Answer by Lauren Ramesbottom, Dating, Lifestyle and Culture Writer for Elite Daily in NYC:
As human beings, I think we have this unrelenting need and desire to break everything down. We want to simplify and master our processes or, at the very least, understand daily concepts and challenges enough to keep our heads above water. This allows us to learn and evolve, to identify patterns and improve habits, process and technology to better suit the progression and efficiency of our lives.
However, I've noticed the way in which this tendency translates into the way we explore our interpersonal relationships. We constantly find ourselves sorting through a relentless barrage of media and articles "__ Things You Should Never Do on a First Date", "__ Ways To Lock Down the Guy/Girl of Your Dreams" (the titles could go on forever). Everywhere we turn, someone is trying to simplify and conceptualize the process of dating, love, sex and connection.
The thing though, is there are too many variables at play.
While we can gather certain, sweeping learnings and observations from common themes or behavioural patterns, we are ultimately working with variables. Dating can't be directly pegged into an X + Y = Z formula, and the more we fall into the trap of believing that it's that simple, the more we set ourselves up for disappointment and unrealistic expectations.
Rules simply don't account for the variances that make up our individual, romantic cores and tendencies.
If you ask me, rules are for people more concerned with the idea of romance and dating, the politics of it all, than really connecting.
A couple months ago, I went on a first date with a man who wasn't necessarily my usual type on paper. Yet, it didn't take me long to recognize the immediate connection we shared; a certain dynamic existed between us which I knew to be uncommon within most dates I had been on in recent time.
Fast forward to last week, and I went on a date with someone else. He was, in most respects, more 'my type' on paper. Our date was no more or less impressive (at face value) than my date with the other man. He was kind, well spoken and well intentioned. He made me laugh, he didn't speak on taboo topics, he followed many of the "rules" people consider to be ever-important on a first date.
And yet, the natural chemistry and dynamic that translates into true romantic potential, was missing. There was no specific reason for this; he hadn't done anything wrong, he didn't break any rules. It just wasn't there. Because connection and chemistry can't be accurately predicted and it can't be faked, either. And that's okay, that's how it should be.
Ultimately, you could follow all the "rules" with someone and still strike out. Or you could break most of those "rules" and still experience a resounding connection. Aside from the obvious suggestion to be decent and polite, dating is not mathematical or confined to a simple science. We are ultimately at the mercy of the often unexpected proceedings of human nature and connection.
Instead of wasting mental energy attempting to study every possible rule being tossed around within the dating realm, take time to understand yourself. Make a habit of having frequent and honest internal dialogue in regards to where you're at in your life, what energy you're putting out into the world, what you want and need in a partner and what you can offer them in return.
When you get to a truly comfortable place with your own needs and intentions, and develop that strong sense of self, you don't need to worry about rules. Instead, you are able to navigate potential relationships with the personal understanding and genuine honesty required to really connect, in a mature way, with someone (or recognize when you simply don't connect).
When you forget about these rules and their often misguided influence on your romantic endeavours, you might actually stop politic-ing and start dating and connecting, for real.