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Modern Dating Etiquette

I hope my advice will help you navigate the dating world with confidence and consideration for others!

For as long as there have been men and women, there has been the desire to meet that special someone.

Dating has been around forever, and in every society there have been unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that spelled out the right and wrong way to go about it.

Morals and manners change somewhat from one generation to the next, but there is always a standard of behavior. These are guidelines for dating etiquette in the modern age.

Meeting With Manners

There are numerous ways to meet someone new. In certain places, it is understood that “the house makes the introduction”. In other words, it is perfectly acceptable to approach a stranger and strike up a conversation because you have something in common.

The places in which no formal introduction is required include schools, churches, and workplaces (although workplace romances can be tricky and may even be banned in some companies). The people whom one sees at college, for instance, are familiar faces in familiar places, and while you may not yet know them, they are not completely random strangers.

To get the ball rolling with an attractive person in one of these places, it is only necessary to make a few comments about your shared interest, and let the rest play out. If you are unsure about whether or not the other person returns your affections, ask them to grab a cup of coffee with you to discuss your class or the minister's sermon. It is not a big commitment of time, yet it should be enough time to determine whether the two people have enough in common to make pursuing a relationship worthwhile.

Many, many people meet online today, and online dating sites have their own special form of etiquette. The number one rule is to represent yourself honestly, especially when it comes to your picture. Sure, posting a ten year old photo might make you appear more attractive to a wider range of suitors, but the minute they lay eyes on you and discover the deception, they will run for the nearest exit. It is far better to be genuine in your online dating profile and meet people who are genuinely interested in you the way you are than to practice a deception that is sure to be found out and ruin the relationship before it ever gets off the ground.

Once an online chat has been initiated, the next step is to move on to phone conversations, and finally a meeting in a public place. Safety, more than etiquette, dictates that you should be careful not to reveal personal details to a stranger online, such as your full name, address, or place of employment.

While snooping is generally considered to be very poor form, more and more online daters now hire a professional to conduct a discreet background check about a new suitor. Protecting yourself from creeps is always a good idea, but prepare to have one very offended mate on your hands if the person later finds out that you had them checked out.

Blind dates can be scary, but they can also turn out to be great.

Blind dates can be scary, but they can also turn out to be great.

Special Etiquette for Blind Dates

Blind dates are one of the oldest ways to meet a date. There are countless horror stories about being set up with a friend-of-a-friend, but that does not mean that these types of relationships cannot blossom into a true romance.

The key is to keep an open mind. Don't go into the date expecting perfection, because who among is perfect? A good rule of thumb is to have the initial blind date over a cup of coffee. If there is no chemistry, it is a short enough time that both people should be able to keep up polite conversation.

Should things click, the coffee can be extended into a meal or a plan for a second date. No matter how poorly the blind date goes, it is not acceptable to sneak out the back door of the restaurant! Never plan a blind date for Valentine's Day, because the pressure is so great that it is bound to jinx the date.

One of the most important points of blind date etiquette is that you should never, ever stand up your date, even if you get cold feet. Not only will it make the jilted party feel terrible, it will also make you look like a real jerk to the friend who set you up in the first place.

"One of the most important points of blind date etiquette is that you should never, ever stand up your date, even if you get cold feet. Not only will it make the jilted party feel terrible, it will also make you look like a real jerk to the friend who set you up in the first place."

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Who Not to Date

By the way, there is also etiquette surrounding who one should not date. It is an unbreakable rule of friendship that you should never date your best friend's ex. Dating someone on the rebound is another bad idea.

The office is an obvious place to meet people, but workplace romance is fraught with pitfalls. Superiors should be very careful about initiating relationships with those who report to them. Not only is there an inherent inequity in the relationship for the one who is dating their boss, but if things go sour, the boss leaves herself or himself open to whispers or even outright accusations of sexual harassment.

Of course, any form of sexual coercion is despicable, and is a matter for the law, not merely etiquette. When both people are on equal footing professionally, office dating can be a more feasible idea, although if the relationship ends badly, the working situation may become very unpleasant. Always consult your company's employee handbook regarding office romances before dating a co-worker, because in some firms it is grounds for dismissal.

