Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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“The Rules”


The Rulesw (by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider) is arguably one of the most idiotic books ever written, intended for gullible women looking for a gullible husband. The core statement: Play hard to get and men will throw themselves at you.

My take is that the ideas behind the book can help a woman who already is attractive to men with focusing on those men that would be willing to marry her (possibly even slightly increase her chances within that subset) and give her an indication what man would make what kind of husband. However, turning the romantically unsuccessful woman into a wife is not within the books abilities—at least not when correcting for other, semi-incidental factors, e.g. the possibility that a woman spends more time thinking on relationships and dating techniques after reading the book.

Below I will discuss some of the specific rules that the book and its follow-ups propose (quoted from the above link, retrieved on 2009-04-10).

Many of the rules are by their nature impossible to comment upon without significantly more context, do not need or warrant any kind of comment, and/or are not actual rules. These are marked with “NCA”—No Comment Applicable. (Nevertheless, a short comment is on occasion added.)

Note that I do agree with many of the rules below; however, often for the reason that they remove some of the annoyances that women tend to bring into a man’s life. If the advice is given with that intention (e.g. to not be a burden, to give men a fair treatment), it is sound; if the intention is just to increase the woman’s chances of getting married, it is unsound. Notably, in the latter case, the woman will make sacrifices in her own behavior to accomplish the specific goal of getting married, which can lead to future resentment or cause problems if she is not able to keep the behavior up in the long term.

Disclaimer: I have over the years read a number of articles and discussions concerning this book (and its follow-ups), read large parts of the books website, and also spent some time reading a forum on the topic; however, I have not actually read the book it self. The implication is that I could, conceivably, be unfair to the details of the book; however, not to the message that the authors have deliberately spread.

Original rules with comments

  1. Be a “Creature” Unlike Any Other

    The actual meaning of this ambiguous statement seems to be two-fold: Firstly, work on your looks and behavior to make them the best possible; secondly, be convinced, irrespective of facts, that you are this creature.

    Within limits, this interpreted advice is sound—and incidentally more or less the same thing that the pick-up communities, m.m., preach to men.

    I see at least two things amiss, though: Firstly, the formulation, per se, is pompous, misleading, and illogical. Secondly, there are too many women out there who are too full of themselves and would need more humility—probably largely because a never-ending stream of books, magazines, and TV features preach exactly this kind of attitude. Many (particularly US-American women) do not have any real perspective on their attractiveness, and would do well to be taken down a few pegs. This rule throws fuel on the fire. Woman: You are a woman, not a princess, not a goddess, and not God’s gift to men.

    A better formulation would have been: Pay attention to your looks and behavior, and be confident.


    Women should also beware that looks is only one part of the package, with personality, mental compatibility, high/low maintenance, ..., also being very important factors for long-term relationships: Too many women seem to equate their attractiveness with their looks, which may work when the target is to get laid or find a short-term boy-friend, but is insufficient when the target is to keep or marry a quality boy-friend.

  2. Don’t Talk to a Man First (and Don’t Ask Him to Dance)

    Very unsound: The best men are often a bit shy and (when younger) very inexperienced with women. Refusing to take initiative will increase the chances of landing a less suitable candidate.

    Further, for the less attractive women, it is often hard to get a boy-friend (let alone a husband) at all when adhering to this rule; but they still have chances when they, themselves, actively approach.

  3. Don’t Stare at Men or Talk Too Much

    Staring, within limits, need not be bad; and there is no reason to avoid non-creepy stares. The first half is one of several misguided rules that prevents the woman from displaying interest.

    The second half has my full endorsement.

  4. Don’t Meet Him Halfway or Go Dutch on a Date

    Sexist and anachronistic bull-shit! A woman unwilling to do her part is not marriage material, nor would I continue dating her after I caught on.

    Equality goes both ways: If a woman is not content with being a “maid with benefits”, she should not expect that men follow stereotypes from the past.

    (I suspect that a part of the idea behind this advice is that a woman looking to marry a “care-taker”, be a trophy wife, or similar, can use it as a filter to find a man compatible with her wishes in this regard.)

  5. Don’t Call Him & Rarely Return His Calls

    Effectively: Send him the signal that you are “not that into him”, and hope that he is either already up-over-his-ears in you or a loser without options...

    Speaking for myself: If I do not see clear signs of reciprocated interest, I am not going to bother with a woman—no matter her level of attractiveness. I have better things to do with my time than to “chase” her; in particular, as there are other women around who do not need chasing.

  6. Always End Phone Calls and dates First

    This advice can be sound: Firstly, it is often beneficial for all parties to end an activity before saturation hits; secondly, leaving the other party wishing for more can increase the probability that he will be interested in further encounters.

