Why the “Golden Rule” melts down in dating

People often say they treat others as they want to be treated. But in dating (and in life) that frequently results in disappointment, hurt and anger.

Let’s examine some common scenarios:

  • You write an email to a man whose online profile is appealing. He writes back, “Thanks, but we aren’t a match.” You’re irritated thinking he is an insensitive jerk as you’d have preferred no response than a negative one. He acted how he’d like to be treated — telling you directly.
  • After a couple of dates with a guy, you decide you’re really not interested him. You figure it is kinder just not to return his calls and he’ll get the message, just as you prefer when a man loses interest he just stops making contact. He thinks you’re incredibly rude to not communicate directly as he does when he’s not interested in continuing with a woman.
  • A man you’ve been dating for a few months likes to text you, even long conversations. He even texts you concerns he has about the relationship. You think it is unbelievably immature to not pick up the phone to discuss these things, or better yet to tell you in person.

These examples are all of someone acting how they would want to be treated and the receiver thinks it’s totally inappropriate. So what can you do?

The Platinum RuleMy friend Tony Alessandra, Ph.D. is the author of The Platinum Rule: Discover the Four Basic Business Personalities and How They Can Lead You to Success. In it Tony explains that the Platinum Rule is when you treat others how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated. Because how we want to be treated is not necessarily how others want to be treated. He’s right.

In dating it’s hard to know how the other person wants to be treated until you get to know him some. And then even when you do know, where’s the balance between always being conscious of the other’s preferences and trying to honor them versus just being yourself? Constant vigilance gets wearisome.

The keys are 1) communication and 2) compromise. You can’t always treat someone exactly how they want to be treated, nor should any of us expect that. But when something is unacceptable to you, see if you can tell him without seething, trying to understand his perspective. Tell him how it feels to you and see if you can come up with a mutually acceptable compromise. And allow him to not remember this bargain 100% of the time. But as long as he seems to be making a concerted effort, give him some grace.


Ironing Out Dating WrinklesIf you’d like to know more about getting through dating relationship hiccups, download your copy of Ironing Out Dating Wrinkles: Work Through Challenges Without Getting Steamed.


4 responses to “Why the “Golden Rule” melts down in dating”

  1. nysharon Avatar

    I actually rather know up front if there is no connection instead of waiting for the phone to ring again.

  2. kerry daly Avatar

    Au contraire. The Golden Rule is just that – golden! I’ve done the Research – and the development- in a Mae West vein…

    and can report:9 times out of 10 – if you are upfront- with all the cards on the table – you can expect the same.

    Naturally, you have to wade in the ‘shallow’ end of the dating pool for a bit before winning any gold medals in Relationship ‘matches’ I say go out here and have fun!

  3. Barbara Saunders Avatar
    Barbara Saunders

    Great post.

    I think the previous comments miss the point: Each one of us has preferences on how we’d like to be treated, based on every variable from our family history to our brain chemistry most likely! We cannot label our preferences as “right” behavior and apply them to our mates or prospective mates. At some point, this approach to the “golden rule” becomes narcissistic.

    We need to put in the effort to a) discern how others might like to be treated, b) achieve a detached awareness of our preferences and our needs, and c) communicate our preferences and needs with humility and a spirit of compromise.

  4. John Agno Avatar

    I agree that practicing the Law of Love doesn’t work in initial dating encounters. In “kissing many frogs” within my dating experiences, I have discovered that women never forget what you have told them something that you know that they don’t want to know.

    Perhaps, the dating game is similar to the game of poker….

    The optimal strategy is reducing what other people know about what you know. Poker, which illustrates the importance of an optimal strategy, is a game of imperfect information since so much is concealed.