Are There Dating Rules?
Q: Even though I lost this important man in my life many years ago, it bothers me to this day. In those days, women were supposed to "not get out in front," and it was the man's place to make all the moves. So I never called first, etc. Sometimes it would be 3 or 4 weeks before I would get a call, as my guy was a doctoral student and had a lot of pressures to keep up with. Then he would come through, and we would have a great time together. However, after a year of dating, a summer job took him to a less convenient location, and still I waited for him to make the moves. But he didn't. When our paths finally crossed again, and we went out, he acted very cold and distant, giving no explanations for his indifference. That was the beginning of the end.
A few months later, his wedding engagement was announced in the newspaper. I then found out it was someone he had taken up with during that summer job. I always felt that maybe he thought I had lost interest during that long summer apart, so he found a summer romance that led to a concrete outcome. It was the shock of my life. I felt I was doing all the recommended things but, instead, this "playing hard to get" went in reverse. Why was this approach such a strong rule for women, and if so, why didn't it work better for me? — Ellie, 60
Dr. Susan: Rules are funny things. You need to consider them an art, not a hard-and-fast science. Once you're close to someone, the calls and efforts can be more evenly divided without the woman seeming too forward. I believe this was true in the past as well as now. I get that you felt you were doing the right thing and that it didn't work for you. But, honestly, you can hardly blame yourself if your guy fell in love with someone else one summer. Better he did that when you were still dating than after you had married. Perhaps you weren't the perfect match for him that you believed you were. It's time to let his memory go and accept that it just didn't work out. Nobody's fault.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.