5 Outdated First Date Rules To Ignore (Or At Least Question)

Connection starts with being true to yourself

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Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, they say. We are learning as we go and we are never prepared for what it might bring.

This is not entirely true. While it’s true that we don’t have a printed manual handed to us, we don’t all have the same experiences or the same temperament to deal with life’s events — there are unwritten rules and beliefs handed over from one generation to the other.

Our parents are trying to teach us about life — based on their own personal experience and based on what they learnt from their parents. Society is telling us how to behave to fit in, it sets the rules and it has its rewards and sanctions. It’s not always straightforward and it doesn’t always apply, but we do receive guidance — based on the averages and best practices.

The problems start when we are not average or we want something radically different from the existing norm. When we are pioneers who leave the already known path and seek new territories to conquer. You would think that being a rebel is out of the norm, but in reality, every new generation changes its behaviour compared to the previous generation.

Our world has changed over the past 30 years. And this change is more significant and more accelerated than it used to be. The rapid evolution of technology made us change our lifestyles. There is a whole generation of so-called rebels, who defy the previous norms and who rewrite the unwritten societal rules.

Dating is difficult. It‘s always been difficult ever since we gave place to romantic approaches that surround marriage and relationships. Arranged marriages were simple — they were decided based on practical aspects, and love was entirely optional. Deciding about the romantic fate of two similar-age kids weren’t unusual and as much as it sounds barbaric, it was sustainable and it worked. It wasn’t about happiness, it was about duty. To ensure the family wealth and status and keep up the bloodline.

In Western societies, the idea of getting married out of love — as a norm — is quite new. Looking back on the history of marriage, even 100 years ago, marriages were more out of economical and societal status reasons than of love. It has been only a recent development that women are treated (more or less) equally, with a right to decide about their own lives and happiness. It has been only a recent occurrence that you could change your mind and that divorce is accepted and not ostracised. Interracial couples, same-sex marriages, asexuality — they are all products of our modern society. In the grand scheme of human history, they are quite new.

If you ask your grandparents about first date rules they will tell you all the rules that applied back in their days and you will recognise these outdated beliefs still alive and kicking in a completely changed world.

Unwritten rules evolve with the evolution of society, but sometimes they are too slow to change. And while our lives differ from that of our grandparents, we will still hear the same dogmas that were valid decades ago, regardless of the new attitudes we now have.

Here are a few of these first date dogmas that need to be ignored or at least questioned.

#1 The Man Should Pay

This rule stems from the idea that men have the privilege and responsibility of earning money while women are expected to be caring, receiving parties who will make sure that the families are cared for.

It is also based on the concept of binary relationships, not giving space to anything that is out of the cis-hetero norm.

These days women have just as many opportunities to make a living and thus to be able to pay for their own expenses. It puts us in a different environment, where we don’t need to judge our date based on his ability to pay for our coffee or dinner. Yet the dogma still stands.

Talking about heterosexual norms, it is still expected of a gentleman to pay. Some women will still judge her date if he is splitting the bill and some men still believe it is emasculating to let the woman take care of her own expenses.

A first date is not a commitment. It is not a financial vetting of the other. The question of who pays and the dance over the bill is a remnant of old patriarchal values and it is a red flag if the parties can’t have a mature conversation about it.

#2 Be On Your Best Behaviour

A first date is not a job interview, it is a not scene where you need to introduce yourself as a completely different person.

You don’t need to dress up and make them believe that you are a businessman when deep down you are a skater and your favourite outfit is T-shirts and shorts. Your clothing speaks volumes of you and you should feel comfortable about who you are and what you show. That said, making an effort is always appreciated — but it doesn’t need to be overdone and deceitful. Just put on some decent clothes within your style, and you’ll be okay.

They say you shouldn’t swear and you should tone yourself down, not to scare your date off right away. But if you are an extrovert who talks loudly, if your passion shows by using strong words, including swearing, by all means, be yourself.

They used to say that you shouldn’t drink alcohol on a first date, because it clouds your judgment and it is not attractive. Being wasted is not attractive, that’s true. But sharing a drink can ease the tension and if it’s done in moderation, it won’t do any harm.

#3 Don’t Talk About Ideology

We used to date within our closed communities, where we usually shared the same ideologies and beliefs. It was easy not to talk about it because within our circle of friends it was almost sure that if we were liberals, we wouldn’t end up with someone extremely conservative.

Now the world got a lot bigger and our ideologies — religion, politics, ethics — can be vastly different. It is in our best interest to know who we are sitting across.

Different religions, political stances, moral approaches can be dealbreakers we aren’t willing to make a compromise about. It is only reasonable to figure out if our date stands on the same side in questions that matter to us.

No matter how open we are, we still look for connections with people who share our beliefs or at least not completely against it.

#4 Never Bring Up Exes

Marriages and relationships used to form earlier and they lasted decades. The Christian approach demanded, at least from women, to save themselves for their future partner. This meant that having previous experiences was either something to be ashamed of or something to hide.

These days, unless it’s your first date with your high-school sweetheart, we all have exes and previous relationships. We already have something in common, the lessons that we learnt, the conclusions that we drew.

Talking about your exes excessively on a first date is still not a great idea, as it might give the impression that you are living in the past instead of looking forward to what your future might bring. But mentioning what you learnt and what your expectations are based on your past relationships is not a bad move.

It is possible to have a mature conversation where exes are mentioned, previously failed dates are brought up. You can learn from each other or you can have a laugh about it.

#5 Don’t Sleep With Them Right Away

This one comes from the same concept as above with an additional element of playing the other. Manipulation is one of the worst killers of connection. You can con someone into a relationship, you can manipulate them into having sex with you — but what’s the point?

These days, you can have sex with someone without commitment. You can enjoy someone else’s company and body — even for a short while without having to be ashamed of it.

If the two of you are clear on the expectations you have towards each other if sex is not a manipulation tactic, then why not sleep with them if that’s what you want?

If someone wants to see you again, they will stick around even if you slept on your first date. If it was just about sex and you both knew it, then it’s a clear picture.

Chemistry is a crucial part of our sexuality, and it is downright terrible to find out too late that your date has everything but similar sexual energy or sex drive.

Make sure that you don’t get hurt and you know what you signed up for, but otherwise, do what you want — without manipulation.

Form your own instruction manual to life. Adapt it to your current needs and do what feels right for you. It means to be yourself as much as you can. Because you can only conceal for so long who you really are, and if you want to build connection, you would want them to be attracted to your real self — not some retouched, altered version of you that you won’t be able to keep up anyway. Be yourself in this world and look for those who will take you as you are.

Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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