How to date when you have a big job

Melissa is not going to move in with the next guy she dates. Even though Melissa and I are both completely incompetent at all things social, we can see that Melissa has moved in with three guys who were never going to marry her. So part of her new dating plan is she has to stop doing that.

Melissa wants me to make sure that all the 25 year old girls who read this blog realize that moving in with a guy is not a step forward for the girl.

The clients for Melissa’s company are all CEOs, and once a month one of them wants to fund her company to grow it big: A recruiting revolution!

Melissa does not want a startup. She wants a family. She is restructuring her life to get what she wants.

She hired another person in her company to take half her workload so she can focus on dating. She moved into an apartment that is big enough to actually live in so she won’t want to move in with the every guy she meets. She stopped traveling all the time because she can’t date if she’s out of town.

Also, she doesn’t call me for dating advice anymore. I tell her just marry anyone. Whatever. All the San Francisco guys seem like the same guy to me. I have no patience.

For a while she was asking Dana for advice. Dana is our go-to ENFJ and knows all things social. But Melissa tells me Dana says she can’t help because she met her husband five years ago. It’s not like five years ago is before the Internet. I don’t know what she’s talking about. I take this to mean that Melissa has also exhausted Dana’s patience.

Melissa made a new friend, Chen, who is also an ENFJ and has a boyfriend Melissa likes. So Melissa started getting dating rules from Chen. Things like: Never be negative on a first date. No going on dates two nights in a row in the beginning. Respond to texts at variable intervals. The goal should always be to have fun.

It turns out that Melissa needs about 400,000 rules. How long is “in the beginning?” How varied do the “variable intervals” have to be? Does fun mean fun for you or fun for the guy?

Melissa exhausts Chen and has to turn to books.

I am surprised she is reading dating books. Melissa reads the New Yorker. She recommends authors to me like Miranda July. How did things get so bad?

Melissa says dating advice is like career advice. Everyone thinks they are too good for it but the people who are most successful are great at absorbing advice.

“What books?” I ask. “What sort of advice?”

“I’m not telling you. You’d think it was all stupid. But as soon as I followed the advice I got an intellectual, well-adjusted nice guy who is gainfully employed and actually takes me out on real dates.”

Dates are a big deal for Melissa. Other guys she’s been with have been incompetent at going out on dates so she just skipped over that part and moved in with them. She is convinced that if she wants to be with a high-functioning guy she needs to find someone who can plan a date, schedule it and follow though.

After I badger her, she sends me a list of a bajillion books she has read. I know you will ask, so her favorite book is Mars and Venus on a Date. And here are the most important rules she has decided to follow:

Do not treat the man the way you want to be treated.

Men are like rubber bands. They pull away. If you don’t run after them, they will spring back.

Women fall in love on dates. Men fall in love in between dates. So let him do the pursuing.

You don’t need to reciprocate, you need to receive.

Physical intimacy doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A woman needs to understand that by receiving and responding in a warm and friendly way to a man’s romantic gestures she is already giving back to him.

A man is attracted to a woman who can clearly be pleased. This is one reason that the man needs to give the woman an orgasm before there is any sex.

The secret for success for a woman is to continue receiving. By being receptive and responsive to what a man gives, she is actually giving the relationship the best chance to grow. Her role is to give him the opportunity to keep succeeding; his role is to keep succeeding.

I’m fascinated by how much of this my husband has told me, in not-so-clear-cut ways. He would like to be treated like this even after marriage. And I realize, no wonder my career has never recovered from having children. It’s not just the kids: Like dating, marriage is a full-time job.

Melissa says, “Don’t write the rules. It’s embarrassing. Everybody will think it’s lame.”

I tell her, “Forget it. I love the list. I’m publishing it.”

She says, “I get anxious when you write about me dating because I don’t know what the ending is. I want the ending to be I never have to worry about this again.”

“The ending,” I tell her, “is that we love you.”

96 replies
  1. Jean Dunne
    Jean Dunne says:

    Tell her it’s like fishing. You have to bait the hook with the right bait for the right fish. You have to get the fishes attention with the right presentation of the bait. And you have to know how to set the hook. Then, do you eat it or throw it back…your call.

    • Morgan
      Morgan says:

      I don’t know if this is what she means, but I subscribe to the ‘love languages’ theory. If one partner feels loved receiving gifts and the other partner feels loved through physical affection, there’s nothing to be gained in giving someone a gift hoping they will learn that that’s how you want to be loved. Ultimately you have to know yourself well enough to communicate honestly and be willing to pivot to adjust to your partner’s needs.

      • Jamie
        Jamie says:

        Yes. Morgan has the answer. Only I would have said it like this: don’t treat him the way YOU want to be treated, treat him the way HE wants to be treated. But same thing!

        • Tim
          Tim says:

          What it means is that the basis of male/female attraction is the draw between the receptive yin of the female and the active yang of the male. If the woman primarily gives to the man instead of receiving, thinking that will encourage him to give to her, she mucks the whole thing up. The man becomes weakened, lazy and starts to lose interest. Eventually he looks for someone else who will make him feel good by gracefully receiving what he has to offer.

          • Axxr
            Axxr says:

            Even worse, constantly giving to a guy make him feel mothered. He has to go because he worked so hard to individuate from mom, to stop being a receiver and become an independent producer/provider.

            When a woman constantly gives to a guy, it feels like crawling back into childhood. It’s stifling.

            All guys want is to be appreciated for what they offer. All a guy needs is “Aww thanks, you rock and you’re great at stuff!” over and over again for the rest of his life.

            The golden rule variation is also spot on. Never treat other people the way you want to be treated, that’s pure narcisissm. Treat them the way they want to be treated. If you can’t it’s never going to work out.

