The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right (1995)
Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider
An update of the 1995 book The Rules, according to Gerardo, this book spawned Neil Strauss’ Rules of the Game. I’m glad I read both, but Strauss’ book is better written, includes both more philosophy and techniques, and even though it’s more targeted at men, I’d recommend both. They pair well together, along with the supplementary evolutionary psychology-based literature that Strauss recommends. I’d probably recommend the books be read simultaneously, or a guy read Strauss’ book first and a girl Rules.
For us, The Rules is not a game you play to catch a guy, but a way of life.
That says it all.
Familiarity breeds contempt, while absence makes the heart grow fonder.
There’s another key principle of the philosophy, to always be distant, mysterious, wanted and slightly hard-to-get.
One of my biggest critiques is the simple placement of the chapter on health and exercise.
A girl that goes to the gym a few times a week – combining weights, high-intensity short-duration training, and cardio – will physically create the confidence discussed in chapter 1. Yet the authors place the chapter on exercise as an afterthought at the very end of the book, while the chapter on confidence is the very first. Confidence seems to be the foundation of the philosophy of being a Creature Unlike Any Other (or CUAO), and reading books with rules and practices to boost a girl’s confidence is great, but nothing will boost it like some intense exercise will. Moreover, exercise and its effects on the brain will give girls the willpower and motivation to eat healthier, further improving this cycle. Expanding on this topic isn’t necessary in this book, but the authors would benefit their target audience far more by making it more prominent in the introductory chapters. The advice they do give is excellent, unfortunately, they position it in chapter 28 of 31, leading in with an average guy’s comments:
“If a girl doesn’t like herself enough to diet and exercise, why should I?”
Obviously, there is no shortage of diet programs and theories out there. We think half the battle is changing the way you eat. The other half is changing the way you think. Instead of thinking that fun is a hot fudge sundae, you should think that fun is fitting into your favorite jeans and being asked out by a guy you think is cute. Instead of thinking that you can eat whatever you want now and work it off tomorrow, you should think, “No dessert now and hot body sooner rather than later.” Instead of thinking that nothing beats donuts dipped in butter cream, think nothing beats being in a bikini on the beach. Think long term. Being disciplined with food will help you be disciplined with dating, work or school assignments, time, money, and everything else. Dieting and The Rules are very similar in that not eating and not texting right away, for example, are both about delayed gratification.
Separate eating from living!
More philosophically, the authors also truly believe that even women who say they can handle just sex for a while without a relationship – at their core – truly want a healthy, long-term relationship and will always get hurt with this mindset. I actually agree with this, because of the underlying evolutionary principle that a woman’s egg is incredibly rare, important, and she needs to choose wisely before inevitably investing years of her life raising a child; whereas a man’s sperm are common enough to easily repopulate the planet and can theoretically father children with little to no commitment. Unfortunately, this idea is highly anti-feminist and anti-modern in a way, and I imagine it’s the biggest turn off of the book for many women. The comments from the “daughters” highlighted at the end mention how they grew up to be decisive, confidence, motivated, and action-oriented; and that The Rules seem passive, always waiting for a guy to take the first move, but that they work out in the end with “loving husbands, marriages, and children.” These statements should be placed earlier on in the book to prevent such readers from turning away.
Overall, this book is better at explaining how to practice the philosophy that women should (or supposedly should) adopt, whereas, say, Modern Romance is better at giving specifics solely for online dating, although that book has the healthy confidence-based philosophy, too.
Another criticism I have is how long to wait before sex. The book recommends waiting “ideally a year into the relationship” for younger girls, but at least for three months or twelve quality dates. Perhaps my opinion is too influenced both as a guy and a reader of Strauss’ book, but twelve dates is ridiculous! Good luck getting the quality guy you want to keep forever, especially if he has a healthy sex drive (!), and doubly so if he has read Strauss’ book, is a westerner (or worse, American!), and agrees with the idea that men shouldn’t pay for non-girlfriends. Perhaps the authors are using the strategy of writing (and encouraging) waiting far longer than they actually expect/recommend girls to wait, or perhaps they actually believe couples should wait so long. Either way, this is far too long.
