Modern Dating – 15 New Rules for the New Environment

Dating 101
11 Sep 2023
13 min read
15 Dating Rules In the Modern Era

Years ago, there were dating rules. But they were made by parents (when kids were in high school), college campuses and dormitories, and society as a whole (as kids moved into young adulthood). There were curfews, “acceptable” venues (movies, restaurants, dances, chaperoned parties, etc.), and unwritten “rules” about appropriate PDAs. And, of course, sex before marriage was a big no-no.

While these externally imposed rules still exist, not many people truly adhere to them in today’s world. Even the meaning of dating rules has changed. These days, they refer to setting healthy boundaries and making things clear as early as possible rather than sticking to the conventional schedule of making the first moves, kissing, and having sex.

And to master this brand-new art, we provide you with 15 dating rules relevant to modern dating.

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Introduction to Modern Dating: You’re On Your Own Now

A couple of generations have made a dramatic difference to modern dating: these days, it is fully liberated from those old dating rules imposed by others. Once people reach young adulthood, college campuses offer them coed dorms and no curfews. Students are on their own, as well as those who don’t go to college go to work and get apartments.

Nobody gives us rules. We’re the only ones to determine and stick to them if they are good for us.

While modern dating is not stifled by all the rules of “others,” it does not mean those who date do not set dating rules for themselves. They do. We meet a dating rule when:

  • those in a committed relationship agree not to date others,
  • people in healthy relationships decide that they will never go to bed angry with each other,
  • a person interested in short-term fun sets limits to the time spent together

That’s why today we refer to dating rules as unwritten recommendations based on common sense as people enter the dating world. They are relevant for young men and women who re-enter the dating scene after a breakup, divorce, or death. There are no strict impositions, though – only recommendations that make dating more enjoyable and satisfying.

15 Dating Rules in the Modern Age of Love

So, welcome to modern dating, the world where you create your own dating rules! To help you navigate, take a look at these 15 recommendations you may want to add to your repertoire (if they are not already there).

1. Date Multiple People at First

As the saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” And this holds true for anyone entering the dating game anew, for whatever reason.

And here’s why. You may have the best of intentions to be genuine and authentic, but not everyone does. You may be looking for “the one” while your date is only out for fun, maybe at your expense. Play the field a bit, so you don’t get terribly hooked on that one person only to be dumped and hurt.

One of the best ways to do this might be to engage in online dating. You can have conversations with many potential dating partners before you ever meet them in person and weed out those who do not meet your most basic expectations. In fact, online dating is widely popular just for this reason.

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2. Don’t Be “Fashionably” Late

There are “elitists” who believe that being a bit late for a meetup reflects on their casual attitude and sometimes their desire to make a “grand entrance.”

Then others just can’t seem to get anywhere on time. If you will be late for a good reason, shoot off a text with your anticipated arrival time. It’s just part of good manners; those haven’t gone out of style.

Related reading: How to Play Hard to Get

3. Keep Those First Dates Short

“I like to tell my clients not to let dates go on for more than 90 minutes. Why? That’s enough time to get to know the person on a surface level and (hopefully) feel a spark, but not long enough that your brain starts getting carried away with the excitement of the potential. Dinner dates that spontaneously turn into a five-hour bar crawl or movie night can be incredibly fun, but they can also leave you in a state of confusion and despair if nothing develops from the marathon outing afterward.”

Chloe Carmichael, clinical psychologist and dating coach

The idea here is to have a good date during which you have fun, talk about pretty superficial stuff, and leave each other interested in knowing more. That first meeting is a time to whet the appetite, not launch into long convos about your ex, past relationships, life goals, and values. These topics of deeper-level talk will be dribbled out on future dates.

Related reading: The Cutest Ideas for First Date Outfits for this Season

4. Explore Common Interests

These are perfect topics for conversations during the first and second dates. You can discover what both of you like to do in your spare time, what movies and TV series are your favs, what you do for a living – all the things that expose your “outer self.”

If you find common interests, great. If not, you can explore the possibility of introducing your potential partner to one of your activities on your next date. Or offer to explore one of theirs.