      • singleF
        singleF says:

        This will be my last post. I’m not the one being mean or launching ad hominem, loose- cannon attacks on anyone who happens to disagree with my POV (which is what Penelope has done multiple times on this thread, not only to me–addressing someone you don’t agree with with “what planet are you on?” How professional. If only I was earning six figures so I could get away with that. But tell me more about how fair life is). Why not disable comments for the post entirely if you’re going to launch straw man/ad hominem attacks against anyone you remotely disagree with? Or would that be too overtly fascist? Is this a forum, or a list of yessers?

        Again, Melissa’s in a privileged position. Good for her. But to acknowledge that there are plenty of young professionals out there who maybe are not as privileged as she is, who despite that lack of privilege, might also want to be married–and maybe not want kids in that marriage–, that might be a thing. It’s a position that requires putting your own bias aside to read the nuance in what I am saying. If I were in her position, I would be much more likely to get married. The “much more likely” part is attributable to privilege. Let’s be adults and stop denying it: sure, it’s a lot easier to believe fairy tales about marriage, like the ones Penelope’s peddling. But let’s recall, also, that, for most of history, marriage was a property transaction and marrying for love is a relatively recent historical phenomenon–and that the people who are able to do it today, in a highly stratified society, a highly unequal society, are, indeed, privileged. That’s why many of these ‘rules’ do not work–because marriage is a contract saying nothing, in and of itself, about the worth of a person or the health of a relationship, yet it’s rammed down our throats like an end in itself. Thanks.

        • ValterV
          ValterV says:

          @SingleF: for what is worth, you’re a woman I would like to know and, eventually, date. Because you have the intelligence and honesty required for creating balanced, respectful relationships.
          Able to give and receive, expressing her needs and understand the other’s. And that’s what make someone an adult, IMO.
          BTW, I don’t want kids either :-)

          But I’m afraid you’re too far away from Italy for that to happen! :-D
          So just take this comment as a token of appreciation from a man. Kudos for being you.

        • Kristina
          Kristina says:

          No you’re wrong. Just like America is the land of opportunity so is marrying up. I was raised and came from poverty but married into soon to be upper middle class. Most of my jobs were McDonald’s, target, and nurses assistant. I also dropped out of school in the 8th grade. The whole have to be privileged to marry a good guy is wrong. It’s this kind of negative beliefs that keep women from even trying men out of her comfort zone. By the way I’ve read the book and all of Dr. Laura’s books on marriage, men are from Mars women from Venus, and why men marry b*££. There is some psychology and science to it. Hope you believe in yourself and meet your Prince Charming!

  2. Chantell
    Chantell says:

    If I was single, I would have read this post more than once like it deserves but I finally married five years ago when I was 33 and therefore know well enough the wisdom of these words — the rules, Melissa’s and yours.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Oh, no, Melissa, this is far from lame. This is exactly true.

    You’re working WITH the masculine/feminine design reflected in the general sense of these rules. That is SMART, not lame.

    And it’s how you will marry a man who will love you and stay with you through everything while you build a family together, instead of playing around with boys who do not yet want to be men.


  4. Margaret Taylor
    Margaret Taylor says:

    YES! The Mars / Venus books are excellent. Some people think it’s all just “common sense.” The rest of us need to have it spelled out.

    I remember reading “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” with my brand-new husband. I would scoff at the stuff about how men think. My husband would look thoughtful and say, “Actually, that’s pretty accurate.” Then we would read about how women think. I would say, “Well, obviously!” and my husband would look at me strangely and say, “Seriously?!”

    We read the whole series, but there’s a lot of repetition so we kept one for reference and gave the rest away. Mars/Venus helped us understand one another which vastly improved our ability to create and maintain a truly happy marriage. We don’t “put up with” our differences. We benefit from them.

  5. suzy
    suzy says:

    Although the odds are in her favor (more single men than women in SF), I can personally attest to the fact that dating in SF sucks. It is horrible. Guys just want to play the field. However, they are used to getting what they want, so I agree with the pulling back strategy. It will make you appear a mystery, like a problem to solve, and that will reel them in. Also, desperate dating energy is obvious to the opposite sex, so just try and enjoy your life without needing a guy, and he will likely show up when you’re in the middle of that. Best of luck! (from a former single in SF.)

    • John
      John says:

      The idea that guys like it when girls pull away seems very strange to me. What guys don’t like is when girls are too in your face – constantly texting you. But that isn’t the same thing as pulling away.

      If a girl is interested, she responds to texts. Maybe it takes a day or two or three, but she responds in a reasonable amount of time. Anything more than that and it’s basically a waste of time to even try going out again. Maybe, 90% of the time, it’s a waste of time. Why should I bother chasing? It just makes me come off as needy.

      Even if a girl is busy or traveling, the idea that she’s SOOO incredibly busy that she can’t respond within a reasonable amount of time, I mean, that’s just a joke. It takes two seconds to send a message: “Sorry I’m busy for the next few days”. I just assume the other person is inconsiderate if they can’t manage that. That’s why they are approaching mid-30s and single.

      • Alli P
        Alli P says:

        But to most women waiting 2-3 days IS pulling away. When we like someone it comes across as smothering unless we are coaching ourselves to “pull away” for a bit.

  6. Karen
    Karen says:

    I’m 65. This was like part of etiquette 101. My mom taught me all of these before I was 16. Well – except the orgasm part because – of course – I never had sex before I got married ;-)

    • One of P's loyal readers
      One of P's loyal readers says:

      I thought about that, too, because I didn’t either. But nothing says that the full union can’t wait until after she has had orgasm. Which is a hilarious thought because it could take them a while to figure that out!

      (Although my first orgasm came before marriage with my husband while fully clothed, no sexual touching, after about three hours of just gentle kisses, affirmation, and affection — which made me relaxed and receptive like never before in my life. So it can be done!)

  7. ruo
    ruo says:

    awww, aja aja melissa. trending positive.

    After having 20 first dates and all of them coffee dates, i just wanted someone to eat dinner with. The someone who wants to pay and has the ability to pay so i can make back the money i spent on online dating.