This dance of paying for dates (or not) before sex takes place is likely to be the strongest area of contention between a Strauss-influenced male and a Rules-based female. Good luck to both of them without some compromise!
Perhaps most important for us all is to be situational…. If a Strauss-based male is looking for the hot woman of his dreams and a Rules-based woman for her prince charming, yet each follows their “rules” too strictly, the potential “relationship” will likely never go anywhere, fast.
Later, the book echoes the advice of Modern Romance, such as
We want to go from online to offline as quickly as possible—within four exchanges, to be exact.
Girls who use these services just to chat – even once they’re dating, or worse, with actual boyfriends, are wasting their time and probably hurting their relationships. My ex-girlfriend gave me so many excuses for doing this incessant chatting and communication, even including sexting, and this book – by women, for women – only reminds me how wrong she was. Lesson learned.
Further, on the topic of being the initiator of a relationship, they get even more direct. What do girls have to worry about?
Some argue, “What’s the worst that can happen, that he will say no to drinks—so what?” Wrong. The worst that can happen is that he will say yes and date you, have sex with you, and lead you to believe that you are in a relationship. But eventually he will dump you for the girl he really likes.
If you ask someone to switch seats with you on a train so you can sit next to a guy you think is cute, you are wasting your time. You will never know if he would have switched seats to sit next to you, and you may be initiating a relationship that was never meant to be.
BAM, ladies! Take that to heart. You can’t get every guy you’re interested in, because eventually, it won’t work out, or you’ll be unsatisfied. And you’ll never truly know if the guy was really into you from the start and whether he would have taken the initiative. This theme is repeated again and again throughout the book. But how can a girl be sure the guy knows she’s interested?
A guy knows you are interested if you give him your number when he asks for it and if you say yes when he asks you out.
In the hindsight of my past, I wholeheartedly agree. I feel I took two years to learn these lessons through a relationship I let drag on based out of indecision, momentum, and laziness. Had I married, I would have had a relationship as unsatisfactory as my parent’s, others I know, and eventually might have divorced, likely even after counseling. While it’s true I should have reviewed Strauss’ book during my relationship, had I read this book, I’d likely have taken action and broken up sooner. At least a lesson learned late is better than one not learned at all!
Moreover, I loved the “Less is always more with men!” advice to girls to stop fucking talking a guy’s ear off and start listening more in the beginning. Both sexes need to do that, of course, but the prejudice that girls talk more isn’t far off the mark. Thus girls – and, by their relationships, the entire population – would be better served by listening and being more patient early on to “screen” their relationships more quickly.
One piece of advice that does make me a little nervous – currently – is the “rule” not to travel or be together so much while traveling without a permanent commitment like marriage. We’ll see how that works out for me, but it’s definitely something to think, prepare, and talk about beforehand.
On the goal of getting married when a guy says he isn’t ready:
If he still rattles off excuses, suggest taking a break. Tell him to think about it on his own time and call you when he is ready to commit. Rules Girls do not suggest couples counseling; we simply disappear and give him all the space he wants until he misses us enough to propose—or not. The truth is that a guy usually knows in the first few dates if he can see himself marrying you or not; the rest of the relationship is just a lot of details.
That second sentence is powerful. Did I know so quickly with my previous girlfriends? Yeah, I think I did. Now, but I hardly have any hopes – or worse, expectations or desires – that my girlfriend change. On the contrary, I embrace growing and changing with her.
Likewise, the “don’t try to change a man” advice was welcome, as girls should be ready to accept that he’ll always drink or do whatever habit/annoyance/flaw you don’t like. We might change, but don’t base a relationship counting on it.
