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9 Rules For Dating Casually, Bachelor Style

The courting season that many of us experience is exciting and fraught with peril, whether it’s Hot Girl Summer or a stint on a dating app.

After experiencing my own casual dating phase and downloading seasons worth of data from reality TV’s finest show (The Bachelor), I’ve put together some baseline etiquette rules. These apply for someone who’s casually dating in search of a long term monogamous relationship, as well as someone who is the star of a reality tv show in which they must date 25 people at once to find their spouse. We all have our own journey.

RULE 1: You are in control of a small percentage of this.

When you have options, it can be easy to forget the fact that all of those “options” have a million factors in their life that can, and probably will, interfere with your best laid plans.

Sometimes, you will be Jake Pavelka (the Bachelor in 2010), hearing a frontrunner tell you that her job will fire her if she doesn’t go back immediately. It threw him for a loop, and it’ll probably throw you for a loop too.

Everyone here is on their own journey too, with their complex inner lives. Chances are that they are also in the midst of their hot girl summer, and you may not be their first choice.

Accept this, internalize it, and proceed with some humility.

RULE 2: When things are faltering, you have the option between ending things forever and putting it on ice. Know the difference, and know how to tell.

When you end things, the door is closed. That “this isn’t working out” text cannot be unsent.

When you put things on ice, the door is ajar. This is where the maddening “not right now”s land. This is also where the ‘talking-stage-without-a-date’s’ go, assuming that there’s not an outright rejection.

Some people cannot live with a door that’s half-open. You may be one of those people! Sometimes people need a now-or-never, and this is when you end things.

However, let’s say that you have a relationship out of the crop that’s moving faster than the others, and you need to end some of the slower-moving connections. There’s a good chance that you can put it on ice. You can decrease contact, and keep viewing their Snapchat stories. It’s worth being noted that when you are in a committed relationship, you should not be interacting with these people.

The further along you are in the relationship, the lower the chance that you can do this. The “on ice” population is very limited, and they will not wait for you (nor should they!).

RULE 3: Don’t say the same thing to multiple people.

For us words-of-affirmation folks, using the same kind turn of phrase or compliment might not seem like a mortal sin. In fact, most of the time, calling two people your “favorite” won’t have any serious consequences, but it’s a slippery slope that many people will fall down.

Words can be one of the only concrete things that people can hold to when it comes to determining how people feel about them. Consequently, when they find out that you said that same thing about other people, it can have some pretty tough consequences. Every Bachelor who has ever said “I love you” to both his final two has learned this the hard way (cough cough, Clayton), so learn from their mistakes.

RULE 4: What your friends think matters, but not that much.

Friends usually have your best interests at heart, and they can see the situation with a level of clarity since it does not directly affect them. As a result of these two facts, many of us are taught to take their opinions with some serious weight.

I would like to push back on this. Friends only see what your relationship looks like in public. This cannot be overstated. They also might define your “best interests” differently than you. Many a friend has fallen into the trap of recommending a breakup as the remedy for a solvable conflict, because they see their friend in pain and want the most immediate, complete solution to that. They know what they immediately see, the narratives you tell them, and the thing that they think is best for you. There’s a good chance that they’re right, but do not take their word as gospel.

RULE 5: You don’t know someone until you’ve seen how they act in conflict.

Let me paint you a picture. Or more specifically, a screencap from the Bachelorette. Katie Thurston: Capricorn, bachelorette, sex-positive, comedienne. Greg Grippo: Gemini, first impression rose recipient, soft boi. It’s close to the end of the season. He opens up about his dead father, and she says the wrong thing. They enter into a fight, and it spirals.

Before this sequence, he’d been a frontrunner. A dream man. The most chemistry-fueled option. One could even call him her favorite. Then, a fight. He raised issues about her response (something she quickly apologizes for). This turns into him expressing his issues with the presence of men (“You’re getting a rose, you’re here for a while” she says), which turns into him accusing her of treating it like a game. It culminates in a veiled ultimatum. Pick me, or I leave.

This fight lasted hours. We only see snippets of it. There’s one image that comes out of it that I can still clearly see in my head, which is Greg sitting down in a chair, and Katie sitting on the floor in front of him, practically on her knees, begging him to stay. He left, and she realized something important: she cannot make a relationship work with someone who fights that way.