    And the first guy who schedule dinner, turned out to be the new husband. :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I love this story, Ruo. Thanks. Also, when Melissa told me that she just wanted a guy who could manage setting up a date and going on it… I thought about the men I dated, and I could only think of two guys who took me on one or two dates. That’s it.

      My former, dating-in-the-9os self would have said that dating is antiquated. But now I see it’s a pretty high bar for a guy, and it’s a good measuring stick. I don’t know how I didn’t see that sooner.


      • Other Melissa
        Other Melissa says:

        Whhhha? I went on nice dates all the time–before I met my boyfriend 1.5 years ago and after we broke up for four months. If a guy is not planning a nice date for me (after the coffee/pre-screening meet up), then I let him go. Boys need not apply.

  8. Kate
    Kate says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m an ENFJ who is 37 and still dating and find the rules just as helpful and wish I’d figured them out earlier in my 20s!

  9. II
    II says:

    You know, I’ve followed all those rules before and it only made me miserable. The best book, and recommended by my therapist, has been Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. It’s actually based on…science. Mars and Venus is based on nothing. The guy literally just made all that stuff up and built a huge publishing empire on top of it (pretty genius). And don’t even get me started on The Rules (though doesn’t sound like Melissa is reading it…good!). I moved in with a guy before and he pushed for marriage and I said no.

    Based on Attached, the whole “men snap like rubber bands” just means he has an avoidant attachment style. And if that, run for the hills.

    The best thing I’ve ever done is go to an amazing therapist who, after 3 years, is finally digging into my underlying beliefs when it comes to men and relationships (conclusion: it’s always our mothers’ fault). And who has freed me to be myself when looking for a life partner. Yeah ok, I’m still single but, by being my authentic self (I’m not a hippie I swear!), I’m having much more fun and success on dates than ever before. And my conversion rate from first to second date hovers around 90-100%.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Conversion rate is gold. I love that.

      I can attest to the rules Melissa laid out. Maybe they are not scientific, but every woman I asked who is married agreed that her husband wants this stuff now, married, as much as he wanted it when dating.

      Not that I’m giving this to my husband. But I’m trying. And, guess what? I do this with my Ex too. It works universally, it seems.


      • II
        II says:

        Maybe it’s correlation between rules and outcome, not causation. I wonder if there is a confounding variable at play ;-).

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      You beat me to it – authentic self (or what I usually call true self). Whether it’s dating or interviewing for a job, there’s no substitute for being your true self. It makes it much easier to make a real and lasting connection with another person.
      Also look for a person who isn’t trying to change you. A person who accepts and loves you for who you are and shows it.
      It appears to me Melissa is on the right path and is making great strides.

  10. singleF
    singleF says:

    Here’s some more radical concepts:

    * Not everyone needs to get married– and they have worth regardless.

    * Seven billion plus people in the world– not everyone needs to have children (and adoption is a real thing).

    I will likely never be married due to people not wanting marriage unless I were to give them kids (do not want to have kids). Does that mean I don’t deserve to be married, or am somehow incomplete? No– it means that “marriage” is broken. My parents never divorced, and I wished they did– the kids can feel it, so don’t ever think staying benefits the kids. It doesn’t.


    Actually Not Worthless Because I Likely Won’t Be Married

    • Brooke
      Brooke says:

      Just because you want to be single doesn’t mean that someone else can’t want to be married. Neither approaches are wrong. Neither way makes a person worth less or more.

      • singleF
        singleF says:

        Sorry, don’t think you quite read what I said. I would lie to be married, to stop dating and have all the emotional and economic perks of marriage, not to mention the way this society totally dumps on singles–especially if they hapoen to inhabit female bodies and be over 30.

        But because I’m pretty upfront about my desire and need to not have children, I am not seen as “marriage material,” and, therefore, all the bonuses of marriage are off-limits to me. In my experience, as I said, men don’t want to marry if kids aren’t going to be part of “the package.” It’s not fair,and I would love to be proven wrong, but I don’t exect any of my relationships to turn into marriage, because I personally do not want to marry or adopt, for many totally valid reasons– and, no, the “right man” is not going to make me change my mind on this. Sad that, in 2016, women eho cannot or will not have children are seen as “unmarriable” by hetero men. Exceptions remain purely theoretical to me–I would love to meet the exceptions.

        And, yes, I have my thoughts on kids openly on my profiles to not waste people’s time (or mine)– let’s go with the backlash against honesty.

        As a woman in her 30s, it’s profoundly messed up that one of the first questions I get asked is, “Do you have kids?”–messed up in at least 2 ways: 1) do men get asked this (and/or as one of the first questions when tey meet someone)? And 2) I get asked this before I’m asked if I’m married– If I am asked if I am married at all. So we have separated having children from marriage, but not vice versa: the expectation with marriage is that *you will* have kids, and/or are getting married to have kids. With that kind of bias, that’s how I know my not-having-kids-self will never be proposed to. I’ll be lucky to be a mistress, and it’s sad.

        • singleF
          singleF says:

          Would Like to be married, not lie to be married. Thumbtyping. Clearly I’m too honest for most men, too…my not being a diva often means I am alone. I don’t think there are ‘rules’ to dating, either. It’s really about being in the right place at the right time, or having the right friends to fix you up–and my friends, largely married now, don’t have single friends to fix me up with. But please don’t confuse my singlehood for wanting to be single, any more than my underemployment means I want to be poor. I would love to not date anymore, believe me. But why buy the cow if there’s no milk to be had?

          • Brooke
            Brooke says:

            I did read it incorrectly. But I would add that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be married but being single either. And there is nothing wrong with not wanting kids either : ) None of that changes or impacts a person’s worth.

            To each their own – though I totally get it might be a harder journey to find a life partner who doesn’t want kids, as many people do.