Eye contact is extremely important from the first date

5. Always Make Eye Contact

Whether you are doing the talking or listening to what your date is saying, it is always wrong to avert your eyes somewhere else. It shows a couple of things. You are either not listening to what they are saying, or what you are saying is either not genuine or downright dishonest.

Being fully present during face-to-face conversations is important if you want your date to feel special and worthy of attention.

Related reading: The Art of Body Language: How to Guess What Your Dater Is Thinking

6. Be Minimal About Your Expectations

“Outline the purpose behind wanting to date. Is it short-term? Casual? For marriage? Then proceed to check whether your date is on the same page as you are. Being on different trajectories can get very messy, very quickly. So, make sure there is a congruence in vision and intention.”

Kavita Panyam, a counseling psychologist

When you date someone new, you may know what your goals are – hookups, casual dating, long-term romantic relationships, or marriage. On the other hand, you may want to keep your intentions “close to your vest” in the beginning until you get a feel for where your date is on this trajectory.

Playing all your cards at once can be a big turnoff if your date wants to take it slowly. Just use common sense here.

7. Build Communication Steadily and Wisely

It kinda comes down to communication at these points. So, let’s take a look at the types of phone or text messages that are right.

How to communicate after the first date:

  • Brush up on your communication skills, especially the ability to say things in a clear and brief way
  • Do not call or text the night of that first date – wait until the next day, preferably in the afternoon
  • Send a short text stating that you had a great time last night and you’d like to get together again soon

It’s not always up to the guy to do this. Remember, women are “liberated” and have every right to take the initiative when they start dating.

How to communicate after the second date:

  • If you had a great time again and ended the date with some true physical affection (at least a long kiss and a hug), you don’t have to wait til the next day. Send a goodnight text if you feel comfortable
  • Waiting til the next day isn’t so bad either. But if you want to move forward, this one can be a bit more intimate. “Had a great time last night and woke up this morning thinking about you.”
  • Like women, men love being complimented and made to feel attractive. Keep that in mind when you text them – either initially or in response to theirs

Related reading: 21 Romantic Gestures for Him That He’ll Love

How to communicate if it was a bad date:

  • Don’t send a text at all
  • If you get one from that dating “partner,” don’t be rude by not responding at all.
  • Simply text back, thank them for the date, but state that you would like to move forward as just friends.

8. When to Introduce Your Friends Into the Mix

I’m not trying to sound sexist, but it does seem that women are apt to do this faster than men.

In any case, both of you must feel comfortable introducing or being introduced to friends. Have a discussion about this on the third date. It can be as simple as suggesting that the next date include a “double date” with a best friend and their partner or some kind of group event that might be coming up. There is no hard and fast rule about this.

Dating rules relevant for today's world

9. A Third Date Is a Milestone

A lot has been written about the third date and certain rules for that encounter. If you want your affair to turn into a romantic relationship, pay attention to the depth of your bond and sex at this stage.

Going Deeper

A third date is a good time to delve deeper into the more personal and intimate aspects of each other’s lives. Certainly, you can do something casual and fun on this date, but time should be reserved for some one-on-one time afterward.

It’s time to talk about goals, beliefs, values, and past relationships.

Be mindful of this: No one wants to hear sob stories about how you were wronged and hurt by an ex. Stick to the rule to keep the details as simple as possible. It’s okay to state that you were dumped and it was painful, but don’t forget to add that you are over it.

You might be asked if you still communicate with any exes. Be honest. After all, both women and men end relationships well and remain friends.

Related reading: Ex Still Renting Space in Your Head? 11 Tools to Break Free

What About Sex?

Ah, here is the big question. It’s very common for sex to happen on the third date – sort of sealing the deal if things go well and you both feel intimately connected. On the other hand, it’s worth paying attention to the signals your date may be giving as well as deciding what is in your best interest.

As long as you are both talking about personal stuff, there is nothing wrong with talking about whether and when you are ready for sex. And the most important thing? Respect a partner who is not yet ready. If you are the one not ready? Say so. If your new love is really interested in something long-term, they will be willing to wait.

You know they are not emotionally invested in you if that is a dealbreaker for them.