Conflict is inevitable in a relationship, and people handle it differently. Some people shut down and need space before they can talk, some people want to vent, and others want to navigate logically to a shared solution. None of these are right or wrong, but some of these are incompatible. It’s possible that a partner can be perfect until there’s a disagreement, and the differing conflict styles cause it to spiral into a breakup.

When you’re picking someone to be with for the long term, think about conflict seriously. Notice how they handle it. How do they treat you when you disagree on something? When they’re talking about a fight they had with a friend, how are they framing it? This is where some of the most important information about your potential partner lies.

RULE 6: The position of picking between people is, by design, temporary.

The hardest part is letting go, but it’s also the most necessary part. It’s easy and fun to get caught up in the ego trip of being sought after, but for anything real and intimate to happen, it requires some sacrifice. It requires a few hard decisions to not move forward with relationships that have potential. To be with one person, however, it takes that hard decision. Walk through this journey, and don’t try to prolong it.

RULE 7: It takes judgment, brains, and maturity to be able to discern admiration from attraction.

Sometimes, people assume that their job in casual dating is to pick the best person. Who’s the kindest? The smartest? The most conventionally attractive?

Here’s the issue with that: the person with the best resume might not be the best fit. Your job is to pick the person who works best alongside you, and sometimes it takes effort to recognize that the person you admire most might be a mismatch.

RULE 8: If there’s one person who can reasonably be called your “favorite”, then the game is over. Cease contact with the others and make a move. If this move doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board.

To put it simply, there’s a reason why they’re your favorite. There’s a reason why you spend the most time thinking about them, agonizing over them, and wondering what they’re going to say next. You may not know the reason, but the outcome is the same. When you have someone who is your number one, and remains in that position for a while, it’s just irresponsible to keep the other threads going.

When you have a favorite, you’ve picked. Accept it, and go to the next step with the knowledge that you did what everyone advised you to do: you followed your heart.

RULE 9: If there’s one that you like better and one that makes more sense for you and your life, pick the first one.

Imagine this: you can’t figure out who your favorite is, because there are two people who are your favorite. In my experience of having a “courting season” and counseling friends through theirs, the astounding thing is that it almost always comes down to two people.

The people who know their favorite have it easy. They can end the game early. But the final two is where the real shit goes down. To explain it, I have a theory.

Every love triangle comes down to the person who makes more sense with your life, and the person who you just kinda-sorta like more. Pick the second one.

For illustration, I offer a prime example from the Bachelor. Arie Luyendyk Jr., the former race car driver who held the title of “best kisser they ever had in the franchise”, was down to an impossible decision. It was between Becca, a spunky, independent woman who never gave him a single thing to dislike, and Lauren, who was quieter, more mysterious, and regularly fascinated Arie.

He introduced both to his family, and asked them what to do. They told him to pick Becca. Lauren is amazing, they said, but Becca makes more sense with you and your life. A family member reveals in a confessional that she felt that he was a bit disappointed by their read of the situation, like he was secretly hoping they’d root for Lauren.

The time comes for the proposal, and being the logical man that he is, Arie proposes to Becca, even if saying goodbye to Lauren is so painful that he literally tells her that he loves her as she gets into the car to leave.

Cut to a few weeks later. Things with Becca aren’t working, because he just can’t stop thinking about Lauren.

Cut to now, and he and Lauren are married with three kids.

This might seem like a one-time fluke of romantic intuition being more powerful than logic, but it’s the case with nearly every love triangle I’ve ever seen, both in real life, in fiction, and in reality television (which is neither).

I don’t know why it works out this way so often. I think it might be because the heart can know things that the brain doesn’t. I also think it might be because people will resent the person they picked because it was “the right thing to do”.

At the end of the day, dating multiple people is a social minefield. There will be consequences, heartbreak, and laughter to be found in every corner of it. Keeping rules in mind can help, but don’t forget that it’s still a dangerous process. You might end up heartbroken, no matter how many of these rules you follow. You might also end up deliriously happy and in love. If it’s the latter, I hope you credit me entirely for your success.

Good luck!

Emma Rohloff is from Austin, Texas, but is currently studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Based in upstate New York, she’s pursuing an individualized degree program focused on culture and crime. When she’s not trying to figure out how to explain her major, she’s writing movie reviews, doing improv, or drinking iced coffee by the gallon.

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