            I wish you all the best : )

          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            SingleF, your assessment of your situation doesn’t make any sense. Men like to date women ten years younger than they are. And most men who are dating at 40 are divorced, with kids, and can’t afford any more kids. So statistically you are one of the most desirable women over 30.

            That said, I think it’s your sourpuss, life-isn’t-fair attitude that makes you hard to date. Not the fact that you don’t want kids.


        • anabag
          anabag says:

          Dear SingleF, I am happily married to a wonderful man who did not want children any more than I did. I know three other child-free-by-choice, happily married straight couples. We may be exceptions but we are out here. Do not give up!

    • One of P's loyal readers
      One of P's loyal readers says:

      Strangely, I know several Christian married couples who decided to remain childless for the sake of their calling together. So, there are definitely people out there who want to marry and not have children.

  11. singleF
    singleF says:

    Also, the headline of this article is incredibly classist. Underemployed and non-affluent people also read this blog and/or have feelings and/or have humanity and/or might also want a shot at happiness and/or might be busy/have own interests/active schedules, even if they don’t pull in the big $$$– which, in cities like SF and NYC, where I am, is neessary to be able to ‘host’ and have a broader dating pool than people who have only 1 roommate/live alone. It’s not so easy these days to earn enough to afford an apartment where one can actually have people over to be intimate with, so please check your privilege. I guess you’re basically saying people who work but don’t earn enough to live alone or quasi-alone definitely don’t deserve to be married….good to know. Not everyobe can make five or six figures blogging, and I guess we’re moral failures if that’s ghe case. Good NeoCalvinism going there.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You mistake class for geography. Dating in San Francisco is the same for women no matter what your economic standing. And dating outside of big cities is much different, no matter what your economic standing.

      For example, there is not a huge difference in most places between really rich guys (or really famous, powerful etc) and really poor guys (or lackluster or powerless). The big differences emerge only in the big cities. So in smaller towns having a good dating strategy doesn’t pay off as well.

      Also, in most cities in the US a single person can buy a house if they are making $40K a year. And most single people reading this blog are capable of earning that.

      I think what you’re really complaining about is that this kind of dating talk is only relevant to people who are trying to date at the top of the dating food chain. And that’s true.


      • singleF
        singleF says:

        Thanks. Fyi, I was just on a date that went really well…but, no, even he may want kids (he says hes ‘ambivalent’ and may want them…he also acknowleged the well-documented social benefit men get for having kids/vs the well-documented social and career penalty women have for having them). But, note, I was able to critique the content of the post (including its classist headline–I actually do know the difference between class and geography, maybe you didn’t read where I’m also in a big city) without resorting to ad hominem (and rather petty) attacks on anyone’s ‘attitude,’ so heres a few more factbombs for your privileged you-know-what:

        * Not everyone can make six figres blogging, so life isn’t fair. (Are we really goig to argue that life isn’t fair? If changing my attitude made life fair for anyone, let alone myself, I”d do it in a heartbeat. Alas, not how it works).
        * In fact, thanks for your BS ad hominem attack I checked while my date was in the restroom…we discussed this whole post and thread and he actually totally agrees with me–and, as I said, *may* want kids. Are we likely to have a future together? Maybe, maybe not. But not acknowledging that marriage and kids require resources and also that Melissa lives in a bubble of a situation where she can “slice” her job in half to focus on dating and to have an apartment where she can have people over– yeah, stuff’s awesome when you don’t have roommates. Your bougi-ness/elitism is showing when you refuse to acknowledge that she’s in a pretty privileged position those of us paying rent with one or more housemates aren’t in: a lot harder to date, let alone make lastig relationships, let alone ones potentially leading to marriage, when one can’t host. Pkease tell me how to square that circle. Why is no one picking up on this? All your readers happen to live alone? Awesome for them: I’m not blaming anyone or the high likelihood of my not getting married–I’m just also not living in a bubble.

        So maybe my “attitude” is formed by a little thing called reality. I have no problem getting dates. But should I structure my life around something not likely to happen? No. How realistic would it be for me to structure my life around something 90℅ unlikely to happen? Most people *now*–maybe it wasn’t always this way, but *now*– do see marriage as a structure/container for having children. Since I don’t want to have children, I shouldn’t mope around lamenting my not-getting-married, much as I would like for that to happen. I certainly should not structure my life around it.

        My issue is when you write blog posts extolling marriage and acting like it’s some great social institution it actually no longer is– if it ever was that for anyone not upper-middle-class or over. Our world is in crisis and we are greatly overpopulated…I’m speaking for a substantial minority–we may be a minority, but we will not be bullied or silenced. Our lives matter and have value even though we may not marry or have kids, or marry without having kids. Open your mind. People should only have kids if they 100percent understand the sacred obligation of caring for that child’s physical, social, emotional and all other needs for a minimum of 18 years. So many kids don’t get that. At least my “attitude” gives me the introspection I wish most people would have before deciding, all too casually, to bring another human being onto this crowded globe: “God will provide” or “things will all work out” doesn’t cut it. We require licenses for far lesser things than having children– I guess that’s how much we value life. Me and my “attitude” value life so much that I know that I cannot make those sacrifices for a child right now, in my 30s, and since I’m running out of time, that’s that. Statistically, if I was going to be married, it would have happened by now. I don’t have the resources to do anything selfish and indulgent like freezing my eggs–again, with seven billion people in the world, it’s more than just an opinion that freezing my eggs thinking my blonde/blue-eyed but diabetic genes are soooo sacred and worth propagating is, yes, selfish and indulgent.

        I asked you to get off your high horse/stop being so obviously out of touch without an attitude and without a tone, and apparently I touched a nerve, because you really showed your true colors. Stick to job advice, at most. Your relationship “advice” sets up very dangerous expectations for people. *Your* bad attitude, Ms. Trunk, here and below, is basically saying that people who do not get married should jump off a bridge. –former reader.

