I was waiting for the restroom at Project Hollywood not too long ago. Next to the door is a large bookshelf in the hallway, stacked with all sorts of literature about dating. What stood out to me weren’t the well-known books for guys that most people in pickup have read. No…it was the how-to books directed at women. It's always intriguing to me to catch up on tactics the opposite sex uses.
That’s when I recalled I owned a copy of “The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right” by authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. For a mere $1.00 at a garage sale, I picked it up about a year ago and finally made time to read it.
It’s a controversial self-help guide for ladies looking to settle down which shocked both male and female readers alike when it was published in 1995.
In a short summary, it encourages women to practice a steadfast strategy of playing hard-to-get in order to maintain the hunger of the more dominant sex. Some suggestions are more iffy than others, which explains why many view it as a how-to manual for heartless games and deceit, much like how women view “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” by Neil Strauss.
Additionally, there are a lot of obvious tips applicable to both sexes. So despite the title, guys can benefit from reading this too.
I made sure to take thorough notes on this since it has sparked such a broad range of opinions. So let’s begin…
After spending a solid 30 minutes exploring the main website, www.therulesbook.com, I failed to find any page listing the authors’ credentials in this field. It’s plastered with every piece of publicity they’ve received, making the overall layout of the page seem like it’s meant for those with ADD. And since I’m aware the media loves what’s debatable more than what’s effective, those endorsements meant little to me.
According to the Wikipedia Link for the book, it’s been noted by many that “Fein was an accountant and Schneider a freelance journalist, i.e., without any professional qualification in the subject matter.”
Their rebuttal to this has basically been the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Results from The Rules are their marketing tool, which little stories about first-name-only clients will reinforce throughout the book.
Soon after this, Fein & Schneider continued riding the wave by releasing “The Rules II” in 1997, “The Rules for Online Dating” and “The Rules For Marriage” in 2002, and of course “All The Rules” in 2007.
This book does provide a resource for women who need to learn the basics of playfully baiting men with the thrill of the chase. Behaving as such is a much warmer indication of interest (referred to as an “IOI” in the seduction community) than one could get from a cold, quietly introverted and possibly insecure or emotionally unavailable woman.
There are some wonderfully written words of advice in this book that I felt summarized various topics with ease.
In Chapter 6, it said “…one of the worst things a woman can do is treat a guy like her entertainment director.” Not only is this true but it goes both ways. Boredom is not an excuse to bring someone else into your life. In fact, true chemistry is revealed when two people can enjoy something that sounds boring, like sitting on a bench and talking. If you need a fun activity to make someone tolerable, that’s a red flag.
It’s recommended that you use up your time before going on a date. Another example of good advice for both genders. Many of us know what it’s like when you seem to neglect other priorities in favor of your infatuation. But that’s counterproductive.
Chapters 16, 18, and 35 all have legitimate arguments about why trying to change someone is doomed to backfire. “If you feel you have to hold him back from anything, there’s a problem in the relationship.” It emphasizes the value of giving one another freedom so you don’t end up using (or hearing your spouse use) that cliché term “ball and chain” or any equivalent.
The rule of not opening up too fast is expanded upon in Chapter 19. This is especially crucial during the first few dates. Light, positive and playful banter is your territory that you needn’t wander outside of during that phase. That crazy ex of yours – keep it to yourself. Those prescription medications and the depression that led up to taking them – save it for your therapist. The strange red bump that recently appeared near your privates – take a photo and show them on the first date after you’ve shared it on Facebook. Seriously though, it’s just casual chatting.
Fast forward to Chapter 25 and you’ll touch the issues of neediness and behaviors that suggest you’re desperate. For example, the authors suggest if you’re tempted to call them too frequently, then try calling up a friend you know has a tendency to cling to those they’re dating. It’ll remind you how you DON’T want to act pretty quickly when that friend gives you the latest (and likely negative) updates about their relationships.
One of my favorite quotes is “…it’s the law of the universe that the more you try and get the love and attention of someone who doesn’t naturally want you, the more frustrated and unhappy you will be.” The frequency of communication says a lot about a person’s buying temperature. So remember they too have a life with other people and priorities involved.
Numerous chapters promote maintaining the upper hand in a game of Cat & Mouse. While it’s absolutely correct that a man should be alpha enough to lead the woman, this is a delicate process that can easily scare off even the most compatible candidates if handled incorrectly.