    Nevertheless, I see some problems. Consider that: It can be disputed whether this is ethical (when done deliberately). People who engage in game play often do more harm than good. If both parties apply this principle (note that the advice works both ways) phone calls and dates will be short indeed. Many men, including me, dislike phone calls, and a woman intent on hanging up before such a man does would see her phone calls reduced to a minimum of e.g. “When shall we meet?”—not something most women would enjoy. Too many women will try to blindly adhere to this rule without applying common sense (the “Always” is certainly ill advised). This can send further signals of disinterest, which will likely back-fire (cf. previous item).

  7. Don’t Accept a Saturday Night Date after Wednesday

    The idea appears to be to either demonstrate that she is too popular to be available on short notice or to filter out men for whom she is the second choice. Both can have some justification; however, unless she actually has plans for Saturday night, she should not pretend to do so—the truth about her popularity will come out sooner or later on the road to marriage. Similarly, it can not be assumed with certainty that she was the second choice (possibly, the man prefers spontaneous activities over planned ones; possibly, he had work or family related plans that were canceled). In both cases, she disallows herself the possibility of an enjoyable evening where she could have improved her standing.

    An interesting aspect when considering first dates: Many men ask women out once, and take a declination as an indication of disinterest (or consider the ball in the woman’s court). They will simply not bother to ask her out again. (Note that even a rain-check is likely to be interpreted as disinterest unless the woman immediately suggests an alternative. After all, women who actually are uninterested often use rain-checks as excuses.)

  8. Fill Up Your Time before the Date


  9. How to Act on Dates 1,2, & 3 End the date first especially if you like him.

    NCA. The last part will risk a severe back-firing (cf. previous items).

  10. How to Act on Dates 4 through Commitment Time


  11. Always end the date first

    This is for a repetition of a previous rule. The same comments apply here.

  12. Stop Dating Him if He Doesn’t Buy You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine’s Day

    Very dangerous advice. Consider that: What constitutes a “romantic gift” (as opposed to “gift”) is a matter of personal opinion. Men tend to think differently than women and will often go for a gift, without thoughts on romance. Giving gifts very early in a relationship (outside a card or a few flowers) is often considered a bad idea, and many men (and women) will deliberate refrain from doing so. Men can very easily forget a birthday altogether (and, despite what women invariably believe, this is not an indication of his interest level or his feelings). V-Day is a money-making scheme in the eyes of many men.

    Effectively, this advice is like saying “A fish that is not silvery is too small, so throw it back into the water again.”—an irrelevant criterion used to make a major decision.

    The one justification can be found in the higher likelihood of a “romantic gifter” being a care-taker or similar. (Cf. the rule about not going dutch.)

  13. Don’t See Him More than Once or Twice a Week

    Idiotic: If looking for a marriage, the sooner and better a couple gets to know each other, the better—at worst they find out that they are a poor match earlier, and can move on with their search.

    Further, forgoing a happy relationship for the sake of getting married someday in the future shows a lack of priorities.

    The justification behind the rule is a scarcity argument, and similar comments apply as elsewhere.

  14. No More than Casual Kissing on the First Date

    Apart from “Casual” being an odd phrasing, this is sound. In particular, if first-date sex does occur, the man will typically assume that the woman is in the habit of having casual sex. This, in turn, will raise natural doubts as to whether she would be faithful, how “special” he is to her, etc.


    In contrast, the common claim from women that men hypocritically look down on women who have sex on the first date, is not correct. Individual variations are certainly present, but most men will see no reason to do so. Typically, their reaction is just a pragmatical (and, actually, quite rational) division of women into fun-for-now and long-term-material—and it is harmless in comparison with some of the rules-of-thumb that women profess to using.

  15. Don’t Rush into Sex & Other Rules for Intimacy

    The second half is NCA; the first more or less the same as the preceding rule. An additional word of warning: Trying to artificially prolong the no-sex phase beyond roughly the third date is a bad idea. As time goes by, men will start to worry about being strung along, the woman being uninterested in sex, and similar; and they will note that there are typically other women around that will have sex with them.

  16. Don’t Tell Him What to Do

    Definitely follow this rule.

  17. Let Him Take the Lead

    If the woman is more comfortable being led and the man more comfortable leading (which is, for both, typically the case) then by all means, she should let him lead. However, this will vary from person to person; and a blanket advice that may go against the character of one or both is not good at all. In particular, if a woman wants to be independent, an equal partner, and a ditto decision maker, then she should certainly not sacrifice that just in order to get married.

    Notably, the rule would typically only be needed when it goes against the nature of the people involved—else they would already be following it.

  18. Don’t Expect a Man to Change or Try to Change Him

    Very good advice: The first half is something every woman should bear in mind; the second something we men would really appreciate.

  19. Don’t Open Up Too Fast

    By the formulation “Too Fast” the statement is tautological and too trivial to include. As to the validity of the underlying advice, this will depend on the motives: If they go in the direction of “Mysterious” in the next rule, it is unsound; if they aim at avoiding heart-ache by increased vulnerability too soon, it is sound; other motivations will have varying soundness.