Have a specific plan in mind when asking for a date.

Have a specific plan in mind when asking for a date.

Bringing a bouquet of flowers makes a great impression on a first date.

Bringing a bouquet of flowers makes a great impression on a first date.

Asking for a Date Politely Increases Chances of a "Yes"

When asking someone on a first date, it is polite to give them several days' notice. Do not ask someone at the last minute; some people feel awkward about accepting last minute invitations because there can be an implication that they have no social life.

Of course, it is always fine to spontaneously ask the cute guy or girl in your chemistry class or book group to grab a cup of coffee at the end of the gathering. Etiquette advises having a plan in place before approaching a person to ask for a date. Rather than saying “Do you want to hang out sometime?”, have a specific time and place in mind, such as “Would you like to go to the new Chinese restaurant on Saturday night?”.

It is not a bad idea to have a backup destination in mind; that way if she says, “I'd love to have dinner with you, but I don't care for Chinese food”, you can be prepared with an offer to go to your favorite Italian restaurant instead. The general rule is that if you ask someone for a date two times and get shot down, to let it go. The chances are that the person does not reciprocate your feelings, but is too polite to say so.

If the person asked on the date agrees to go, she should keep the date, even if “something better” comes up later or she only said yes because she could not figure out how to get out of it. It is only one night of your life, after all, and even if the date does not turn into a romantic relationship, it could still be a fun outing.

By the way, it is considered equally acceptable for a woman or a man do initiate the date, although the majority of first dates are still proposed by men.

Common courtesy never goes out of style.

Common courtesy never goes out of style.

Put Your Best Foot Forward on a Date

Once the date is set, both people have a responsibility to give the other person their best effort. It begins before you even arrive at the restaurant or movie, by dressing attractively and appropriately for the time and place. Even if you live in sweats, trade in your usual casual uniform for a neatly pressed pair of pants and a nice button down shirt. First impressions matter! A first date is definitely an occasion for which one should try to dress for success.

Ladies should take care to choose an outfit that is pretty, but not too tight, low cut, or sexy. While any woman has the right to dress as she chooses, to wear a very racy dress for a first date is going to send the message that you are looking for a hook up. It might be a sexist and outdated notion, but it is still true. Since both parties have gone to so much trouble to look nice for each other, a few compliments are in order. You can never go wrong paying someone a compliment on a first date!

Always show up for a date on time. Some women like the old-fashioned courtesy of having the man pick her up at home for a date, although only if she already knows him reasonably well (i.e. it is not a first date from an online dating service).

On the other hand, many women prefer to drive themselves to the appointed meeting place so that they will be free to make a quick and clean break at the end of the date should the evening not go so well. It is a very sweet gesture for the gentleman to show up with a bouquet of flowers in hand if he picks up his date at her home. Since red roses are associated with passionate love, it would be best to select a different type of flower for the first date.

Something cheerful like tulips or daisies would be perfect. If the woman lives with her parents or roommates, the man should be sure to make polite small talk with them while waiting to head out on the date. It can take some effort for those who are shy, but a few minutes of friendly chit-chat will score big points with the people who have an influence over the young lady. Walk her to the car and hold her door as she gets in.

By the way, when it is teenagers dating, etiquette (not to mention good sense) dictates that if her father says to get the girl home before her 10 pm curfew, the young man had better keep his promise to do so.

Even if the date is a bust, try to remain pleasant until the end of the evening.

Even if the date is a bust, try to remain pleasant until the end of the evening.

Best Date Manners for Modern Times

While on the date, use your best manners. The man will make an excellent impression if he shows how chivalrous he is. The little things like holding a door for a lady or helping her on with her coat are the type of social niceties which will really make her feel respected and cared for.

Yes, in this day of feminism we all know that a woman is perfectly capable of opening her own doors, but this is about showing gracious manners, not implying that females are in any way weak. If your date truly objects, let her open her own doors, but otherwise, continue to extend this simple courtesy.

