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The Rules Book - Do the Rules Work for Dating?
Don't read it if you're not serious about marriage
This article, like The Rules, is for women who are serious about getting married. Men will not understand it and women who don't want to get married will have no use for it. Women who want to get married, but not right now, will probably think it sounds desperate, manipulative, and unromantic. It is none of those, but it can appear that way if you don't have the motivation to really hear what they're saying.
But if, like me ten years ago, you are serious about marriage, and you don't understand why the same cycle keeps repeating in your relationships, you won't care who likes the book or doesn't. All you want to know is, does it work? Is it worth my time to read? The short answer is: I'm happily married now.
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What The Rules book says
The Rules explains why two questions most women have at some point are related: how can I get the man I love to love me? And why won’t the men I can’t stand go away?
The premise of The Rules is that men love a challenge. If you want a man to act like a man, and treat you like a woman, challenge him as a man. Easy to say, very tough to do.
Why the Rules are controversial
I see the controversy over The Rules coming from two directions. First, it is politically incorrect to say that there are anything but minor physical differences between men and women. Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider don't really bother with arguing; they just point out that, like it or not, for whatever reason, this is what works with men. If you act this way, men will treat you the way you want to be treated. If not, they won't.
The other part of the controversy is that though the Rules are simple, they are VERY hard to do when you really want to know where you stand with a man. Therefore, there are a lot of women out there disparaging the Rules not because they don't work, but because the women couldn't or wouldn't follow them. It is sort of like listening to high school dropouts talk about college. They might be right that college is pointless, but you naturally don't pay attention to them saying so because the more likely explanation is, they are lazy.
So I suggest you don't waste your time listening to anyone criticize the Rules, unless it is a woman married to someone you respect, who has read and understands The Rules. Even then, if you look closely at what she did, she may be like women I know who don't like the political incorrectness of The Rules, but they did, for some other reason, exactly what the Rules recommend, and that's why they're married. Meanwhile, the friends of these women, who listened to their recommendations, aren't married, or are married in name only.
Are things really different today?
A common criticism of The Rules book is that it is going back to the Stone Age, and things are different today.
Well, our grandmothers let men pursue them; they got married far more easily than today, and there wasn't a lot of moaning about commitment-phobia. Has human nature really changed in a couple generations? Culture changes, but men are still men, women are still different, and there just might possibly be a reason that women who do the pursuing seem to be the ones who end up unhappy. Anyway, you don't have to agree with the reason. Just take a look at real life and see what actually works.
Do the Rules work? What do you think?
Have you read The Rules?
How to challenge a man
The Rules are all about being a challenge to men. Even women like challenge – in fact, that’s probably your biggest problem with the men in your life who won’t go away. You may even have liked them at first, but now they are no challenge to you because they are always there.
Remember the country song that says, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” Now put the shoe on the other foot, and imagine what it does to a man’s interest if he isn’t sure whether you’ll be there if he stops pursuing you.
Unfortunately, the man does have to have at least a spark of interest, and you can't control whether you are the type of woman he likes. The Rules book gives tips on how to strike any sparks that may be possible, while keeping your heart from being broken if everything stays cold and dark. But its main point is how to turn sparks into flame.
The Rules for the 1600s
I came across a poem where Ben Jonson (1573-1637) describes the you-don't-want-what-you-get-easily principle in action, the other way around.
From That Women Are but Men's Shadows by Ben Jonson
Follow a shadow, it still flies you;
Seem to fly, it will pursue;
So court a mistress, she denies you;
Let her alone, she will court you.
Say, are not women truly then
Styled but the shadows of us men?
Do you have to follow the Rules to get married?
The Rules book is not really rules. It’s really about an attitude. The instructions are just the method for faking until you really feel like a prize any man would be lucky to get. The instructions are written that way because in capturing a man’s heart, you will have scary times of not knowing for sure what the man will do, and, you just want to know RIGHT NOW what he thinks of you. The Rules are written to keep you focused on the long term – to keep you from digging up the relationship seedling before it has a chance to sprout.
If you can manage this attitude all by yourself, you don’t need the book. But since for a couple generations now women have been raised to tell men exactly what they think of them, mysterious elusiveness is for most of us a lost art as much as canning, breadmaking, and milking cows.
