Sometimes, if not often, we’re too quick to convince ourselves that we’re the architect of our own failure. We give ourselves too much credit for being in control of stuff that we’re not. As a result, when we experience disappointment and we’re of the inclination to analyse where we think we effed up (based on the assumption that disappointment’s caused by us not doing the ‘right’ actions to steer the outcome to the correct one), we latch on to our supposed error. It then becomes a rule for our future behaviour. Baggage Reclaimers’ big example of this is variations of, I ‘put out’ after X hours/days/dates/weeks/months. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have jeopardised the relationship.

So let’s think about this:

If we weren’t in a relationship at the time, how can we lose or harm something we didn’t have in the first place? Surely if the deal depended on both parties not sleeping together, sex wouldn’t even be on the table? Now, I’m not saying that dating is like the lottery. Still, if we were to break down or take a week off work every time our numbers didn’t come through, we’d set ourselves up for a great deal of pain. Our I-did-this-so-why-didn’t-they-do-that mentality would derail our life.

Some will argue that sex gave the other party the ‘wrong impression’. That’s pretty jacked up, though, when you consider that this would make the other party the authority. This person had the power to decide which way the relationship was going, which makes the date an audition.

The thing is, who did these people have sex with? An impersonator who stepped in to do the deed so that the date wouldn’t have to see things through after it became obvious that they weren’t around future wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend material?

On the basis of these experiences, people come up with follow-up rules.

‘I don’t sleep with people until X date/week/month.’

‘I won’t sleep with someone until they’ve said that we’re exclusive and that we’re in a relationship.’

We come up with rules to control our fear, guilt and other people’s behaviour.

Now granted, I can see where they’re going with this thinking. It’s not about whether rules are ‘bad’; it’s about recognising that people come up with ‘rules’ for what they should and shouldn’t do because they feel guilty for what they believe is having massively screwed up in the past. The rule is there to protect them from what they’re afraid of. It’s to manage their fear and guilt.

In their mind, waiting gives more control over unknown factors.

They reason that they can breathe out and ‘give up the goods’ (sex) because it’s official that it’s a relationship. They’ll say that plenty of people claim that the reason they’re in a relationship is that they ‘waited’. While leaving sex off the table means that it’s not there to cloud our judgement and put us in The Justifying Zone where we stay to validate having made the sexual ‘investment’ in the first place, those people aren’t still together because they controlled the situation with sex. They’re not!

Unfortunately, as many can attest to, a rule that works for some won’t work for others,

Rules are a trap. They appear to work for some but not for others and it's not because the latter aren't 'good enough', but because that rule has nothing to do with why something worked in the first place.

We can wait to have sex. Unless, though, who we wait with is a loving person and we’re waiting, not because it’s a ‘rule’ designed to control the uncontrollable but because it’s our value and what feels good and right for us, that doesn’t mean that post-sex, we’re assured of the relationship we want.

This is similar to not waiting.

If sleeping with somebody is what we want and we are conscious, aware and present enough to be able to handle the potential emotional consequences of sex, then we can rock on. But if our inner rule is to have sex because we’re afraid that if we don’t, we won’t be in with a chance of winning the grand prize, we’re already on the back foot before any pants get dropped.

When the rule doesn’t work, it’s not because we’re not good enough. That rule has nothing to do with something having worked in the first place.

Anyone who’s going to rule someone out for a relationship because they feel that we had sex, possibly at their instigation, ‘too quickly’ or because they’ve had to wait ‘too long’ isn’t the right person for us.

If the possibility of love can collapse on ‘one false move’ like that, we’d all be screwed.

You can substitute really any rule that you’ve created to protect you from the past happening again or to control your experiences, and the same scenario plays out. Trying to switch things up using rules to guide you just creates more frustration. An example of this where you play The Opposites Game. This is where you latch on to one factor that you think screwed things up and then choose an opposite partner next time around, only to wind up disappointed yet again. These frustrating outcomes reaffirm why these faux rules are a trap.

It’s no wonder people feel so demoralised by dating.

They give up who they are, including their values, to try to control the uncontrollable, only to find that no matter what they do and no matter how many times they tweak and switch it up, the ‘rule’ doesn’t work.

On top of this, there’s never just one rule. So even if they get into a relationship, the fear of not doing everything ‘right’ consumes them. They scrutinise their every move and try to follow other ‘rules’ out of fear of jeopardising the relationship. That’s no way to live never mind love.

Don’t put your disappointment all on this idea that you made ‘one false move’ or a series of them. You might be tricking yourself into believing that you missed out on something that wasn’t actually there. Or you might be missing the wood for the trees.

Tying yourself up in knots trying to figure out the magic rule and formula for ‘getting’ love? Untwist yourself. Cut you some slack by identifying and letting go of your rules. Instead, do things because you want to and it’s who you are, not because you’re trying to influence or even control others. Suddenly, it won’t feel as if the other party holds ‘all the power’ and you will be in a position to show up to your relationships as an equal.




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