Ask Dr. Tracy

Summary Guide for Dating

Once a relationship has started on a downward spiral, it's hard to turn around, so the most important part of a relationship is the beginning. That's when you set the tone for the rest of your interactions. Here are three tried and true guidelines for getting a relationship off on a sound start:


This means start slowly, as friends. A relationship that starts on too high a romantic note has nowhere to go but down.

Don't start out leaving cutesy notes and saying "I love you" too soon. If you do, the first time someone fails to say "I love you" on cue, the other person thinks, "Whoops, I better pull back." Lacking a solid basis of understanding and friendship, the relationship can then start to fizzle out over something that superficial.

Never say "I love you" until you've dated steadily for at least a month. Anything sooner is asking for trouble.


If you give too much information about yourself too soon, you lose your mystery. If you give gifts too soon, you come across as needy and desperate. If you give too much of your time too soon, the other person takes you for granted.

You know if you've given too much too soon because you feel cheated, as if you're not getting enough back.

The best way to give is intermittantly. Give just enough of yourself to let the other person see how wonderful you can be, then back off a little to see if the other person is responding, then give a little more. See "Are You Giving Too Much Too Soon?"


We all tend to overlook things in the beginning. We want to appear "cool;" we don't want to rock the boat. Wrong. Listen to your integrity. You know when you feel bad. Speak up. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Do it fast, do it first.

Often, it's the cutest guys or sexiest women who will pull something outrageous on the first date, like being an hour late or flirting with someone at the next table. Some real charmers have been getting away with murder for so long they think murder is acceptable. Don't stand for bad behavior. No matter how attracted you are to a new person, don't let them treat you like a doormat -- even once.

Be calm but firm. "Look, I've been waiting here, and you breeze in 40 minutes late without a good reason or a really sincere apology. We can't be friends if we don't have respect for each other. Maybe this date wasn't such a good idea after all." See what the other person says.

The fascinating thing about this strategy is that it's self- resolving. If your date is hopelessly spoiled or isn't seriously interested in you, he or she will go off in a huff and you'll have just saved yourself a lot of time and possible heartache. (See "For Women: Men to Avoid" or "For Men: Women to Avoid")

Or you may find your date is a basically nice person who was acting thoughtlessly (or maybe was testing you). He or she may be taken aback by being "called" on their behaviour, but they'll respect you for speaking up. Best of all, you'll feel better about yourself, no matter what the outcome.

Related Keywords: Dating Strategies, Over-Romanticizing, Giving Too Much, Qualifying Someone

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