Why Dating “Rules” And “Dealbreakers” Keep You Single And Miserable

When we’re young, love is fun and exciting. I remember the first time I ever held hands with a girl. It was in seventh grade, in a dark movie theater. It was electrifying. I had a bit of a crush on Laura, and I talked about it for days after. Of course my buddies gave me a hard time for not kissing her as well. They jokingly called me pollo del cine, “chicken of the movie theater.” Well at least they found some use for the Spanish we were learning.

I also remember my first kiss, first time cuddling, first time making out, and so forth. Back then love was magical, and despite the ups-and-downs, I enjoyed it. It was a love that wasn’t really defined by rules, checklists, and dealbreakers. I didn’t have to be in complete control so much. Why do people seem to hate dating so much? Why do they seem to get into relationships where they are miserable?

couple kissing in front of sunsetI think part of the reason why so many people hate dating these days, and get into so many subpar, settling relationships, lies with all the ridiculous rules, standards, and dealbreakers people profess to have these days.

And, it is particularly bad precisely because most dating advice from experts and family members encourages the adoption of increasingly strict rules and dealbreakers.

Can you imagine if I treated my junior high and high school relationships this way?? It might look like this.

“Well I would hold Laura’s hand, but she isn’t on the college track, and she might be moving to a different school in June, so I’ll pass.”

“I can’t date Brooke because even though we like each other I think she is center-left politically and I only date center-right people.”

“Even though I like Chrissy, I shouldn’t, because I only date girls who are between 5’0″ and 5’3. And we are in the same class and if we break up it could be awkward.”

You may laugh at my examples, but this is exactly what many modern daters do. They come up with these crazy rules and standards that they think will bring them the perfect partner, but just bring them misery.

Here’s why.

For one, research shows that what people think they want in a partner is different from what they actually want. A lot of people just don’t know what kind of partner they actually want. So, you’re following all these rules and standards that may not even reflect what you actually want! It’s like someone meticulously following a map to nowhere.

Also, many of these rules lead to conventional relationships that look great on paper and look perfect to friends and relatives, but that are horribly boring. This is why many people, women in particular, end up partnering up with people who do nothing for them. They choose a guy based on all the rules and standards they set (“he must have graduated from college, have a good job, be over 6 foot, etc”) but they actually find themselves fantasizing about a guy who meets none of the standards!

I say “women in particular” because let’s be honest, most guys have the standard of “she must be pretty and not completely crazy.” And for many guys, their only rule is the woman must have a pulse! So, it’s pretty easy for most  guys to follow the rules they impose on themselves. However, some guys truly do have ridiculous rules in their head.

Let’s take some common dating rules that people impose. One is you can’t date someone much younger. I hear this from women all the time. A 30-something woman connects with a 20-something guy and she starts flipping out and even feeling guilty. She likes him. The sex is great. But, her “rule” is that he is out of her age range. So, not only does she stress about it, but she may actually stop dating the guy to date someone else who meets her arbitrary “rule,” but whom she actually likes less than the younger guy!

Another “rule” I hear is that a guy must have a college degree or must make a certain amount of money. This “rule” is problematic for multiple reasons. For one, more women than men have college degrees. So, this creates a shortage of college-educated men. Second, I have seen women connect with a smart, handsome, and funny guy without a degree, but pass him up for a boring, dumb, uglier guy with a degree, simply because of that degree.

Another problem with these “rules” and “standards” is that they actually get in the way of a real love connection. For example, women swipe right only 4.5% of the time on Tinder. Imagine if this rate was true outside of Tinder: most women would be single and lonely.

checklist with pink highlighterImagine how many crushes and deep connections haven’t happened because of self-imposed rules. The boss you crushed on forever that you still think about? He’s too old and too short based on your standards. That weirdly cute nerdy guy you loved from your college class? His politics are different from yours and that’s a “dealbreaker.” The girl you still think about from your summer internship a few years ago? She doesn’t have the same hobbies as you and you can “only date women who share your interests.”

Your rules may be helpful, or they may not be. If you are lamenting that despite having a lot of matches and dates, you just aren’t finding the right person, then your “rules” and “standards” probably need reevaluated and maybe even thrown out. If you also can’t meet anybody and are lonely, then that could be another sign your rules are pointless.

So, go out there and be a rebel. Break some of your own rules. You may find the result is love, and freedom from your self-imposed tyranny.

About the Author

David Bennett

David Bennett

David Bennett is a relationship expert, and has been a dating and relationship coach for over 8 years. He is listed in the top ten personal coaches for 2019, and is the author of seven self-help books. He has been featured in over 400 publications and other media appearances, including The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Men's Health, Bustle, Prevention, and Woman's Day.

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