Objections to The Rules
No, you won't have to act like this forever, and it isn't being mean to men.
Challenge is not the only thing men need; you won’t have to act uninterested forever. It will just seem like forever while you’re waiting for the phone to ring rather than picking it up and dialing! It’s tough at first because in today’s society it takes a while for a man to really believe you’re not desperate enough to chase him. But later it won't take nearly as much of your effort to keep him thinking you are a special prize.
Many have said the Rules are about being mean to men. Quite the contrary; niceness is not only okay but encouraged. What you can’t do is pay special attention to a man who hasn’t earned it by making a commitment to you.
Men will say you are being mean to them, especially if they are used to getting whatever they want from you. Just pay attention to their behavior instead of their words, and you will notice you are actually giving them something – excitement, romance, a reason to do more and act better than they thought they could.
Do The Rules work?
So, do the Rules work? Yes.
Read old books, watch classic movies, talk to women who are happily married about how they got that way. You will find a common theme of an obstacle in the relationship that the man had to overcome, and the value he places on his wife after that matches how hard it was to overcome the obstacle. The Rules work by being that obstacle, by allowing a woman to define her value in a man’s eyes.
Am I right?
Do you think the Rules work?
Where The Rules is incomplete
One area in which I partly disagree with Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider is where they say not to get intimate too early in the relationship.
I say wait with that till marriage (might happen sooner than you think!) God made physical intimacy for marriage, and you mess with His design at your own peril. Even if you don’t believe in God, it's still true that nobody buys a cow when its milk is free.
Now, what if the milk is expensive today, but you think you can get it free in a few weeks or months? Many men will wait for free milk. But if the milk looks good, and it’s never even going to be cheap, a man will invest in the cow pretty quickly. Once he’s made that investment, he's very proud of the milk that's his alone!
What about Ellen Fein’s divorce?
Ellen Fein did get divorced about the time The Rules III came out (she is now remarried). She claimed it was irrelevant to the Rules.
I agree. The Rules are about getting married. It is really a different, though overlapping, skill set from that needed to stay married, which is why there are a lot of wonderful women who cannot even get a date, and horrible women who get proposals all the time from men who should know better. The Rules book is not a substitute for the communication, courtesy, and kindness that a good marriage requires.
The Rules and how I got married
I discovered The Rules in the late 1990s. I was so glad to have an explanation for the cycle that seemed to keep happening in my life - I’d meet a man I couldn’t stand, who would then pay a lot of attention to me and I’d fall in love with him, and then the door would slam in my face.
I realized I had a lot of habits to change; most of all, I had to stop the call-up-anytime-to-talk relationship with my male friends. That's a brother-sister relationship, and brothers don't find their sisters fascinating.
It was hard changing my habits at 30, but loneliness and biological clocks are powerful motivators. Things didn’t change instantly, and quality men don’t come along every day at that age. But I started having a whole lot more dates, a whole lot less heartbreak, and a lot more attention from the quality men who were already in my life.
When I met the man who is now my husband, I broke a few of the Rules - before we even met, I asked him if he’d ever been in love (he said no). But for various reasons I didn't take our first dates seriously, so my attitude made up for broken Rules. It was obvious my life did not revolve around him. By the time I realized the relationship really might have a chance, I was confident enough in his interest to keep my emotions out of it till I had his commitment.
Seven months after our first date, when I was 35, we were married, and now we have three wonderful children too, which is its own miracle at that age!
While following the Rules
I wrote another article about things I did during the five years between reading the Rules and marrying my husband. You can decide whether or not I was actually following the Rules.
Books and sites about understanding men
- PAX Programs Incorporated - Home
Alison Armstrong is good at explaining men to women.
- Marriage, the Fascinating Way, By Helen Andelin
I think The Rules is the best book for getting to marriage. I think Fascinating Womanhood is the best book for understanding and appreciating men before and after marriage. Some of the writing may seem old-fashioned; never mind, read it anyway.
- Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious
The second-best book I know about understanding and appreciating men before and after marriage. Hard to read, as she gets in your face, but worth it.