  20. Be Honest but Mysterious

    Honesty is good, but being mysterious will depend very much on the man. Further, if mystery is part of the attraction then attraction will diminish when the mystery is gone (and, if marriage is a target, eventually it has to). Note in particular that the man may have filled out the blanks in his fantasy in a manner that leaves him disappointed when he learns the truth.

    Deliberately trying to be mysterious can harm the relationship through too much game playing.

  21. Accentuate the Positive & Other Rules for Personal Ads


  22. Don’t Live with a Man (or Leave Your Things in His Apartment)

    The second half is something we men can fully endorse. The first (I assume, with the implication “...before marriage”) is idiotic: Getting married before having already spent at least a few years living together is reckless and irresponsible—I, for one, would only contemplate doing so under extreme circumstances. Further, I strongly suspect that sufficiently many men feel the same that adhering to this rule has a negative net-effect on the chances a woman has to get married (the reasoning behind it is probably yet another “He won’t buy the cow...” argument, with the implication that living together would decrease the chances for a proposal). I grant, however, that if a woman looks to get married fast, without regard to long-term compatibility and overall chances, this rule might help.

    Of course, a major problem with this rule is that it assumes that being married is inherently superior to just living together—a claim that is disputable.

  23. Don’t Date a Married Man

    Duh! A woman actually needing this rule (and I grant that those do exist) needs to give other parts of her life attention before starting the hunt for a husband.

  24. Slowly Involve Him in Your Family & Other Rules for Women with Children

    The first part appears to be sound advice; the second NCA.

  25. Practice, Practice, Practice! (or, Getting Good at The Rules)

    Largely NCA. However: On the one hand, to practice is often sound advice; on the other, there is not much to practice here. From context I suspect that the intention behind this rule is not the success of the woman, but to get and keep her thoroughly involved in the methods of the authors—to their benefit, not hers.

  26. Even if You’re Engaged or Married, You Still Need The Rules

    In effect: The game playing and manipulation does not stop when the fish is landed, but continues ad eternam.

    The claim “Need” is obviously presumptuous and factually incorrect: Even if “The Rules” work, they are only a help. A better formulation would have been “ ... Benefit from The Rules”.

  27. Do The Rules, Even when Your Friends & Parents Think It’s Nuts

    Sounds like some kind of NLP based indoctrination attempt...

    In principle, one should not let the opinions of others get in the way of doing what one considers the right thing to do; however, common sense implies that when family and friends disapprove, one should at least consider the possibility that their concerns are valid. Under no circumstances is it the place of, in this case, the book authors to insist that the concerns of family and friends are to be dismissed out of hand.

  28. Be Smart and Other Rules for Dating in High School


  29. Take Care of Yourself and Other Rules for Dating in College


  30. NEXT! & Other Rules for Dealing with Rejection


  31. Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist.

    Why? Are the authors afraid that he will disagree with their “wisdom”? Generally, if someone feels the need to keep secrets from her therapist, chances are that it concerns something which is either very bad or very embarrassing. In this case, it could be either...

    Further, since “The Rules” can have a major effect on behavior, the way personal relations play out, etc., this rule could have a non-trivial negative impact on the therapist’s ability to do his job.

  32. Don’t Break The Rules!

    NCA. More NLP crap?

  33. Do The Rules and You’ll Live Happily Ever After!

    NCA. Shameless self-marketing without any backing proof.

  34. Love Only Those Who Love You

    This incredible narrow-minded statement misses the point of love entirely: By its very nature, love comes (and must come) with no strings attached. Further, even if someone wanted to control her emotions, this is only possibly within narrow limits. Further, positive (and negative) feelings tend to beget the same kind of feelings in the other party (although often to a lesser degree, and without guarantee); thus, this is is horrible advice. (Notably, also advice that goes against the core of many philosophical schools, including those based on Christian teachings.)

  35. Be Easy to Live With

    Amen to that!

My alternate suggestions

A few counter-rules that will probably give better results:

  1. Smile.

  2. Take care of your grooming and physique.

  3. Do not play games.

  4. Being hard to get is OK, possibly even good; playing hard to get is idiotic.

  5. Try to behave more like a man would. (Cf. Pr. Higgins’ words on the subjecte, notwithstanding the fact that the pictures he paints of men and women are much more positive, respectively negative, than can warranted by reality.)


    I stress that this does not mean that women should be less feminine—certainly not that they should load up on chewing tobacco and start target practice on spittoons. The point is rather to stop obsessing about looks, keep a cooler head, actually have a discussion about a topic that is not other people, try to see the other side of an issue, not search for the hidden message behind innocent events, ...

  6. Do approach men when you are interested.

  7. Be a responsible adult, not a spoiled girl (whether in the dating process or elsewhere); take equal responsibility and initiative.

Other versions

Occasionally, lists of rules and explanations for how to treat men/women are published as jokes. http://forums.sexyandfunny.com/showthread.php?t=15611e is so good that it goes beyond joke and becomes truly worthwhile for any woman to read.