        • Jessica
          Jessica says:

          I don’t think you realise how much changing your Outlook on Life would actually improve your life and the opportunites that would come your way. If you adjusted a bit your views would be more clear and you would be able to see and act on opportuninity which would lead to solving the dating issue, the job issue, etc. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but everyone has to face themselves at some point. I mean thats if you want to bother- you are on a career blog commenting on a dating segment so something says you maybe want that better life.

        • Fou
          Fou says:

          Dating is selling yourself. Would you pitch a product saying “it can’t / won’t do x”?

          On a date, don’t steer the conversation towards what you can’t / won’t do. Stick to what you’re great at, what you’re passionate about. Once you’ve established a connection that way the guys will want you regardless of minor “inadequacies”.

          Think of the kid thing as pasta. You don’t eat pasta. Your future husband thus won’t be able to cook pasta at home. That is a problem for pasta lovers who didn’t already overdose on pasta in a previous relationship. But you are a wonderful person and perhaps their soulmate who will make their life worth living – in the light of that who cares about giving up pasta.

          If it’s that big an issue for them they can always babysit their siblings’ kids or become a teacher.

          • singleF
            singleF says:

            Sorry, one truly last thing. Kids are a bit more serious than pasta. I do not have the right to get involved or attached to someone, not being open and honest about such a major thing. No. Peopleo break up over whether the desire to have kids is mutual or not. I’m being ethical, as well as protectig myself. To act like kids are a minor thing is unethical. If someone wants to have them, they shouldn’t waste their time–or mine–with someone who doesn’t. My being transparent is not why I’m not married: I’m not married becauae I don’t have 30k for a party and because I don’t believe in stringing people along, and, yes, I have said before, most people now only really want marriage if kids are a part of it. Otherwise they cohabitate, which I have done, but it doesn’t come with nearly as many social/economic perks that we give to marrieds in our society. Those are just facts. If we had a broader social safety net for everyone, including singles, you’d bet there would be fewer 30k parties, half of which in end in divorce, a lot of those being over, if not the decision to have children, the financial burderns and uneven distribution of tasks in the rearing of said children. If you’re lukewarm about having children, please do not have them.

  12. II
    II says:

    The European men in SF are is an untapped pool and they know much better how to treat a woman right than American me. Just saying…

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        I would suggest older too. My younger brother is the same age as Melissa, an up and coming attorney in San Diego, but he’s not looking for anything marriage wise for at least ten more years. His high profile friends are all the same way. She should go older if she really wants what she says she does. It’s totally reasonable for her to change her mind, but she needs to broaden her pool of suitors. agree with jessica.

        ** intj advice. Changing the approach is a great step, but don’t hide your intjness, that would be manipulative and hard to keep up with.

  13. Giovanni
    Giovanni says:

    Wish I learned those rules back when I was first starting out and I’m a guy. I think Melissa’s rules fit to a T, at least for me and now I can succinctly explain what makes me tick.

  14. CeeBee
    CeeBee says:

    Melissa needs to date an adult if she wants to get married. None of these boy-man types that are technically adults in age, but passed that you might be clueless to tell otherwise. And the biggest part of that besides having their shit together, is that they are respectful of you and your time. No games. No metering things out. No keeping score. No passive-aggressiveness or, honestly the worst, “I have a hard time trusting women/men because I’ve been hurt in the past.” Love is a risk. If you can’t trust your S.O. to be out of your sight, then either they are the wrong person to be in a relationship with or you aren’t ready for a relationship. Period.

    Also, is there a dating app for people who explicitly want to get married in the near future? If Melissa wants to get married, she needs to date someone who wants to get married AND in the same time frame she is looking to do it. Someone who wants to get married “eventually” is much different than someone who wants to get married in the next three years. I have watched so many of my friends and female relatives make that exact mistake. Finding someone they can’t live without who has no time table or desire to get married any time soon, while they are standing there staring at the clock. It’s a relationship atomic bomb.

  15. ValterV
    ValterV says:

    > You don’t need to reciprocate, you need to receive.
    Oh, wow, a leech! How fascinating!
    (nervously looking for the exit door… ;-)

    Sounds like entitlement to me.
    After a century of feminism, I thought women goal was equality. How naive I was!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      What planet are you on? Women have equal rights and equal opportunity at work. But there is no equality at home.

      Women choose to do more housework because men don’t care as much as women do. And women choose to do more childcare because men don’t want to spend as much time with the kids. So at home women are doing much more work than men are — both physical work and emotional work.

      So there is no equality in relationships. There is just two people figuring out who wants what and who can give what and what is important to each person. People are not the same so they don’t need equal benefits.

      And really, I hope every woman you date sniffs out your crappy attitude toward sharing the work of building a life together.



    • Jennifer Hanes
      Jennifer Hanes says:

      Hi Valter,
      Perhaps I can help bridge the gap. I can see why you think it is selfish to receive, but in receiving with joy, we are giving the other a gift. Valuing them! Many men are used as doormats by angry women. As an ER Doc I see lots of moms who martyr themselves — always “doing” for others, but are miserable and make everybody feel guilty that they are the ones “giving”. Learning to receive changes that dynamic and in doing so, it empowers everyone in the home. I can promise you my husband is much happier now that I can accept his gifts. The women who get this have highly satisfied husbands. I wish you the best and hope you experience this type of partnership.

      • ValterV
        ValterV says:

        > in receiving with joy, we are giving the other a gift.
        Yes Jennifer, I agree – but it must go BOTH ways.
        In Penelope’s post, it sounded like “the man gives, the woman receives”: double standard (and quite old-fashioned).

        In my happy relationships, BOTH give AND receive. And that’s what adult relationships are, IMO.

  16. Jennifer Hanes
    Jennifer Hanes says:

    Yay Melissa and Penelope!
    I evolved to understand that list while my husband and I were divorced for 4 years. We’ve since gotten remarried and it is SO much better than the first time around! Congratulations to both of you for understanding our power lies in being feminine and giving them the space to be masculine. (I’m an ENTJ – so you know that didn’t come instinctively, but after years of study and success.) Thanks for always inspiring! You’re both amazing! Melissa I’m confident this next chapter in your life will be fabulous!

