The Book Of Love – my top ten rules for dating…
Every few years – or is it every few days? – a new book comes out telling people what rules to follow in dating. Often it’s rules to help women make sure men will marry them, or rules to help men get women to give them their phone numbers. Well, as a dog, I don’t know much about marriage or phone numbers; what I understand is LOVE. Love is extremely easy for me – I’ve never spent a day not loaded with it, acting on it, and often getting in some trouble for it! But I see you humans struggle with it all the time.
So I’ve worked my thoughts down to five simple rules – with one additional bit. If you follow these, you really should be able to find love. I can’t tell you how quickly, or promise it will last forever. But I can tell you that if you don’t at least follow the five, you’re going to be pretty miserable in your search. Believe me – I see it every day.
Rule One: Know Yourself
This is very difficult, because no person has ever known themselves fully. But the more you know about yourself, the better off you are.
It’s amazing how honored this rule is. The Temple at Delphi in ancient Greece had this rule written on it, and one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines says it beautifully, “To Thine Own Self Be True.”
But do I mean that you shouldn’t ask someone cute to a movie until you’ve meditated twenty hours a day for twenty years? Of course not. No, I mean that you can’t really be a good boyfriend or girlfriend, or certainly husband or wife, without knowing yourself first. What do you really care about? What do you really like? What do you really hate?
Teenagers, as I so often say, are really brilliant and passionate. But they also do care a great deal about what other teens think. So, for example, a teenager might spend a lot of time listening to some music because it’s popular, that they really don’t like all that much. Why? Because it’s important to them to like what’s cool! Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but if a teen truly Knows Themselves, they’ll realize that what they love is appearing cool, not that music itself.
Similarly, it’s very normal for humans to go through a stage growing up where they very strongly believe in exactly what their parents believe – watch twelve-year-olds in a political argument; they’ll passionately believe they’ve looked at all sides of an issue, when they’re really arguing about whose mom is more right! What’s funny is that, a few years later, those same kids will just as passionately argue that everything their parents believe in is wrong!
Because of this, I’m a big fan of waiting on any serious commitment till you’ve aged past both of those. Know what YOU believe. Only then can you truly offer yourself to another.
Rule Two: Know Your Boundaries – and Enforce Them!
I’m not judgmental. I know of people who don’t even see each other’s faces until they’ve married, and others who wouldn’t even commit to calling each other boyfriend-and-girlfriend until they’ve moved in together. Some people are only comfortable with holding hands, and others… well, have you heard about this movie out now whose title sounds like it’s about a beautiful Irish Wolfhound but it’s actually about people who like spanking and being spanked?!
I don’t care what your romantic boundaries are (as long as you don’t do anything to anyone that they don’t want, or to anyone who isn’t old enough to choose). But it is VITAL that you know what they are. So many female humans write me about having gone out with boys and done things they didn’t feel ready for, and they feel awful about it. Even some boys feel pressured. And it’s SO common for young people to not feel they have the right to say what they want and don’t want to each other.
All of these are recipes for discomfort or disaster. So, as well as knowing yourself, decide before you go out with anyone what you will and won’t do. And of course, know that that can change over time.
But don’t just decide it – ENFORCE it. If you don’t want a boy to touch your leg, and he does, tell him in no uncertain terms that that’s not okay. If you don’t want your date texting you ten times a day, let her know. And if that person doesn’t respect the boundaries you’ve set, DUMP THEM! You don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t respect you. It can only go badly!
Meanwhile, someone who does respect your boundaries will feel good to you. And you’ll find that you can still have lots of fun within those rules. And THAT is a great foundation for a great relationship!
Rule Three: Give What You Want!
You’ve all heard of the Golden Rule, “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You,” right? Well one thing I find people forget is to take this to a higher level in relationships.
For example, let’s say you’re someone who feels really bad when people don’t pay close attention to what you say. So sure, it’s great to (following Rule One) be aware of that, and (following Rule Two) insist that anyone you date does listen closely to you. But the best way to bring in a partner who does that is for you to pay really close attention to others! Do it yourself, and you’ll attract people who also value it. It’s that simple.
Now I don’t mean this to an extreme literal level. For example, I love getting tummy rubs from Handsome, but my paws would scratch him up if I tried to give them back! But in a broader sense, I do value touch and warmth and someone making me feel good. So as much as Handsome rubs my tummy, I lie against him, and lick his face and hands, and do anything I can to give him the same touch and warmth he gives me.
Similarly, I like a mixture of lots of attention and some distant space. So that’s just what I give him. And it works.
I guess another way of saying this same rule is to not be a hypocrite in love. If you want to be treated with respect, don’t treat others with disrespect. You might find someone who is willing to put up with unequal treatment, but the relationship will always feel flat and disconnected. Far better to put what you want out there, and then let those who can’t return it go their own way. That will create room for someone better for you.
