When I was growing up, my mother (widowed at a very young age) had three dating rules:
(1) Never marry a man who has been married three times or more. They can’t all be her fault.
(2) Never marry a man you haven’t known at least a year. Men change with the seasons.
(3) If a man tells you you’re too good for him, believe him. He knows himself better than you do.
People have lots of dating rules: Don’t sleep with him until the third date. Don’t call him first. Don’t get too dressed up, lest you discover that he doesn’t like you “casual.” Since my separation, people’s “rules” have intrigued me, and I’ve tried out several of my own, with varying degrees of success.
About a year ago, I had dinner with an old friend whom I greatly respect. She is very happily married to a man who is clearly her soul mate — their connection is obvious and palpable. I asked her if she had any dating advice for me and she said, “Never date a man whose butt is smaller than yours.”
But she was serious, and as we talked, I saw the value in this advice. It wasn’t about being superficial or shallow; it was about finding someone with whom you could feel soft and feminine and safe, after a long day being a modern, ambitious, successful woman (as she definitely is). Everyone needs a soft place to land, as Dr. Phil is fond of reminding us, and part of that for many women means feeling physically safe and cared for. It doesn’t mean he has to be built like The Rock, but it means that he needs to have a presence, a feeling, of being able to care for you. This reasoning holds value and truth for me. These days, I don’t have many rules around dating, but I do still hold this one. I offer it here to challenge those reading this to think about your own rules and how well those rules serve you. Sometimes we cling to rules because we’re scared not to; other times they just feel right to us; still other times we have mistakes to bear out the wisdom of our rules. The trick is in knowing when our rules are best for us and when they aren’t.
When I was 13, my mom broke all three of her rules to marry my stepfather, a good man who was just plain bad for her. The marriage was comprised of one year of crazy, head-over-heels love, followed by four years of wretched misery, topped off by a divorce and 15 years of seething anger and resentment. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?