When you’re starting to date someone, there’s a bit of a dance going on as you figure out each other’s likes, dislikes, assumptions and specific rules. Not everyone follows the same rules, and not everyone understands that the person they’re dating may find something offensive or hurtful. In this article, we’ll discuss the dating rules for modern relationships, whether they’re assumed from the beginning or are discussed and formed by the couple. When dating is confusing, this list will help you clear the air.



Though many rules of dating are assumed and can be found in most relationships, it’s hard to navigate the waters when you’re not sure of yourself. We’ve made a list of several common assumed dating rules that you’re likely to encounter; by knowing them, you’ll know what’s expected.

1. You actually are physically attracted to each other. This dating rule is important! Lying to yourself about this is a bad idea. If lack of physical attraction is a deal-breaker for either of you, you need to face up to it. You don’t need to be mean about it, just be honest and tell your partner that if you both decide to pursue a relationship, it has to be based on something more from the beginning

2. You will use birth control unless you have already discussed it openly, and even then, some precautions should be taken. This dating rule is vital because no matter how wonderful the other person is early on in the relationship, if you get pregnant together and it doesn’t work out, it’s much more than just some temporary emotional pain. You’ll have to work together to make things right for the child that’s born, and the emotional pain the child will suffer because of these issues.

3. You will have safe sex — and we’ve got plenty of tips about safe sex here. Until you both know you can trust each other, this dating rule keeps you safe. Whether this is a recent test, protected sex or waiting until the relationship is further along, you should always take precautions to protect yourself. If your partner is pushing you on this matter, it’s a good sign that you need to back out of the relationship. Partners who don’t respect your boundaries now won’t respect them later.

4. This can sometimes be an uncomfortable dating rule, but when you’re starting out, you don’t need to tell him if you are seeing other guys. While you’re dating, you’re in the “try before you buy” stage. If the relationship continues and becomes more serious, you do need to tell your partner. If your partner expects you to be exclusive and you’re not ready yet, you should both sit down and have a serious heart-to-heart talk about it. If he’s demanding you settle down, you may want to walk away. Pretending to be okay with it will leave you miserable later on.

5. On the other hand, just because you’re dating, it doesn’t mean it’s exclusive until you discuss it with him. Don’t think that your partner will assume that the relationship is exclusive if you haven’t talked about it yet. If it’s important to you that your budding relationship be exclusive, talk about it. If he’s not willing to be exclusive, then back out of the relationship . If he won’t respect your wishes now, he won’t do it later in the relationship.

6. Another good dating rule is that your conversations are a good way to gauge how serious you each are in the relationship. If you’re having regular discussions about kids, marriage and future plans, then you should assume that he is somewhat serious and there might be marriage potential. At the same time, if you find that either of you are changing the topic of conversation, you should take it that there is some discomfort in getting too serious just yet. Stop and talk about what your expectations are in the relationship to help keep it real.

7. Don’t rush into things. It’s natural to take things slowly and be a little aloof at first as you get to know each other. You’re not going to have kids with or marry the first guy you date, so this dating rule helps you enjoy the courtship! Along the same lines, don’t settle. If there’s something that’s keeping you from getting the best out of the relationship, don’t accept it as being better than being single — you might be a serial monogamist! — or that you’ll end up lonely in later years.

Divorce leaves just as many people lonely because they settled, became miserable and had to get back out as those who stuck to their guns and waited for someone really phenomenal to walk into their life.

8. Don’t put all the details online! Discretion is a good thing. Though we’re a bit farther along these days than the antiquated, “a lady reveals nothing,” your partner may wonder what else you’ll share if you’re willing to put every last intimate detail on Facebook, making this dating rule a good one to remember. At the same time, if you’ve done something in the past, don’t try to hide it. If you screwed up in the past and have been able to fix the situation, you need to own up to it. If you’ve had problems in the past that could still create issues with the relationship, you should definitely own up to it!


Not all dating rules can be assumed, especially with the vast differences between cultures or even just different parts of the country. Misunderstandings can come about easily but are also easily avoided by taking some time to sit down and talk through your differences. These dating rules may require some discussion to figure out where you both stand, while others may require some compromise if you want the relationship to work. If you’re willing to compromise, you may be in love!

9. Practically the most important dating rule that requires discussion is what you are comfortable with and not comfortable with. This includes meeting family or friends, exchanging addresses or keys, loaning out credit cards and any other details. In addition to the more mundane issues, when it comes time, you should have an open talk about what is okay and what isn’t okay sexually.

If you’re into a little experimentation, talk about what your hard stops are – things that you won’t do under any circumstances. You should also have some “safe” words – words that stop what’s happening in its tracks – when exploring new territory before going all out into 50 Shades of Grey.

10. It’s important to talk about whether you are in an exclusive relationship or not and nail down the details. Before you start browsing wedding magazines, looking at houses and picking out baby names, you need to figure out whether he’s that into you or not. A simple talk about where you’re at right now and where you see your relationship going is important. If one of you has some hangups, talk about them. It’s much easier to have some patience in a relationship when you realize he isn’t willing to be exclusive because his parents went through nine divorces between the two of them.

11. Honesty is always the best policy. That isn’t to say you can’t mention things in a polite fashion that helps curb the blunt edges of what you’re about to say, but you should always own up to things that can cause problems in the relationship. You may even find he respects your honesty and it brings you closer. Honesty should also be something you expect in a relationship.

If you’re talking about moving in together, you may need to mention the $87,000 in student loans and credit card debt that leaves you with $1,200 a month to survive on. Does his sense of style really drive you to distraction? See if he’s willing to go on a shopping venture together or if that’s a deal-breaker for either of you.

12. You should both have an equal say in the relationship and to a certain extent, how it progresses. Giving one or the other person the majority of the control creates a one-sided relationship, which is a bad idea! When one person is the complete focus of the relationship, it creates a disconnect where that individual can become more dominant, whether it’s in terms of making the big decisions, what the other person is or is not “allowed” to do and similar issues, including developing into domestic abuse in particularly nasty cases. If either of you feels that they have to give up everything that makes them unique or an individual to maintain the relationship, it’s not worth it.

Setting up dating rules, whether assumed, discussed or negotiated, helps you both know what’s going on in the relationship and where it’s going. In addition to making your courtship a much more pleasant experience, these rules help you have a way to jump ship safely if things aren’t working out. Check out other tips to know when to break up. This post helps you break up painlessly, too.

Though none of them are hard and fast, they’ll help you cross the sea of dating to your own version of happily ever after.

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