Take, for example, the idea of not calling men. If absolutely no calls or invitations come from the woman, then even a healthy, intelligent guy will suspect he’s merely the rental car while she shops for the one she really wants to drive. And if he thinks you’re keeping your options open, maybe even playing the field, then he’ll at the very least mirror those supposed actions.
And the most volatile part is that every person, male or female, can have a different perspective on what the balance is between a fun pursuit, and disinterest. That alone makes a cookie-cutter remedy obsolete.
Marriage is the gold metal of commitments, yet The Rules suggest full transparency should only FOLLOW that commitment. That essentially means, according to the authors, that the ideal man is one who’s willing to gamble more than he should rightfully be asked to. And it becomes a double standard when the book recommends the man always reveals more than the woman.
In Chapter 17, it says flat out “…he should be an open book, you should be a mystery.” implying that a guy’s curiosity will be powerful enough to lead to a proposal. But it’s a terrifying thought to imagine people stepping up onto the altar without knowing enough about their soon-to-be spouse.
The only men who will conform when a woman starves them (for attention, for knowledge about who they are, for sex, etc.) are those who have insecurities to exploit. Stable, attractive people do not need to try excessively hard to obtain basic relationship fundamentals because they understand the rule of abundance – that literally billions of people exist. So that’s the catch 22 you must ask yourself. Are you willing to accept a partner with lower self-esteem simply because they’re more susceptible to The Rules?
Another quote in Chapter 31 really threw me off despite other parts of the book encouraging ladies to better themselves. It says “Self-improvement is great – we can all be better in many areas. But self-improvement won’t get you the relationship you want.”
The truth of the matter is that every little thing one does to better themselves gives them a higher rank among all of the competing candidates. When a Claims Adjuster reviews a vehicle before cutting the policy holder a check, they base their calculations on a series of things including the options that vehicle has. Does it have a sunroof? Power seats? A Bose stereo system? Navigation?
Similarly, the more “options” you have, the higher quality your candidates will be. Simple! Are you employed? Are you in shape? Are you free of any unhealthy addictions?
To top it off, the authors threw in “They don’t realize that The Rules way is not a hobby, but a religion.” No, no, no. Organized religion is flawed in countless ways and we already have the extra-strange faiths like Scientology.
While most religions aim at justifying the meanings and origins of life and the universe, The Rules is nothing more than a book. Marriage in the United States has a staggeringly unappealing divorce rate and as such, can be viewed as flawed as well.
One reviewer argued “If the goal of The Rules is ‘Marriage, in the shortest time possible, to a man you love, who loves you even more than you love him’ under these guidelines, then the relationship simply cannot be one of intellectual/physical closeness or lifestyle similarities, because the ‘Rules’ force a woman to maintain too much distance to ascertain these crucial areas of compatibility.”
This book seems to overlook the importance of giving your partner a chance to analyze your answers to their questions in a timely manner. Even if you want a ring on your finger and have a deadline you’ve set, they have time they’ll never get back. All of those deal-breakers you’re holding off on mentioning because you want to “be a creature unlike any other” are relevant.
I see the benefits of women forcing guys to work for what they want. The challenge creates value because we pride ourselves in earning the fruits of our labor. It prevents laziness or negligence by reminding us that companionship is a privilege, not a right. It expands the margin of time we have to thoroughly evaluate our compatibility. And it improves the quality of our efforts to meet, acknowledge and attract others.
Nevertheless, a thin, 173-page book will never provide a remedy versatile enough to achieve everyone’s relationship goals. Even Ellen Fein isn’t immune to failure, as her divorce demonstrated.
Like all other goals, you can expect to receive what you put into a relationship. So don’t cling onto the concept of exploiting your partner’s unanswered questions because you don’t know if they’ll like the answers. They deserve a choice, just like you.
Take what you feel works from this book, toss the rest. And whatever you do – do not treat dating like chess, because you can overlook the meaningful moments happening in the now, if you’re too fixated on foreseeing the moves that lie ahead. Brutally helpful lessons blossom from letting the chips fall where they may.
Judge this by it’s authors’ experience in this field. Or by how it fits your beliefs. Judge it by the results it brings or lack thereof. Judge it by the fact that most copies are reportedly sold at bargain-basement prices from garage sales and book donations. Judge it based on whatever you please, but not before you read it.
Oprah (The Rules) from TheRules on Vimeo.
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