Q&A With The “Rules” Experts

Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider became overnight celebs in 1995 thanks to The Rules, which heavily endorsed women playing “hard to get” to snag a mate. Get the scoop on their new book, Not Your Mother’s Rules, in our exclusive Q&A below.

By Judy Dutton

e’ve all heard of The Rules: a best-selling dating book by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider that urged women to never call a man, talk too much, or accept a last-minute date. Women everywhere claimed that following the book’s advice kept men in hot pursuit. However, that book was written in 1995 — long before things like texting and Facebook entered the picture. To address these new technology-driven dating challenges, Fein and Schneider wrote a follow-up book released in January 2013 called Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating. Here, the authors reveal what to do when you get a text, the biggest dating mistake women (and men) can make, and the rule they’ve had the hardest time following in their own love lives.

How has the dating world changed since your original best seller came out in 1995, and how do these changes complicate a woman’s desire to find a great man and settle down today?

Ellen: Dating today is totally different than it was when we wrote The Rules in 1995. Texting, Facebook, instant-messaging services, FaceTime, Skype, Twitter and other new technology tools have made being
mysterious much more difficult. Women in 2013 are virtually transparent and accessible to men 24/7. Many young women sleep with their phones next to the bed and respond immediately to every text — no matter how inconsequential (i.e., “getting haircut” or “what r u doing now at 2 a.m.?”). This behavior is bad for any kind of courtship. When a woman texts a man she’s dating non-stop all day long or writes some variation of “happy Monday morning, handsome!” on his Facebook wall every day (or messages his friends, coworkers and even his mother), he can get suffocated by such excessive behavior, causing him to flee.

Sherrie: Many women say they felt “rude” if they did not someone text back within nanoseconds, or felt like a party pooper if they didn’t return a guy’s sext. We are telling those women to pull back and use a little restraint so that guys who were initially interested in them will be forced to ask them out because they can’t get everything they need to know about someone electronically (i.e., via endless status updates).

Given this new dating landscape, what “Rules” have been amended or added in this most recent version of your book?

Ellen: We told women not to ask a man about his profile or Facebook wall (so you don’t sound like you memorized them already), and don’t respond to any texts after midnight — because it’s almost always a booty call.

What original “Rules” remain the same today that probably won’t ever change — and why?

Sherrie: Let men initially travel to you; don’t split the check; and finally, don’t talk too much in the first few weeks of dating. Why? It’s because men and women are biologically different from each other. Men love a challenge, and they like women who are busy having a life of their own and who don’t make everything about them in the early stages of dating.

Now that technology plays such a strong role in our dating lives, what’s the biggest mistake single women make today?

Sherrie: Over-sharing, texting back in mere seconds, double-texting on accident, accepting booty calls, not ending chats, calls, or Skype sessions first — as in, letting them go on for hours — or just being too available to men in general. A guy will lose interest if he hears from you too frequently. He may start hitting the “ignore” button when you call. Conversely, men love brevity. Far from being annoyed or insulted by it, men love being given a little silence and space, because they are not nearly as verbal as women. A man might joke with a Rules Girl online by saying, “Hi there, lady of very few words.” He’ll end up wanting to know more about her instead of being bored to tears and dreading her emails, texts and calls. If you don’t want to overwhelm, suffocate or turn off the men you’re interested in, keep your online profiles, emails, texts and other forms of contact light and breezy. Also, try to end everything first (“get out of there,” as we like to say) as if you were on your way out the door to the gym or a party; that way, a guy has to ask you out in order to really connect with you.

Ellen: An even bigger mistake is when women say they want to “take a break” from online dating. They take down their profiles after six months because they’re embarrassed that the men they’ve dated can see they’re still single, or because a coworker might see their ad, or they just get tired of all the emails and first dates that don’t go anywhere. We say: take a break from what, exactly — a break from possibly having a boyfriend on your birthday and New Year’s Eve? We encourage women to stay the course and not take down their profiles until they are exclusive and marriage-bound with a partner — i.e., the guy says “I’m taking down my profile and don’t want to see anyone else,” and you feel the exactly same way. Then you can cancel your subscriptions and pop open the champagne bottle. Until then, keep checking your messages!