  17. Nan
    Nan says:

    The perfect ending, you telling Melissa that you love her because even if she met the perfect man tonight and married him, no idea of the outcome but you’ll still love her.

  18. jessica
    jessica says:

    I feel like penelope is melissa’s not-so-ghost writer in the vein of the new era Carrie Bradshaw. Same man problems, different generation.

    I have to admit Melissa’s love life is becoming a guilty pleasure to read about.

  19. Lena
    Lena says:

    But wait. Melissa is an INTJ. I am suspicious of any scheme that involves her acting like a typical woman like the ones from Venus. I am an INTJ who was married to an ENFJ once upon a time, then at some point we realized that I was the man and he was the woman (not literally, but you know, emotionally). I didn’t need or want his affection much of the time the way he needed it from me. And he wanted to ‘provide’ for me, as would be considered ‘normal’ (giving and receiving) but I didn’t need or want that either. I made more than him; I just wanted occasional companionship and mostly alone time so I could do my thing. Neither of us got what we wanted. I think Melissa should not pretend she’s from Venus if she’s not.

  20. Stacy
    Stacy says:

    Melissa, I’m not sure how good my advice is as I am not dating. I am 50 and happily married. But I do believe that good communication and understanding your “audience” applies to not only dating/marriage, but everything else in life. So I think you are on the right track. Maybe follow pages/events on social media that represent the type of man you are looking for to learn of groups/events where you may meet them. Call me old-fashioned, but common interests and values are a great foundation for a good relationship. Best wishes for you in this!

  21. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    When I was 22, the 30ish year old guys I was dating in SF complained about how desperate and pushy women their age were. They complimented me for being so “fun” and “chill” and “not bringing up babies on the first date.” I am hardly chill, so I knew these women must be really stressed out!

    I’d date the same version of SF man for 6-7 months, unsure of his true intentions. (Side note: if you’re unclear about his intentions, they are likely not in your best interest…) I became afraid of turning into the biological-clock-ticking, baby-daddy-seeking woman these Peter Pans complained about, so I made finding love my #1 priority.

    I read everything I could get my hands on about dating to find a good husband, and created rules for myself. When I met my now partner, I could sense it didn’t matter how I played it. I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.

    So I broke all my rules. I slept with him right away. I stopped dating other people immediately. Both of these are big no-nos. But my partner asked me to be his girlfriend within a few weeks and told me he loved me within 2 months. I was shocked at how easy it was to get a boyfriend. All it took was a man who loved my company and honestly wanted to be in a committed relationship.

    Now I can see clearly the things I did wrong dating in SF. I wasn’t qualifying my buyers. I wasted a lot of time. I knew these men liked me, that they weren’t having a better time with another woman, so I would wait for them to ask me to be their girlfriend. I was routinely baffled when they didn’t move the ball forward. Now I see that it didn’t matter how much they liked me because they weren’t looking for commitment. They didn’t come out and say this directly, but looking back I can see they shared it in coded ways (eg: a guy who has slept with 100 women is “ready to commit for the right woman;” or a man who admits to having a healthy dating life hasn’t been in a relationship for 4 years). If (god forbid) I ever had to be single again, I would be so much better at finding a boyfriend. Hindsight is 20-20.

    The best author on this stuff is Dr. Duana Welch. She offers science based dating advice to optimize your odds of finding a man to marry. She has a blog,, and a book. I especially enjoy her on podcasts and youtube ( Melissa – go read and watch everything by her. She should become the voice that guides you.

    • Lauren
      Lauren says:

      Other resources:

      – Have Him at Hello (book)

      – Calling in the One (book)
      My best friend and I found our partners within weeks of finishing this book. Might be too feely for Melissa, but I can strongly recommend it for Fs.

      – Million Dollar Matchmaker (TV Show)
      Take this show with a grain of salt, but there are lessons to learn by watching other people get schooled in their blind spots.

      – Attached (book)

      Resources to help your relationship once you’ve found him:

      – How to be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo

      – How to be an Adult by David Richo

      – 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

  22. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    “The ending,” I tell her, “is that we love you.”

    I love this. Such a great sentence, Penelope. One of life’s greatest pleasures = a perfect sentence wrapping up a good piece of writing.

  23. Rachel INFJ
    Rachel INFJ says:

    I loved “The Tao of Dating” by Ali Binazir. It’s geared towards women like Melissa — intelligent and successful, yet unable to find a man worthy of them. The rules you mentioned remind me a lot of the spirit of the book, which focuses on embracing the power of femininity (and self-love). I highly recommend it!

    • Jen
      Jen says:

      His book says that all men cheat and to expect it and ignore it. You like that thinking? Or are you a plant (or him) promoting his book?

      • Rachel INFJ
        Rachel INFJ says:

        Jen, I don’t seem to recall that bit — can you point me to the part you are referring to?

        I agree that there were several parts of the book where I can see how it would rub some people wrong, but I choose to focus on things that could serve me and leave the rest.

        And no, I’m not a “plant.” How strange to suggest so. I’m a person, one who found some value in a book and thought I’d share my thoughts, as they are relevant to this conversation.

  24. Sara
    Sara says:

    Dating can be exhausting. It can also be a lot of fun. I like all the same books and rules. I summed up all the advice back when I was dating 10+ years ago – if a guy is thinking about you, you’ll know. He will call, text, message, find you someway somehow. So find a guy that’s thinking of you. In the meantime, date a lot of people so you are never hung up on one guy wondering when/if he will call.

  25. Girl feeling hot
    Girl feeling hot says:

    Maybe it is just me, but all this talk about giving and receiving is turning me on… I guess this feeling corroborates the adequacy of Melissa’s tips to the subject of finding a mate!

