After years of dating, some women develop a smart list of guidelines they follow in order to keep themselves from getting burned in a new relationship. Some of us actually have a mental list of “rules” that we were taught when we were teenagers and can’t seem to shake from our brains — no matter how outdated or irrelevant they may have become.
There are times when we deny ourselves basic pleasures because we refuse to stray from our tenets. If the relationship doesn’t work out, we emerge from the experience feeling wiser than our years because we didn’t compromise or “give in” to our desires or impulsive actions.
But, as lots of people in long-term relationships or marriages will tell you: The rules don’t apply when you fall in love. Suddenly, you find yourself doing and saying things that the old you would have considered positively crazy. Those relationship rules you wrote in order to protect yourself from a broken heart all seem to go out the window the minute you meet your better half. For example…
1. “Take things very slowly at the beginning of a relationship.”
How many times have you been told not to rush a relationship? You’ll scare him away. He’ll think you’re like this with every guy. There are times when you just know someone is a keeper and, if you’re both open to being honest and exploring the strong emotions you’re both having, allowing things to progress at a faster pace than you’re used to can be wonderful. “After a particularly bad breakup I decided that my number one rule was to not get attached,” says “Scarlet.” “Go slow, no strings, no emotional investment, no expectations. Twenty-four years ago I met a guy and it was like being hit by lightning. Two hours after we met we were in bed. By morning I was in love. We’ve been married 22 years and we’ve been insanely happy every single day of it.”
2. “Don’t have sex on the first date.”
While this may be excellent advice to give a very young woman, many women who are in their late 20s, 30s and beyond told me they feel this is a “rule” worth breaking, as long as you’re on the same page with your partner with regard to what you both want from the relationship. Bottom line: Lots of women think it isn’t a big deal to have sex on the first date if you feel an extreme sexual attraction that you want to explore. While you shouldn’t automatically assume that means you’ll be married with kids in five years, that’s exactly what has happened to some women who slept with someone at the very beginning of their relationship.
3. “Don’t say ‘I love you’ before he does.”
Nonsense. If you feel like you’re in love, you’ve been together for enough time to know that it isn’t lust, and sense this could be a long-term relationship, women say there’s no reason to wait until he declares his love for you. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll find out he doesn’t feel the same way — heartbreaking, for sure, but aren’t you better off knowing where you stand?
4. “Don’t share bank accounts.”
One woman with whom I spoke says she and her now husband opened up a joint checking account within the first three months that they were together because it made grocery shopping a lot easier. The experience of sharing financial responsibilities so early on in their relationship allowed them to learn a great deal about the other’s spending and saving habits, which also helped them make an easier transition to a married couple with a mortgage.
5. “Don’t move in together before one year or, better yet, an engagement ring.”
Ugh, that old saying: “Why would he buy the cow if he gets the milk for free?” comes to mind here — and lots of women have decided they’d rather follow their hearts and enjoy an adult living situation with the person they love than be considered a cow worth milking. Of all the love rules women say they happily broke, this one topped the list.
6. “Keep your sexual feelings about other people to yourself.”
One woman says she wouldn’t have dreamed of talking to exes about other men or women that they find attractive because it would have immediately caused them to have a wicked fight. But when she met her husband, she says they bonded in a way that transcended “trivial” sexual feelings for other people. As a result, she says she feels she’s in the first relationship where she can speak honestly to her spouse about normal feelings (and she also feels it prevents them from acting on their desires).
7. “Don’t go to bed angry.”
I learned the hard way, through many years of trial and error with my husband, that the rule about never going to bed angry doesn’t always apply — and it’s sometimes straight-up unrealistic. No matter what our argument was about, or how serious, I would follow my husband around the house if it got past 11 p.m. and we were still fighting, insisting that we make amends, even if both of us were still furious. The result was, more often than not, a futile attempt to gloss over issues we were having in order to make ourselves feel temporarily better. Every relationship is different, but I slowly learned that we sometimes need a night to sleep on feelings so that we can have a smarter, more heartfelt, and honest conversation the next day. We never go to bed without saying “goodnight” (sometimes through gritted teeth), but I no longer believe every fight has to be resolved by midnight in order to have a strong relationship.