When it comes to the Wild West of dating, the world is full of prescriptions and bottom lines – ideas that are designed to bring some sense to the process — that can, in fact, make you crazy. A new book, It’s Okay to Sleep with Him on the First Date: And Every Other Rule of Dating Debunked, encourages women to ditch the rules of dating and embrace whatever feels right.
I recently spoke to Canadian co-author Andrea Syrtash, a dating expert in her own right and host of the OWN’s Life Story Project.
Q: Why do women need this book?
A: My co-author and I have both covered relationships and dating for 10 years and we feel that there’s a lot of advice that’s fear-based and negative. The problem I have with “the rules” is that they’re black and white, and love is a lot more nuanced. My favourite stories are the ones where couples have broken all of the rules.
Q: What are some of the biggest myths about dating that you debunk with this book?
A: The obvious one is that it’s OK to sleep with someone on the first date. A recent survey of 1,000 18- to 35-year-old women found that over 83 percent felt that men will lose interest and respect if you hook up with them too soon. But 70 percent of men said that’s not true – if they’re interested, it doesn’t matter. Getting naked won’t affect if he calls the next day.
We want to slap people into reality so they can start thinking for themselves. Rules are great for children, but if adult women take them too literally, they can cut themselves off from opportunities. If you assume that a guy is too old or too young, that you shouldn’t date someone you work with or who you were friends with first, you’re not listening to your instincts, and you’re just doing what someone else has told you to do.
You need to take risks in love, and rules are designed to keep you safe. But love is messy and vulnerable and unscripted. You can navigate things and be safe about it, but you still need to take risks – unless that guy you work with is your married boss.
Q: Maybe I have a particularly open-minded group of friends, but I was shocked to learn that there are still women out there who don’t think it’s OK to have sex on the first date.
A: We were shocked, too! It’s very sexist, and the problem is that a lot of women don’t even question it. There’s a cause and effect problem. One relationship expert I recently saw on television said that if you hook up with someone in the first 30 days, the relationship is 90 percent likely to fail. But it’s not the sex that’s causing it to fail; most relationships are going to fail. And it’s offensive to continue hearing “why buy the milk if you get the cow for free?”
Patti Stanger, The Millionaire Matchmaker, makes people repeat “no sex until monogamy” and “if he doesn’t propose in a year, then dump him.” If people are blindly following those things, they won’t be happy in love.
Q: It seems like a lot of the “rules” you overturn with this book are based on outdated ideas of male and female roles.
A: They’re outdated, but they’re still pervasive. These were great rules when people got married right out of high school 100 years ago. These are not the rules for people with independent lives who want to meet an equal. Dating rules are based on the idea that you’re missing something and you need to be fixed, so these rules give you a magic formula instead of encouraging you to trust yourself.
There are still social cues. We don’t recommend calling him 15 times in a row and wearing your pajamas on a date – there are still basic things that guide any social interaction. But you shouldn’t over think it. I always tell people to ask themselves if it’s a “should” or a “want.” Are you not sleeping with him because you shouldn’t or because you don’t want to?
Q: Your co-author, Jeff Wilser, is a man. Were you two always on the same page? Did you get any window into the male brain?
A: Jeff writes for Glamour and Cosmo, often as the “He Said.” There was one thing I called him out on when working on the age chapter. He wrote “I would date a 50-year-old woman if she was hot!” And I was like, “No, you wouldn’t.” We also disagreed on the sexual chemistry part: he says no sparks in first couple seconds of a kiss, it’s not going to work; I think you need to give these things a little more time. But, otherwise, we’re very much on the same page with the logic of dating.
Q: If you could leave daters with one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Our tagline is “Don’t trust the rules. Trust yourself,” and that’s really what we want to convey. We want our readers to challenge themselves rather than being spoon-fed a recipe. Think about what works for you, what patterns you’ve engaged in and what feels right. Also, a more generic tip, I often tell singles who are sick of dating to be their vacation-self on a date. We take a few more risks, are willing to have more fun, aren’t over-analyzing and are open to meeting people who don’t seem like the perfect match.
Q: Have you applied this advice to your own romantic life? How?
A: I’ve broken a lot of rules in my own dating life. I married a man who is not what I thought I wanted, and we’ve been together for seven years. You have to date someone you would date if no one else is looking. You don’t marry a piece of paper.
Tell us in the comment section below, what’s one dating rule you always break?