By the way, part of making a good first impression on a date is extending your best manners to those who serve you while on the date. Women are instantly turned off by boorish behavior, such as snapping fingers at a waiter or being rude to the parking valet. Any guy who tries to make himself look more important by being rude or haughty to the restaurant staff will only succeed in making a fool of himself. Be careful not to get sloppy drunk, either. It is both unappealing and potentially unsafe.

Conversation is what will make or break a date. Show interest in your date! No one can stand someone who talks only about himself or herself, so ask plenty of questions about the other person. If you are nervous about what to talk about on your date, brush up on current events or pop culture in the days before your meeting. Keep the conversation light and pleasant; your goal should be to make the outing really fun.

Traditional dinner party etiquette says to steer clear of controversial topics like religion and politics, and this is equally good advice for a date. As you get to know one another better over subsequent dates, you can slowly start to explore weightier subjects.

Also taboo on a date: complaining about your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend! It makes you look bitter and may also lead your date to suspect that you are not over your previous relationship. Give your date your undivided attention. Do not look around the room when she is talking, as if you are wondering if anyone more interesting is in the room. And never, ever, talk on your cell phone, check your email, or text while on a date!

"Conversation is what will make or break a date. Show interest in your date! No one can stand someone who talks only about himself or herself, so ask plenty of questions about the other person."

Who Pays for the Date?

As the dinner ends, and the bill arrives, that can stir up a whole hornet's nest of etiquette questions. In the not-so-distant past, the man always paid for a dinner out. As the relationship progressed, the woman might repay the favor with a homecooked meal, but it was always up to the man to pay for the dining and entertainment. Modern etiquette says that the person who did the inviting should be the one to pick up the tab.

That said, the man will often pay for the first date, even if the woman was the one to initiate the outing; however, she should definitely make a sincere effort to pay for the date and only let him pay if he insists. For subsequent dates, most couples will get into that little tussle over the check, with both offering to treat. In some social circles, the man will still pay for most of the evenings out, but the woman should pick up the tab at least sometimes.

As the pair gets to know one another better, they may work out an arrangement to split the bill and go “Dutch”. Many women like this just as much as the men, as it does not leave them in the position of feeling like they “owe” him anything. On special occasions like birthdays or in celebration of a promotion or graduation, the person being honored should be treated to the meal.

At the end of the date, the man should see the woman safely to her door (unless of course she prefers that he not escort her home). There should be no expectation of being invited in for a “nightcap”.

If the date went great, a kiss on the doorstep is as much as anyone should hope for on a first date. If the evening was not so terrific, do not make false promises to call later for another date. It is better to leave it with a polite, “It was nice meeting you”, than to make promises you have no intention of keeping. The sting of an awkward ending to the date will be far less painful than the rejection of waiting for a phone call that never comes.

Do not play games! If you had a great time and want to call the next day, then call the next day. If things were really fantastic, the man could even send her flowers the next day; just don't make the bouquet so ostentatious that it will lead her co-workers to snicker about what really went on the night before!

How NOT to Handle a Breakup!

Etiquette for Ending a Relationship

Not all relationships work out, and there is etiquette relating to ending a romance, too. Be respectful when breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It is considered most polite to do it face to face, but at the very least, the break up should be done when speaking to the other person on the phone. It is just low to dump someone via email or by leaving a message on their answering machine.

And no, it is never okay to end a romance with a text message! Enlisting a third party to end your relationship is just pathetic, and whatever you do, do not dump someone by scrawling a message on a Post-it note like Berger did to Carrie in an episode of Sex and the City – talk about poor manners! Once the relationship has ended, avoid bad-mouthing your ex publicly, which never reflects well on the one doing it.

All married couples started out with a first date.

All married couples started out with a first date.

It Pays to Be Polite

Some first dates will be memorable, others instantly forgettable, and a few will even lead to relationships that last a lifetime. While not all dates will work out as hoped, if both parties are courteous, polite, and upbeat, the evening should at least be pleasant.

The rules of etiquette are designed to ensure that this is the case. And who knows, that guy or girl that your sister set you up with on a blind date might just end up being your soul mate, if you are brave enough to go on that one first date!

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