Something that was irritating was the incessant and over-the-top chatting exchange example given at the end of the book for how “get a guy to pick a day for the date?”:
A: Many women ask this question. Invariably when a guy calls or texts to ask them out, they go back and forth so much that the women just want to say, “I’m free Saturday night!” But The Rules way is to let him say it no matter how many exchanges it takes, lest you seem too eager. So here’s how to handle it: If a guy says, “Hey, want to go out sometime?” you should just say, “Sure, that sounds good.” Then when he says, “Okay, when you are free?” you should say, “Well, when did you have in mind?” He might say. “How’s tomorrow, Tuesday night for drinks?” Of course, being a Rules Girl, you would have to say no to a last-minute date: “So sorry, but I already have plans.” He might say, “Then how’s Wednesday night?” You have to say, “Actually, work is really crazy this week!” Then he will probably say, “Okay, so how’s your weekend?” You say, “The weekend is good,” but not any specific date. Then he says, “Okay, how’s your Friday night look?” Then unfortunately you have to say, “Actually I may have plans Friday night.” Then when he says “Saturday night” you can finally say, “Sure, Saturday night would be great!” No matter what, don’t mention the night of the week—he has to bring it up. Remember, he has to fish and hunt, otherwise it will be too easy and he will get bored.
That’s seven fucking back-and-forth message pairs with absolutely no actual content, all to get a single date that could have easily been a thirty-second phone call. That’s not playing hard-to-get or being a Rules girl; that’s being fucking annoying and stupid! The girl could be more direct, cutting out several message pairs: “Are you going to ask me out on a firm date, or what?” She could also forget the guy, because he’s clearly a poor communicator, not action-oriented (he should just call her), or maybe he should be messaging a few hours or days later. I could analyze it further and really say that the problems stem from the girl’s overly-strict adherence to said rules, but that’s going overboard. Sure, the potential couple might have a laugh about the overly-complicated exchange later on their date, which would make a good bonding moment. Unfortunately, the girl risks the guy – especially if they only had a few minutes together on their first meeting – staring at his phone, wondering why he’s working so hard, and saying “fuck it.”
To end the “the rules” philosophy, the book advises that after “you were hard to get, now be easy to be with!” Well said.
Want to review the book? Read this document, the 31 rules titles, and the 20 turn-offs for guys.
Rules / Table of Contents
- Chapter I Why We Wrote This Book p. 1
- Chapter II The Daughters Weigh In on The Rules p. 10
- Chapter III Hug Your Daughter and Other Rules for Mothers p. 12
- Chapter IV Do Whatever You Want Until You Are Ready to Do The Rules p. 22
- Rule 1 Be a Creature Unlike Any Other p. 29
- Rule 2 Look Like a Creature Unlike Any Other p. 34
- Rule 3 Don’t Talk to or Text a Guy First p. 41
- Rule 4 Don’t Ask Guys Out by Text, Facebook, Gchat, or Any Other Way p. 50
- Rule 5 Don’t Sit or Stand Next to a Guy First or Flirt with Him First p. 55
- Rule 6 Wait at Least Four Hours to Answer a Guy’s First Text and a Minimum of 30 Minutes Thereafter p. 59
- Rule 7 TTYL: Always End Everything First-Get Out of There! p. 74
- Rule 8 Don’t Answer Texts or Anything Else after Midnight p. 80
- Rule 9 Rarely Write on His Wall and Other Rules for Social Networking Sites p. 83
- Rule 10 Stay Away from His Facebook Profile p. 95
- Rule 11 Don’t E-mail a Guy First and Keep It Brief (No E-books)! p. 98
- Rule 12 Make Yourself Invisible and Other Ways to Get Out of Instant Messaging p. 103
- Rule 13 Don’t Talk Too Much in the First Few Weeks p. 108
- Rule 14 Don’t Just Hang Out or See Him 24/7 p. 114
- Rule 15 Let Him Suggest Skype and Visit You More in a Long-Distance Relationship p. 121
- Rule 16 Don’t Lose Your Friends Because You’re So Obsessed with a Guy! p. 131
