Yesterday I got to thinking about “nice guys” and “the friendzone” and “The Rules”. I hear too often that men think they are “too nice” and this is why women don’t like them. In dating advice columns and books marketed to women-who-date-men, women are warned not to be “too available” from puberty onward. I was taught that being a “doormat” wouldn’t attract a man and that having my own life and being too busy to be taken for granted would help. Obviously, as an out lesbian these days I don’t feel much need to attract or catch a man. However, maybe I can pass on my years of accumulated wisdom to you.
Angie’s Gender and Orientation Neutral Rules for Dating and Friendship
- Have platonic friendships. Have some friends that you aren’t trying to date. Hang out together (online or in-person). Talk about your lives together. This will make you more emotionally balanced when you seek a relationship. This will also make you happier, when you are in a relationship and when you are not. This will also make you less dependent on a romantic partner to meet your emotional needs, because you’re seeing to them yourself.
- Have hobbies. Play video games or build model figurines or bake your own bread from scratch. Write fan fiction or practice makeup tutorials or have a fantasy football team. Find things that you enjoy doing on your own and pursue them. This will make you happier, give you things to talk about on potential dates, and provide you with opportunities to meet people who share the same interests (for friendship or dating).
- Do something you love every month. Remember that you are a unique and special human being. Treat yourself to a fun activity or treat each month. Go to the movies, have a sushi lunch, or get a pedicure. Treat yourself the way you hope to treat a partner, or the way you hope a partner will treat you. Learn to expect good treatment for yourself.
- Spend quality time with yourself every month. Don’t be afraid to be by yourself sometimes. Go jogging before anyone else is up. Stay up late writing in your diary. Sing along to music you enjoy while coloring. Give yourself an at-home spa treatment. Get to know yourself and like yourself in the way you want someone else to know and like you. Get comfortable in your own skin and body.
- Treat your body well. Break bad habits as you gain the support and confidence to do so. Quit smoking. Don’t drink to excess. Move your body every day, and learn to appreciate all that your body can do. Accept the size and shape of your body as loveable, and get to work on learning to love yourself.
- Be a good person. Be the kind of person you would want to be friends or partners with. Treat others with fairness and kindness. Think about the kind of person you want to be, and write down steps you can take to get there.
- Don’t confuse being a good person with being a doormat. Good people are allowed to have full lives, and so are you. If someone you like calls at 3 am to get a ride home from the bar for themselves and the person they’re dating, you can call them a cab instead of showing up in person. You can even ignore the phone call because it’s coming in so late at night. You can prioritize your wants and needs over the wants and needs of someone who hasn’t even agreed to date you.
- Be honest about your feelings. If the object of your affection doesn’t know you like them, you can’t blame them for not acting on this secret information. Let them know you are interested and let them decide how to respond. It’s scary to put the ball in their court and to not have control over the outcome, but it’s nearly impossible to turn a friendship into a romantic relationship without this step.
- Have personal boundaries. Decide what you are not willing to put up with from friends and lovers, and don’t put up with it. If you need 24 hours notice to make plans, let your friends know, and when they try to make plans on short notice, decline. If you can’t be the person your adored talks to about the problems with their current relationship, then don’t be. Say you’re uncomfortable and this isn’t a part of friendship you can make available, because of your already confessed feelings from rule 8.
- Treat people with respect, including people who say no to offers to date you. No one owes any of us romantic or sexual attention. It can be disappointing or even heart-breaking to learn the person you like doesn’t feel the same way. But that does not give you license to mistreat the person who turned you down. Stay polite and stay human. You may discover that it’s too painful to remain friends with someone after you’ve expressed attraction and they haven’t. End the friendship kindly, without manipulation or guilt. Your good behavior will be attractive to others, including others you may one day want to date.
Those are the rules I’ve followed and plan to continue following. I don’t have a romantic partner right now, but I’m also not looking for one. Right now I’m concentrating on filling my world with good friends and learning to love myself as much as I deserve to be loved. When I’m ready to start dating again, I’ll be coming at it from a position of strength. I won’t be as vulnerable to unhealthy relationship partners and patterns, because I will have my friends, my self, and my life full of activities I enjoy to rely on. I won’t *need* a girlfriend so I can concentrate on finding someone I want to be with, who wants to be with me. And in the meantime, these rules help me have boundaries, friends, and self-respect.