  26. INFJ guy
    INFJ guy says:

    > Melissa says, “Don’t write the rules. It’s embarrassing. Everybody will think it’s lame.”

    Embarrassment in front of an appreciative person might be where the magic/femininity/attraction/power is at… Less is more: the more unreasonably strong the feeling compared to the actual risk the better. Like being brave enough to touch feet with someone under a table, or to tell someone you’re attracted to them when it feels scary.

    In the realm of business, it could be admitting to an entrepreneur that you actually need help with something, or an entrepreneur being brave enough to admit in marketing materials that they’re genuinely passionate about a particular problem.

    So thank you Penelope and Melissa for talking about this subject despite embarrassment. I am embarrassed to post this comment but I’m choosing to be brave instead of quiet.

    Also, for any readers who’d like to listen to audiobooks about what men need, what women need, etc. during your commute: Alison Armstrong has tons of MP3s that can be downloaded for free.

  27. Lauren INFJ
    Lauren INFJ says:

    I loved this! These dating rules are old fashioned but they are wise, common sense truths that we need to hear! Thank you Penelope for sharing these gems!
    Btw, SingleF and ValterV are internet trolls. I’ve read this entire comment thread and they are definitely working together to attack the sage advice you are giving your lucky readers. haha it’s so obvious. Internet trolling is a thing now and they may even get paid to do it. Notice the constant lecturing that we have too much privilege, that we’re classicist or sexist. It’s very condescending and they are training us (subtlety) on what is politically correct, according to their narrative. Because they know what’s right and we, the readers, clearly need to be lectured by them!
    You really have to ask yourself why would anyone attack this good advice? But, Penelope, you’re so smart–you’re already aware. You challenged them back. It’s just interesting bc I’ve never noticed trolls on this site until now. Really, It’s a badge of honor. It means you are not pushing the status quo. It means you are actually helping people. It means you are doing something right when people like that attack you. Keep up the excellent work!

    • singleF
      singleF says:

      Not everyonr who says stuff you don’t agree with is a troll. See also my comment below. You need to back off. You’re paranoid and taking this way too seriously. I do queestion your reading ability. The funny thing about sexism and classism is that people often don’t know consciously they’re being that way, so it does need to be said explicitly. I would say more, but this is a time-suck and I am *not* being paid or smoking what you’re clearly smoking. Again, not everyone you disagree with who comments >1 time is a troll. I guess Penelope only wants tush-kissing comments, not actual discussion. Goodbye…I am done again,refuse to give in to your off-topic flaming. I have a life outside of this.

      • Elizabeth ENFJ
        Elizabeth ENFJ says:

        SingleF, you made me laugh because this is exactly how a troll would respond. You aren’t covering your tracks very well!

        If you knew anything about Meyers Briggs types, you would know that Penelope does not care about having her “tush” kissed. She cares about interesting ideas with zero regard to any emotion that might be attached for you or her or anyone else, unless that emotion is part of the idea. I thought she responded thoughtfully and with surprising restraint to your ranty tirades. Plenty of people don’t want kids, but no one wants to marry a sourpuss.

        You keep saying you’re done commenting and yet you come back again and again. That life of yours is waiting, go live it!

        • singleF
          singleF says:

          Penelope isn’t this ego-less Buddha you make her out to be; she’s so “emotionless” that she went out of her way to personally ask me not to comment DAYS AGO. Today is Thursday, she asked me to stop on Sunday, I believe. But if people are going to be deliberately inflammatory, I will defend myself, if only to show that free speech ain’t dead.

          TIMESTAMPS ARE AWESOME and show I DO have a life and have not been on here for days. But I’m not goig to be bullied for my “tone” while your hero goes around having a tone, and then have people accuse me,with their destructive and baseless paranoia, of being a “troll.” Words have meaning, and you’re beig hurtful. In none of my posts was I being hurtful to anyone. Saying what you might not want to consider in your bubble lives is not being (at least not intentionally) hurtful. Going around calling someone a “troll” with ZERO EVIDENCE is being hurtful. If anyone actually examined the timestamps of my comments, as I continue advocating with my quasi-mantra “timestamps are awesome,” they would see I do have a life and haven’t been “working with” anyone–really, with that paranoia, try smoking less.

          You want your hero to win, so you’ll say whatever to defend her, wihout cpnsidering the fact that I’m not a troll– just someone who doesn’t eat her dogma with a spoon.

          Again, not everyone who has a contrary opinion to youra is not inherently, intrinsically, a troll. Sorry for the rude awakening there.

          Funny thing is: you can’t harass and bully someone into not commenting, then say, “see, they’re a troll for not commenting!”

          As others have pointed out, um, there’s nothing exactly wrong with what I have been saying.

          If you actually READ the content of the posts I made, you would know I said that women who don’t want children ARE far less likely to be married than those who can go along with the program. I didnt say it’s impossible, just far less likely, and no one’s disputed *that,* depressingly. It would be *reckless* of me to structure my life, like Melissa’s doing, around something with a low likelihood of happening

          I actually explained Melissa’s privilege rather well, but since at least one of you is confused: most of us can’t “cut our job in half” to devote to dating/marriage hunt. Many in large cities with high rent find earning enough to be able to live alone/host highly challenging. These are markers of CLASS, and, thus, privilege. Perfectly nice poor people who might want and deserve to be married can’t do these suggestions, and, frankly, if you’re of a certain CLASS, they’re kind of obvious. When you have more $, dating’s a lot easier, too, and dating is a nimbers game. I’m poor (NOT being paid for this) so I go on fewer dates, and slowing down my progress in ever possibly being married.

          Maybe there’s a man out there who likes that I don’t kiss @ss and am capable of independent thought without insulting anyone, I don’t know.