- Rule 17 Don’t Introduce a Guy to Anyone First, Invite Him Anywhere First, or Friend His Friends First p. 136
- Rule 18 Don’t Write to Guys First, Ignore Winks, and Other Rules for Online Dating p. 142
- Rule 19 Don’t Pay for Dinner or Buy His Love in Any Way p. 151
- Rule 20 Don’t Choose a College or Job or Relocate Because of a Guy p. 157
- Rule 21 Don’t Get Wasted on Dates or at Parties, So You Don’t Say or Do Anything You’ll Regret p. 162
- Rule 22 Buyer Beware… Weeding Out Bad Guys (Cheaters, Addicts, Players, and Time Wasters) p. 166
- Rule 23 Don’t Be Self-Destructive by Dating Married, Unavailable, and Other Mixed-Messages Guys p. 176
- Rule 24 Stop Dating a Guy Who Cancels More than Once p. 182
- Rule 25 Don’t Sext or Send a Guy Anything You Wouldn’t Want Him to Have If You Break Up p. 187
- Rule 26 Don’t Accept Booty Calls or Meaningless Hookups p. 190
- Rule 27 Wait before Sleeping with a Guy p. 198
- Rule 28 Don’t Put On the Freshman 15, Go to the Gym, and Other Rules for Looking Good at Every Age p. 203
- Rule 29 Wait for a Guy to Follow You on Twitter First and Rarely Return Tweets p. 214
- Rule 30 Don’t Date Indefinitely without a Commitment! p. 217
- Rule 31 Next! and Other Rules for Dealing with Rejection p. 224
- Chapter V Guys’ Top 20 Turnoffs… We Know, We Asked Them! p. 230
- Chapter VI Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about The Rules p. 233
- Chapter VII 20 Rules That Bear Repeating p. 245
- Conclusion: Dating Is Discipline! p. 253
Here is our list of the top twenty (guys’ turn offs):
- Trying too hard. Guys like girls who are relaxed and go with the flow.
- Multiple tattoos, body piercings, and trashy accessories.
- Deliberately running into him all the time (i.e., at a bar or party) or showing up uninvited at places she knows he’ll be.
- Texting or checking her Facebook messages while out on a date. As one guy put it, “Am I that boring that you need to be on your phone with someone else? How would you feel if I did it?”
- Writing on his wall in a possessive way or writing things that are too personal and could potentially embarrass him.
- Criticizing him to or in front of mutual friends.
- Hooking up too soon, since it can come across as desperate.
- Overeating or, conversely, giving guys a daily diary of what she’s eating and her caloric intake. As one guy put it, “I don’t care that you were eating meatball pizza all day.”
- Attempting to stay friends with an ex by communicating with him or finding ways to see him. “This drives me crazy. How would she like it if I was keeping in touch with my ex? Don’t make me into the jealous boyfriend you hate.”
- Not caring about her appearance. (Guys care about looks more than you’d like to think!)
- Flunking classes or getting fired from jobs.
- Codependence. “If she needs to rely on me to make her feel complete, she probably has some sort of personality disorder or deficit,” said one guy.
- Complaining about something she can easily fix or change for herself. When a girl says, “I haven’t been to the gym in months, it’s really bad,” he wants to say, “Then just go!!!”
- Wearing too much makeup or having excessive plastic surgery.
- Making friends with a guy’s friends so she can hang out in the same circles as him. “I’m not talking about girls who become close to their boyfriend’s friends in a normal, healthy way—we all want that. I mean girls who forge friendships with a guy’s friends in a pushy way early on in the relationship with the wrong motives to get closer to me. It’s aggressive.”
- Too much interest in material things. “While I like a girl with taste and style, she also needs to demonstrate some interest beyond bags, shoes, and clothes, like current events, politics, sports, and personal hobbies or interests,” said one guy.
- Short hair.
- Being too argumentative, critical, negative, or sarcastic.
- Getting embarrassingly drunk. “It’s not cute or sexy.”
- Comparing the relationship to other relationships and/or “never being happy in the moment because she’s always projecting about the future,” said one guy.