What's the standard "dating code"/"dating timeline"?

I'm just getting out of my only long-term relationship and am now starting to try out dating, only I'm not sure what the "rules" are. Since I've only been with the one guy since we were really young -- so marrying him was just a final transition in a lengthy association -- I have way too many questions about how dating actually works.

When is it standard to hold hands, shift from coffee to dinner/dancing, kiss, etc.? What signs tell me that the guy is interested and/or trying to move along to the "next level" in the dating process?

Also, what's the difference between dating and an invitation to "meet up"? If you're "meeting up" regularly (for a variety of day/evening activities), are you dating? Is it really okay to date more than one person at once? (That seems like it would just be emotionally confusing...)


Most Helpful Guy

  • This will be long; get comfortable.

    First of all, a lot of guys don't want to "date" at all. They mostly just want casual sex, and increasingly, they're getting it, because a lot of girls have given in and let it happen, even though it usually works out badly for the girl. Expect to run into a lot of guys who don't want a relationship with ANYONE, just casual sex/FWB.

    Read my article here:


    It's your job to insist on more formal dating, with some actual structure. You should NOT encourage guys to "take you out" where they're spending money on you (at least, not a first), but rather take you on dates where you can do a lot of TALKING, with a bit of privacy. A walk, a picnic, a drive, etc. Your mission is to get to know him, and figure out if you are attracted, but even more importantly, if you are COMPATIBLE. That means asking him about his values, morals, and ideas on things like:

    - marriage

    - kids

    - religion

    - money/spending

    - sex

    - family

    - career

    - location (where you plan to live)

    - what you want out of a relationship

    - lifestyle

    People don't do this much anymore (guys would rather just jump straight to sex if you let them, and girls are too shy), and that's why so many people are in horrible relationships with people who are all wrong for them. Following my plan will help you avoid most of that by being able to weed out the incompatible guys early.

    And on that: there will be LOTS of incompatible guys. Expect to have to separate a lot of chaff to get to the wheat. It's part of how it works. You can't be afraid to drop a really attractive or charismatic guy if he isn't compatible with you, because he won't change much, and over time, the attractiveness won't matter to you anymore.

    You aren't in high school, so you don't necessarily need to wait 3 months to have sex "just because", but you don't want to jump in bed on the first date either. At minimum, no matter what, wait until the third date, I don't care how bad you want it. But it would be better to wait for 5-6 dates at least. If you aren't ready by the 10th date, then he probably isn't the right guy for you. Knowing that, you can work backwards to figure out at which point you should be reaching each "base". Maybe wait until the second or third date to reach 2nd Base, a little longer for 3rd Base, and so on. That's up to you, but it's smarter to take at least a little time to let it ramp up.

    IMO, if you are going past second base, you should be exclusive with the guy, and I recommend that you insist upon an official, exclusive relationship before you have sex. Know that if you have sex before you get the relationship, you greatly reduce the chance of ever getting that relationship from that guy.

    Hope this helps.

    • Thanks, this is really helpful! So if there's a guy I'm already seeing, I can step back and try to implement the outing/talking plan? (We started out that way, but ended up rushing through a few steps, somehow. I'm like a fish out of water -- and told him so -- and he feels like I've given him "carte blanche" to do as he pleases, which I guess I did, since I didn't know what to really ask for/expect.)

    • Show All
    • And, yes, as long as you haven't had sex yet, I suppose you can still put the structure/guidelines in place. Be prepared to tell him why you're doing that, though; he'll probably wonder what changed since you didn't start that way in the beginning. Unlikely it will be a huge problem for him though. As long as you're making progress towards sex, I doubt he'll complain.

    • Hmm. "As long as you're making progress towards sex..."

      Yeah, I think we skipped second base and rounded third, but then froze.

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What Guys Said 2

  • There's no such thing.

  • The only rule: there are no rules.

    I think you'll find guys are pickier than they used to be about who they get into serious relationships with. Even if you're comparing the present to only 10 years ago or whatever.

    • Nearly 20 years ago, actually. I just find that guys can find what they want (physically) very easily without the "hassle" of a relationship, so they don't trouble themselves to become involved/engaged in the process. They start out with a few romantic gestures, but once the girl returns the interest (and seems attached/affectionate around him) he bolts. I don't get it. Isn't the guy being romantic so he can attract the girl? Is it really all just about sex? I want companionship (going out+etc).

    • Wow that's almost as long as I've been alive.

      Well, some guys are too stressed or shy or whatever to bother with girls. Other guys, guys who are successful with girls, feel like they have a lot of options.

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