Rule Four: See Others as They Truly Are (not as someone you used to know)
This one is just about as difficult as that Know Yourself rule. I see dogs all the time who’ve been hurt or kicked by, say, a tall white male, so they are convinced that all tall white males are going to hurt or kick them. This is what’s commonly known as Prejudice, but a better name for it is Stupidity.
If you own your boundaries, then that should free you up to experience all sorts of new and fun people in your life. So if you went out with a girl ten years ago who rejected you for not being built like Channing Tatum, it’s fine to be a bit concerned that that might happen again, but it doesn’t mean that every girl feels that same way – some girls LIKE thin guys!
And if your brother and his guy friends always insulted you for having such curly hair, don’t assume all boys will be like that – some guys just LOVE long curls!
Handsome had a very funny situation with this long ago. He had a girlfriend whose father would always put on a silly show whenever he came to an automatic door, of throwing his arms open wide, like Moses parting the Red Sea, to open them. It had been cute for a while, but by now she was tired of it. Now Handsome didn’t do that, but he would always put his hand in front of him as he’d approach one of those doors, to make sure the sensor would operate. And every time he did it, she’d accuse him of doing the silly thing her dad would do. Over and over, he’d insist that he was just being safe, but she’d insist he was lying.
And you can probably guess where this is going: One day they approached an automatic door, he waved his hand out, the door didn’t open, and he stopped, but she walked straight into it – BAM! – and bruised her nose! Now he’s not an especially mean guy, but he did laugh about that for an hour. Not because he liked seeing her in pain, but because he was so tired of her insisting that he was doing something just because her dad had done it. No, he was himself.
So is everyone else. Give them a chance to prove it. For better and for worse.
Rule Five: Speak Up!!!
Yeah, I know I said that thing before about enforcing boundaries, but what else do you have to say? Do you love the way that person smiles when they’re embarrassed? Do you wish they wouldn’t put themselves down so much? Do you just melt when they’re wearing that one outfit? Do you find their humor outrageously funny except when they joke about that one issue you find offensive? TELL THEM!!! Why in the world wouldn’t you?
We dogs tell what we’re feeling all the time! When we want to play, when we love you, when we think you smell interesting, when you’ve stepped on our tail, when we’re sad, when we hate being locked up, when we don’t trust someone… AND WE CAN’T TALK! You have such gifts of communication – USE them!
Touching is great, and no one loves it more than I do. But you can create intimacy in so many other ways, just by letting the other person know what’s going on in you.
And by asking them things! Let’s say you’re on a date with a gorgeous girl who every boy at school is interested in. Do you really think you’re going to prove yourself something special by putting your arm around her at a show? That’s nice, but no big deal. But what if you’re the first guy to ever ask her about her cat? Her cat who she loves more than anything else in the world, who she dreams about, who she finds endlessly fascinating. All you’ve done is ask about that little creature, and suddenly she’s opening her heart to you – and thinking you’re the best guy Ever! And then imagine you respond by telling her about the dog you had when you were six, who you still miss all these years later. You’ve forged a bond with her that no other guy ever will.
Now does that mean she’ll want you for a boyfriend? Maybe not – maybe she’s interested in twenty other things that you don’t have. But maybe, just maybe, you’ve moved yourself up to the front of the line. Just by talking about what you two care about.
Now, these aren’t all the rules there are, certainly. But these are my top five. The ones to protect you from being with the wrong person. The next on my list are more fun. They include things like playing, teasing, dancing, joking, tickling… all the stuff that makes love a blast. And for those, I want to tell you about the sexiest dog I ever heard of. His name was Wolfgang.
Wolfgang was a dog Handsome had as a boy, and he had more attitude than Tramp and Rin Tin Tin put together. One day, Handsome was walking him in a park, and Wolfgang pulled away and ran off with his leash. Three teenage girls were sitting on a hillside nearby, watching a tennis match. And Wolfgang saw them and went in for an attack. Coming from behind them on the left, he licked each one on the back of the neck, just under their left earlobe. And as one would turn in shock to look, he ran to the next, licking her ear, and off to the next. So he basically created a perfect chorus line of these girls, turning to their left, to see… nothing, because he was already past them!
It was so funny, and so naughty, and yet so innocent. This was years before I was born, but I can tell you right now, I am completely in love with him, just from that story. Wolfgang LIVED romance. Just as I do.
Did any of those girls go out with him? Give him their phone number? Marry him?! Of course not – they were humans! But this spirit, this energy, mixed with him knowing himself, enforcing his boundaries, giving what he wanted, seeing others as they were, and speaking up…? He could have had any pooch he wanted!
That’s a lot to ask, I know. But if you can do all these things, you can live like me, and Wolfgang. And like every human out there who lives a life full of real love.
And I promise you, that’s a lot better than any phone number!!!
I knew some pups named Igor and Dog, who were super charming too! Happy Valentines Day to you, with a boundless sense of love in an open-ended world – where the challenge of building a frame of reference can become an art of inclusion!