certain unique behavioral traits, reproductive organs, hormones, physical attributes etc., different from what He gave Eve. Those differences are what makes man man, and woman woman. Now I believe that both beings are equal in the sense that they are both autonomous human beings created by God to fulfill certain responsibilities here on earth. One is not a higher being than the other. I believe that both should be treated equally with regards to human rights and all that. What I am still struggling to get is why women want to become men: think like men, walk like men, sing like men, lose the essence of what makes them women and put on a manly garb. It’s just as though we want to completely erase our identities as women because we don’t feel we’re enough. Are we saying God should have made us with penises et al?
      Oh sometimes, I do get bothered by and tired of all the noise in cyberspace. Everyone babbling at the same time, each wanting to be heard above the din. How is that even possible? What happened to solitude and peace and the concept of enjoying life with all its diversities and the beauty that creates. Oh I’m ranting I know. But can we please just allow each other be? Men be men ( and I don’t mean the bullying, egoistical, brutish homo sapiens that some equate men to be), women be women (nor do I mean the weak, subservient, whimpering dolts that some think women should be). What I mean is that we should both embrace the essence of who we are, reach deep within and harness the strengths inherent in both sexes, trust me, we’d create beautiful melodies together when we can finally agree and harmonize. I have to get back to work. If you however insist on becoming the other sex, by all means, evolve!
  3. Temmie_i
    ‘Dating are confusing.Men are confusing especially when you like them’.This is so true!! I totally agree with this post.We should write down our dating rules. ,Lol,your comment is an entire post on its own.
  4. Tee boy
    I don’t think there are rules to dating or let me say a lot of people do not flow with the “traditional” rules anymore and it is working for them.
    some men are extremely shy and some women are extremely outgoing and can read a man’s shy demeanor for miles.
    Left to me i’d say just play the game…NO RULES baby!!!

    Amyn is a nice name. what does it mean?

  5. Brownie
    u most certainly made my day and reading this insightful piece has been with great pleasure nd comfort…
    I mean why can’t I go for what I want, who says he’s waay out of my league… who says that charming ladies man cannot be tamed by ME *smiles* (not like I necessarily wanna tame him)

    Thank U soo much …#Hugs!!

  6. Kabuk
    I actually read to the end, however, I was so busy agreeing with you that I’m sure I can’t remember the gist of the last 10 or so all of 10+ seconds.
    I think we shouldn’t let outdated and obsolete rules guide our behavior especially in forming emotional links. It’s hard enough to find someone I find truly interesting, only for me to start an entirely different race that requires serious thought, cunning and planning; to explore the potential of a relationship rooted in instinctive don’t choose whom you like or don’t like…
    Enough said…ladies and men alike..pls lets make each other’s life a tad easier..the country and economy is enough challenge already
  7. Skills
    Don’t Follow Convention – Question it.
    Don’t Accept Established Wisdom – Challenge it.
    Don’t Break Rules – Make New Ones.
  8. jojo
    Rules don’t sit well with me I kinda just act in the moment and do whatever makes me happy, but then again, there are just a bunch of rules that every girl must know and abide by, all of which make the dating experience a tad difficult. My personal beef with the. The one that says “don’t like a guy more than he likes you ” what happened to being crazy in love or being in love equally?
  9. Lady
    My friend and her ex used to keep tabs on who called last. I couldn’t understand it, what if i wanted to talk to him right now but it’s his turn to call??? Abeg! I do as i please but the one i don’t have the guts for is ask a guy to date me expressly….biko! I kent! I just kent! I will aid the process make myself available, tell you i like you and stuff but expressly nbanu! That one isn’t for me X_x
    1. Madu
      I mean, a lady friend could be his best option in that time of need. Or the female gendet don’t offer assistance anymore? ????
  10. Esther
    Great article . I do agree to a point but I agree with O’Kel that nature does dictate some of the things that happens.

    My personal concern is if the woman becomes the chaser /aggressor, she will have to maintain this position throughout the duration of the relationship. Is that something she wants to have to maintain?

    But in the issue of the guy liking the girl and she liked him too, she could have made her feelings known without out rightly saying it. Either way, there’s no rules on how to act in relationships. That’s way everyone has a unique love story ????

  11. Madu
    All these rules and shii that exist.

    How my uncle met his wife with whom he has spent over a decade in marital bliss with just baffles me. And they are waxing stronger each year. This was just a case of a patient visiting her doctor for the first time. And then three months after that first meeting, they got married. ‘Jalé Jalé’. ‘Osiso’. ‘Kia kia’. I’m sure they were quite sincere with their feelings.

    It’s funny how people nowadays hold back on loving wholly but want to experience the magnitude of true love. You get what you give.

    I know what most people fear, but universal laws are just what they are.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *