Much has changed since the relationship rules that existed when our parents and grandparents were dating. Sure, we now have apps that can hook us up with a dinner date at a moment’s notice, are able to FaceTime with a significant other from across the country (or world!) and aren’t automatically assigned the position of stay-at-home mom (unless we choose to, of course!). But society has also loosened its grip over what’s right and wrong and how the beginning, middle and end of a love story should go. “With new found freedom in relationships the rules have also changed and evolved,” says Julienne Derichs, licensed clinical social worker in Chicago.
Here, we take a closer look at some of the old-school relationship rules that have thankfully changed over the last several decades.
When to sleep with someone
Back in the day, it was looked down upon to be physically intimate before marriage. While certain people still uphold this belief, most are more flexible when it comes to when and under which circumstances they choose to sleep with a partner for the first time. Fran Walfish, Psy.D., Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author, points out that millennials are 90 percent more likely to have sex before a first date than baby boomers. She believes this is because millennials are using sex as part of the interview process to see if they want to date someone.
Women shouldn’t ask men out on dates
“While it’s a lot easier if you let guys do the asking, the reality is that many women ask men out on dates these days—and the world hasn’t exploded,” says April Masini, New York-based relationship and etiquette expert and author. “In fact, for many people, ‘hanging out’ is a first date, and if you invite someone to hang out, it’s not clear that a date’s on the table.” What is clear, according to Masini, is that women should feel free—and even encouraged—to do the asking out.
Moving in together before marriage prevents marriage
Whoever wrote this rule is probably a terrible roommate because most of your married friends likely lived together before they wed. It’s a great way to get a taste of what marriage will be like! “This relationship rule came about before living together outside of marriage became the norm,” explains Masini. “‘Living in sin’ was the term applied to this type of relationship.” Clearly, this can't be true, since marriage counselors are now encouraging couples to give living together a shot before getting engaged.
Men should pay for dates
If you’re in a serious relationship, chances are, you and your significant other switch off paying for date-nights—or at the very least cover each other in other areas, such as groceries, utility bills, etc. But the old-school relationship rule used to be that men always paid for dates—no matter what—mainly because they were the only ones with the income. Thankfully much has changed since the 1950s and women now make up more than 40 percent of the workforce (whoo!). “While I still like this old school relationship rule because it helps define whether dinner with a friend is friendship or a date, there are many times when it’s more important that whoever does the asking does the paying when the check comes,” says Masini. “Etiquette prevails here, and if you invite someone to dinner or a movie or a concert, it’s understood that you’re picking up the tab.”
You should keep your relationship problems between you and your S.O.
You probably vent to your besties about little or big frustrations you have with your significant other—and, while there are still boundaries when it comes to just how much you should share about your intimate relationship, it’s good, and even therapeutic, that you have someone to talk to! “Talking out loud about things actually moves them around in your brain and helps you think about them in new ways,” says Maggie Hoop, LPCA, NCC, therapist who specializes in relationships. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends, she recommends finding a therapist who can help you process difficulties in your relationship. “Keeping it all bottled up is a formula for ensuring that small problems will become large, relationship killing ones.”
One person can satisfy all your interpersonal needs
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! While you should find a significant other who compliments your qualities and traits and makes you incredibly happy and fulfilled, you shouldn’t be looking for someone to fully complete you in all areas of life—that’s what we have friends, mentors and colleagues for! “This kind of thinking breeds codependence,” warns Hoop. “Instead, focus on yourself and your life outside of the relationship. Hang out with friends. Do things that you like without your partner.” Becoming a more fully developed person outside of the relationship will actually help the relationship itself, she explains.