What’s the biggest dating mistake that men make today?

Sherrie: Most guys don’t make dating mistakes. They chase the women they want, and ignore the ones they don’t want. But it wouldn’t hurt to open a car door for a lady… oh, and please send her flowers on her birthday or Valentine’s Day! Guys have occasionally complained to us that they asked women out by Wednesday for a Saturday date and still got turned down, and then they blamed The Rules for these women being impossible for them to get. We’ve nicely explained to these men that if you ask a woman out in advance and she still says “no,” she is not doing something she that learned from reading The Rules — she just isn’t interested, and you need to move on. Rules Girls are hard to get, but they’re not impossible to get!

Given all the progress women have made financially, professionally and otherwise, why is “playing hard to get” still so effective in keeping men interested?

Ellen: We’re not “playing” at anything. It’s effective because we are telling women not to chase men, be too needy or text men two or three times in a row (e.g. “How come I haven’t heard from you?”) because it reeks of desperation, low self-esteem, and a lack of boundaries. We know — we hear
Most guys don’t make dating mistakes.
all the horror stories! We’re feminists, and most of our readers and clients are attractive, smart and successful. They realize that they can’t chase after a man like they would a job, condo or particular lifestyle. It simply doesn’t work that way. Most men are turned off by such intensity (or they’re initially flattered), but then they lose interest — you know, those men who seem to drop off the face of the Earth or vanish out of nowhere.

Some critics say that your advice is old-fashioned and disempowering to women. What’s your response to that?

Sherrie: Our clients and readers are doctors, lawyers, CEOs and MBAs, but they are losing their “specialness” by being too transparent online. They are giving away some of their power and mystery by being available 24/7 in every facet of technology. So after being exposed to so many emails, texts, status updates, tweets and wall posts, “the hot woman” a man initially checked out online is suddenly not quite so hot anymore… or even slightly interesting.

Ellen: We teach women the new secrets to dating successfully: how to seem mysterious and busy in an era of texting, Facebook, Skype, IMs, FaceTime and Twitter. It’s empowering to be busy and have a full life and not make a man the focus of your whole life, to not drop your friends, family and hobbies for a very last-minute date, or turn yourself into a nervous wreck by texting a man all day long just to make sure that he still likes you.

Which Rules have you had the toughest time following in your own current or past dating lives? Have you ever broken a Rule — or been tempted to break one?

Ellen: We’re both happily married, but like most women, we love to talk, so being mysterious and ending conversations first was always a bit of a challenge. Ultimately, we found that talking less, listening more and ending things first made for better dates. Men find women who are light and breezy (whether by design or by accident) refreshing, and guys love a breath of fresh air. When we appeared on Anderson Cooper’s show Anderson Live in January, he quipped that if he sent a woman one text, he got 20 texts back. With men, less is always more.

What advice would you give to a woman who says: “I’ve followed your Rules to a tee for a year, and I’m still single — what’s up with that?”

Sherrie: We’d say that you haven’t met your Mr. Right yet. A year is really not that long — and you’re screening out plenty of Mr. Wrongs, so pat yourself on the back for that. There’s nothing wrong with being single; just don’t stop trying to meet someone just yet. Have you stopped going out on dates? Have you taken down your online profile prematurely? Are you worried that other people will see it? Too bad! You’re single, and how else are you going to meet available men? Get back in the game, or stay in the game and keep trying. You have to be in it to win it. Following The Rules and Not Your Mother’s Rules is only half the story; you have to stay active online and get out there in real life in order to meet men that you can practice the Rules on. Never give up!

Judy Dutton ( is the author of Secrets from the Sex Lab and Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch…and What It Takes to Win.

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