The Golden Rule of Dating


We all love the Golden Rule, right? It’s the kind of basic human rule of interaction that is so fundamental to our experience that it has popped up independently in civilizations all over the world. It is part sociology, psychology, religion, and philosophy.

Wikipedia tells us…
Rushworth Kidder notes that the Golden Rule can be found in the early contributions of Confucianism. Kidder notes that this concept’s framework appears prominently in many religions, including “Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world’s major religions.”

Rules with this kind of universality are hard to come by, but dating has a kind of “Golden Rule” all its own.


Maybe that’s not how a rule for the ages should be voiced, exactly, but it’s as solid a rule as you’re likely to find in your search for love.

In my role running eHarmony’s premium matchmaking service, eH+, I come face to face with people all the time who are unaware of this rule. Without a doubt, the people who have the hardest time finding love are the ones who think they can violate this rule. They somehow want a person to “complete” them by bringing all the things to the relationship that they don’t have.

Here are some examples torn from the pages of eH+:

1. A woman who is a VP of Finance at a bank and lives a life of numbers. She is serious, corporate, and all about the bottom line. She wants a free-spirited man who is creative, spontaneous, and sees life as an adventure — things she would never do.

2. The man who is “husky” and likes to watch football on TV. He will tell you that he likes sports, but he hasn’t touched a sport in 25 years. His favorite sport is watching TV. He wants an outdoorsy, athletic woman who is built like a tennis pro and is happy to let him watch college ball all day Saturday and pro ball on Sunday. If she were to suggest they spend Sunday hiking, he would laugh in her face.

These people are living under the delusion that they can attract a person who is very different from them. Why would a woman who is fit and worldly want to be with a man who spends most of his free time watching TV and is carrying an extra 45 pounds? If you’re thinking that the answer is compatibility, let me share this corollary to dating’s Golden Rule:

eH+StillCompatibility Doesn’t Supersede Attraction

eHarmony is a big believer in compatibility. Being in a relationship with a person who is compatible with you in the ways that are important and foundational is key to long-term success. But you’ll never get to have a relationship if you don’t have attraction.

Maybe you should be attracted to a person just because eHarmony has determined that you are compatible in deep and important ways…but it rarely works that way. The human animal usually needs some degree of attraction or chemistry to even want to explore a relationship. We think that’s a good thing. Relationships can be hard as the years roll on, and your physical desire for a partner is an important glue for holding the relationship together in those tough times. We are BIG proponents of attraction.

So, the people I described above may believe that they can skirt attraction and just glide in using compatibility. They may believe that their charming personalities can make up for the lack of attraction likely to be present during the date. My experience tells me that they will almost always be wrong.

You gotta be what you want to attract.

I’m sure you’re thinking about the outlier situation where a very rich man is able to attract a woman who is very dissimilar to him. This does happen, but remember these points:

1. The exception proves the rule. The fact that a person must have lots and lots of cash to counterbalance the natural state of things proves how pervasive this rule is.

2. We can debate whether attraction is taking place in these relationships. The rich person is attracted. What about the beautiful person who is there because of the money? Are they attracted or just taking advantage of a business opportunity?

Try this simple exercise. Write down a list of traits you want in a partner. It’s best if that list is limited to 10 or so traits. Now, ask several friends to write down 10 traits that would describe you. Is there any overlap? If not, you need to reconsider what you want in a partner. By focusing on either the ways you can change to better attract the person you want, OR the ways you can change your expectations to reflect who you are, the more pleasant your dating search is going to be.

Have you ever thought about the person you are looking for — and what traits you share with a person like this?

If this article gave you the confidence to find your match, try eharmony today!

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