A Refresher Course In Dating

So it’s been a while since the last time you were part of the singles scene? It might be time to review the new (high-tech) rules.

By Amy Spencer

e’re several years into a new century, and it’s obvious that dating isn’t the same “dinner and a movie” game it used to be. We’re still figuring out how to make the language of love translate over the Internet, email, BlackBerries, and late-night texting. What’s changed and what hasn’t? A range of today’s relationship experts share the new do’s and don’ts of the dating game.

DO talk to potential online dates over the phone first
“You can get critical information about a person on the phone versus on email—his or her personality, the tone of voice, how trustworthy
Group dates are a low-pressure way to mingle.
this person sounds. People’s comments flow out of their mouths more naturally when they’re speaking than on email, where you can think through things before you send them. If you can’t have a good fifteen or twenty-minute conversation on the phone, how on earth will you spend a two-hour date? If you don’t like what you hear, you can bow out. Your time is yours, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
—Rachel Begelman, dating and relationship coach

DON’T short-change your dates
“With so much going on in our lives these days (and the BlackBerry and cell going off in between), we get caught up in trying to do too much. And the same goes with dating. If you’re trying to fit in two or three dates a week, or drinks with one person and dinner with another, you’ll do your head in, and that’s not fair to you or your date. So slow down! Make it your goal for each date that you’ll give the person a sincere chance, instead of judging him or her like you’re speed-dating.”
—Deborah Cooper, Ph.D., relationship counselor in Beverly Hills

DO be honest about you what want upfront
“These days, the lines in the dating world are so blurred, it’s hard to know where you are and where you’re going. But just know that if you settle for something in the beginning of a relationship, you can’t go back. For instance, if instead of going on a dinner and a movie date, you move into being friends with fringe benefits, you’ve created a pattern [of casual sex] that’s not likely to change. And if your date is seeing three other people when you first start dating, you’d better be OK with that three months later, because that’s the deal you signed on for. So decide what you want at the very start, and don’t settle for less!
—Maria Shaw, author of Soul Mates and Cell Mates, and founder of

DON’T over-text
“If you sent a text message and he or she didn’t write back right away, don’t think, ‘Oh, maybe he or she didn’t get my message.’
Honesty is great, but so is being positive.
Maybe .0001 of the time the message doesn’t go through, but the rest of the time, it’s pretty reliable. This person got your message. One text or email is really enough or else you’ll look too needy.”
—Rachel Begelman

DO give your online profile a positive spin
“Honesty is great, but so is being positive. Your profile shouldn’t sound harsh or complaining. It’s possible to put a positive spin on truthful but negative-sounding things. You can tweak the phrasing of even the most neutral detail, like a dislike for working out, to make it sound positive by conveying the details of your character. For example, I helped one man who did not like to work out to cast a positive light on that trait by writing, ‘I much prefer to walk along the ocean than to walk on a treadmill going nowhere.’”
—Andrea Orr, author of Meeting, Mating, and Cheating: Sex, Love, and the New World of Online Dating

DON’T get talked into spilling your sexual secrets
“If someone asks you, ‘So, how many people have you slept with?’ or ‘So, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in bed?’ resist the urge to answer! A person’s numbers count holds so much judgment. The ‘right’ number is different for everybody, and whether you’ve had a lot of partners or hardly any, it leads to all sorts of assumptions: that you’re easy, you’re a prude, etc. So if your date asks, simply say, ‘I never kiss and tell.’ The crazy-sex question can be handled the same way. Those nitty-gritty details can always come later!”
—Yvonne Fulbright, author of The Hot Guide to Safer Sex

DO go out in group-dates to meet people
“It’s not just for high-schoolers anymore. More and more people are going out in groups for dinner or parties, and it’s a great way to meet people in a less-pressured environment. But if you meet someone you like, don’t wait until the end of the night to express it. He or she might leave early. So don’t be shy. Take the initiative: Seek the person out, make contact, and don’t leave without that number!”
—Maria Shaw

DO use old-fashioned manners
“It may be a modern world, but a woman ultimately wants a man with old-fashioned manners, and a man ultimately wants to be that for her. So men, pick a woman up for a date, take her to dinner, open the door for her. Don’t assume she won’t let you. Then women: Let him open the door for you, and tell him know how much you appreciate him taking you out, because most of my male clients say they don’t feel appreciated anymore. You can really win each other over with old-fashioned manners.”
—Deborah Cooper, Ph.D.

Amy Spencer is a freelance writer who has written for Glamour, Real Simple, New York magazine and Maxim, among other publications.
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