14/01/2014 10:19 GMT | Updated 16/03/2014 05:59 GMT

The Secrets Everyone Should Know About Dating (Part One)

So my friend has a date with a guy she 'met' on Tinder (about which I have some quite in depth statistical theories, but I digress...)

She's an attractive blonde, and she's had her fair share of return right-swipes. "So are you going to talk to anyone else?" I ask, and she replies that she'd feel bad doing it before the date she has with this guy.

I wouldn't think twice about it.

This in itself made me think. When did I become such a cynical monster? I've been being chewed up by the dating machine for nearly a year now, and boy, have my opinions changed.

Turns out that all's fair in love, war, and contemporary dating in a big city.

Firstly, it's a numbers game. You have to be hedging your bets everywhere to be in with a shot.

You have to meet someone, swap numbers, and then go through the dance of working out when you're both free in order to even have that first date. Then, if that doesn't go well, you have to put yourself out to graze again. This whole scenario could take at least a couple of weeks. If you think about situations in which you'll see someone two, three or even five times before writing them off (or being written off yourself) you're looking at over a month in which you're not cultivating any other potentially beautiful friendships.

So, assuming you haven't made any agreements - tacit or more formal - that you're only seeing/pursuing each other, it's fair to assume that both parties are still working on other leads.

This way, you ensure that you have something set up for when (if) the situation with your current paramour goes wrong.

The delicate balance here, is doing it in such a way that you're not leading someone on, or hurting any feelings. Women tend to do this particular dance with more grace. Men thunderously murder each step, taking out feelings with them.

There's an unofficial thing whereby if you go on a date and it sucks, you don't need to make any further contact.

In fact, the unspoken rule is that one to three dates requires no contact if no further dates are wanted, four to five, and a text message should be sent if the relationship (as it were) is to be terminated here, and six or more dates requires a telephone call.

I'm personally a believer in the "It was lovely but we didn't click," message school of thought when it comes to bad first dates. It's easy, it's kind, it makes intentions clear without relying on the disappearing act.

The caveat is that as a woman, I shouldn't be the first person to send a text after a date. The rules definitely dictate that it should be the guy. (While women have strived for equality in every area of life, for some reason, the arena of dating remains perplexingly archaic). If the guy's a douche who just doesn't text, I'll send the message, but the polite intention behind it is now lost under a heavy implied subtext: It is now an implicit acknowledgement and criticism of the man's failure to do the right thing and say he doesn't want to meet up again, and therefore seems churlish at best, and retroactively self-protective at best.

A lose-lose situation of almost overwhelming complexity.

People who aren't dating are often perplexed by the depth and intricacy of these rules, 'How the hell do you know this??" they cry. I have no idea - it just kind of seeps into you via an osmosis-like process, the knowledge piling up with every ill-fated oeuvre.

You learn by making mistakes, and when things go wrong.

I don't even want to know this stuff, and yet somehow I do.