          Oh, but I’m a “sourpuss.”
          Or maybe your gender biases are showing– would you call a MAN saying everything I’m saying a “sourpuss,” or an INDEPENDENT FREETHINKER? I’ve been so done with Penelope’s “social” advice for agea, but this post really struck me with how bad the advice is and how it does, like many others, play into the traditional gender roles that have held women back for so long.

          Some people don’t like challenges into how their bread is buttered, apparently.

          Maybe stop harassing people for having points of view that doesn’t align wih yours– maybe try saying something remotely helpful, as some people have been capable of posiively responding to my comments…while I’ve been muzzled by PT personally…Still see everything by email…again, timestamps are awesome and actually pretty totally vindicate me of any of these “troll” claims…

          I am done, and have been, since Sunday morning (what day is it? Guess I wasn’t living). I am not a troll, and anyone who wants to keep saying so: you’re really sooooo invested in your POV that you’ll hurl personal insults to do it. That doesn’t say so much about the strength of your POV.

          That Penelope personally wrote to me to censor and silence me while she lets y’all claim I’m a troll when I’m not demonstrates EXACTLY how much she does want her butt kissed. It can be messy feeling to be wrong, but don’t take out your mess on me. Sorry-not-sorry on the caps throughout, but you folk are paranoid and ridiculous and I do have a life. Instant karma and all. Peace out. Oh, and feel free to apologize at any time, but, like with getting married, not holdiv my breath. I sleep well…I don’t tell people to believe in fairy tales.

        • (another) Lauren (who also happens to be an INFJ)
          (another) Lauren (who also happens to be an INFJ) says:

          Now here’s a question for Penelope:

          Which personality type is most likely to be a sourpuss? And which personality type is most likely to be a troll? I’m dying to know!

    • ValterV
      ValterV says:

      @Lauren INFJ
      You’re so funny :-)

      I’m so a troll that I keep a blog about relationships and happiness.
      In my blog, at least, I never give “absolute recipes” that always work for everybody… because they do not exist.
      People are different, situations are different, needs are different. That’s why anyone needs to find what works for him / her.
      Penelope’s advice _can_ work for someone – but not for everyone.

      When someone says “this is the RIGHT way” for everyone, he usually has a very narrow viewpoint: life is always so much larger than that. You like what Penelope said because that’s what you want to hear – simple as that.

      Anyone really believing there’s “ONE RIGHT” answer for everybody, they should also believe that there’s only ONE kind of man and ONE kind of woman. Do you? :-)

  28. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    After I had broken up with my last boyfriend, before my husband, I was pretty misrable. Mainly because I kept dating jack asses. I dated opposite with the next guy. a guy who designed a date, held the door for me, and called me first. I married because I found my best friend and he didn’t drive me nuts.

    As I think about dating I wonder if my boys will grow up to be men who know how to date, or men who suck. I think women are more prone to put another’s needs before their own (why I don’t know) so, I think it’s important that a guy knows how to appericate it, rather than take advantage of it. I feel very appericated when my husband plans dates. Maybe the question is, do my boys know how to show appericate on to others, or do they just know how to take advantage?

  29. MH
    MH says:

    Okay, I’m coming in late to the party. Can’t say I have ever had a hard time getting a date in my twenties. As my husband says women have the power until they are 35. After that not so much. I can’t tell you how many desperate, over botoxed,tight ass women with thigh gap are desperately looking for a date / partner in my very large city. By the way the rules that you posted are spot on. And single F if you can, try to move out of your big city. Plenty of other places you can make a decent buck that can afford a nice lifestyle.

    • HM Sofia
      HM Sofia says:

      I couldn’t agree more with the comment to move away from a very large city like SF, LA, NYC if you want to find a partner. Hook up apps have created the illusion (or the reality, in some instances) of limitless sex partners and a virutal meat market. Faced with a lot of choices and easy sex, men don’t have the incentive to try harder since most of them are not looking for a picket fence and committment to begin with. So, move away from the hip, densely populated with single young women cities get my vote for a dating rule.

    • Kate
      Kate says:

      I don’t know if it’s necessarily “move out of the big city” as it is “move somewhere with favorable gender ratios or where people typically have certain values”

      I loved dating in Houston. Lots of high-quality men there who act like men.

      Check out the book Date-onomics! Women- move to Colorado or Washington State!

  30. Kate
    Kate says:

    Good for Melissa! She’s identified her mistakes and it sounds like she’s on the right track.

    Penelope, your “Blueprint for a Woman’s Life” and other articles changed my life. I was 25 and focused on my career and dating the wrong man when I read your women/marriage posts. At first I was outraged by what you wrote! Then I slowly realized that you weren’t wrong about anything.

    At 28 I moved to Houston and made finding my husband my #1 priority

    I’m 30 and married to a breadwinner who is perfect for me

    Love you Penelope! I recommend you to everyone.

  31. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    Melissa has established a pattern now in her dating so what she needs to do is understand why she is attracted to those men and heal herself. She’s just going to destroy her ability to trust and have genuine connection if she keeps going full throttle dating these men thinking she’s changed the game by not moving in. I have heaps of girlfriends and some are chronically single and think it’s hard to find a great guy and the others are settled in nice relationships with great guys. Those girls didn’t get lucky – they were raised with healthier attachment styles which allowed them to become attracted to and date good partners. Also, I think Hooking Up Smart and The Rules Revisited are the best online resources for dating.

    SingleF you sound manic. Go meditate or do some yoga.

  32. Organizzazione matrimoni a Varese
    Organizzazione matrimoni a Varese says:

    I’m actiong as a wedding planner in Italy and I daily meet couples often composed of people very busy due to their reciprocal job and I can assure that, with the correct determination, everything is possibile (in terms of relationship) even if involved in very big and busy job!
    So…don’t give up! Stay tuned and schedule everything to make it possible! ;)

  33. johnrobort
    johnrobort says:

    I agree that there were several parts of the book where I can see how it would rub some people wrong, but I choose to focus on things that could serve me in intj.

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