10. Give Your New Dating Partner Space

Everyone has a life outside of a dating relationship: jobs, outside interests, friends, etc. If you’ve fallen hard in a new dating situation, it’s normal to want to connect with that person as often as possible.

Step back, please. If you constantly call or text and want to know what they are up to, you can cross the borderline into harassment. Don’t be a “stalker;” respect their relationship boundaries.

As hard as this may be, respect their space and give them plenty of it. Responding to a text or returning a call you missed is fine. But if you have been the one doing the texting and calling and not getting a quick response, let it be.

Stick to this rule: if they have not responded for two weeks, send a quick text saying, “How are you doing?” and nothing more. If you want to vent about your feelings, call your best friend instead.

Related reading: Boundaries in Relationships – Keeping Them Healthy

Watch how much you drink if want to have a good conversation

11. Watch the Alcohol Intake

Dating life often includes drinking cocktails – before dinner, pub crawling, warming up at concerts and parties, etc. Nothing can be worse for an early-stage relationship than for one or the other to get sloppy drunk and have to be poured into an Uber.

Or worse, taken home by a date and poured into their home. Can we say all respect is gone and that the early stage has become the end stage?

Make it a hard and fast rule that you will have a minimum of two cocktails before a solid dinner and drink water in between each drink if you go bar hopping.

Related reading: Should You Kiss on the First Date?

12. Ditch the Phone Interruptions

There’s nothing that says “you are not that important to me” than keeping your phone on and looking at each call or message you get. It’s just rude.

Both women and men can be guilty of this. Turn the phone off. You can check those calls and messages later.

13. Offer to Split the Bill – But Let Them Pay for All If They Want to

Equality between the sexes is real. And the old-school thinking that the guy must foot the bill is gone.

Even on the first and the second dates, women can offer to pay half of the bill. And if women set up future dates of their planning, it’s better to be prepared to foot the bill (although the guy will probably offer to pay half).

While this rule is not hard and fast, each person in a dating duo feels free to divide up payments as they decide. A conversation on this before or at the beginning of the date is a good idea. There is no reason for either person to be caught off guard when waiting for that bill to come. Just decide who will pay what in advance.

One of rules for dating: Don't engage in ghosting

14. Do Not Ghost or Breadcrumb

So, here’s one of the rules for dating that you must never forget. Suppose your first date was not up to your expectations. You receive a thank you text from that person. How do you follow through now? This is an ethical matter.

Sure, you can just fail ever to respond and

  • risk hurting their feelings or wondering what went wrong (ghosting)
  • decide that you would like to keep this person on the string in case nothing better comes along (breadcrumbing)

Check your own set of rules for how people should treat you. Obviously, you are free to do either of these things, but that doesn’t make them right.

Be honest. Respond to the person with, “I’m glad you had a good time, but have decided that we are probably not compatible. I wish you the best.” And then move on with your dating life. It’s not hard, especially if you do it via text.

Related reading: Double Texting in New Relationships – When It’s Not Cool

15. To Thine Own Self Be True

These words from Shakespeare are universal, and it’s great advice for every person who enters a modern dating situation.

You have no idea what you may encounter as you put yourself out there, and you cannot be responsible for another person’s rules. But if you have spent the right amount of time making your own rules for dating and know what you want in a relationship, then your first few dates with any person should give you a good idea of whether there is a possible future.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

Don’t compromise your rules and your values for the sake of pleasing someone you are dating.

The real you will emerge eventually, and the dating relationship will go south. Life is short, and you don’t want to be dating someone there really is no permanent future. Just be realistic, no matter how “needy” you may feel right now.

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Good Luck with Modern Dating!

Yeah, it’s not your parents’ or grandparents’ dating environment. In the first place, both men and women can initiate dates, pay for them, pursue sexual encounters far earlier, and be free to set their own dating rules no matter what traditional societal mores may say. It’s essentially a wide-open field.

So, set your dating rules for yourself and alter them if and when you wish. But do not compromise who you are and what you really want for a dating partner. Let you find what you want today!

Dating Tips Author
Shelly Standford
After a devastating relationship breakup, I threw myself into the dating scene by registering on Hily. I had over 100 dates - some absolute disasters, some pretty average, and some that were actually great. So many stories to tell and insights to share with you guys!
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