There are a lot of basic–and complex–“rules” that apply to romantic entanglements. Most of these are either obvious or stupid. However, there are a few that no one brings up or talks about enough that need a little press. Some are fun and others might be a little more contentious, but all of them deserve thorough consideration.
1. The Lemon Law
Anyone who watched “How I Met Your Mother” back when it was good is familiar with The Lemon Law. The basic principle is that either party on a first date can end the date within the first five minutes with no repercussions from the other party (repercussions in this scenario being hurt feelings or further questions from the person who gets rejected). It’s genius, really. In most scenarios, it takes a long time to know whether a person is awesome, or someone you’d want to keep seeing. On the other hand, it’s frequently an almost instantaneous feeling when you realize that your date is going nowhere. Whether it’s the annoying way this person talks, a ridiculous opinion he or she immediately shares with you, or if your date looks nothing like his or her dating profile pictures, there are dozens of red flags that can immediately tell you that you really should get the hell out. Why waste any time or money when you know you’ll be anxious and annoyed as the date goes on?
2. The Splitting Of Non-Marital Assets
There are hundreds of laws regarding how divorce proceedings are supposed to be carried out. When you think about it, even a short-term relationship can yield assets that both parties feel they have a claim to. The problem is that not only are lawyers basically useless in this scenario, the two of you likely can’t afford them anyway. One could argue that if you’re in a place in your life where you can’t afford a lawyer, perhaps your assets aren’t actually worth fighting over. Argument accepted, but if you think I’m not going to take a girl to the mattresses over who gets to keep our shared puppy, you’re higher than every member of Motley Crue out on a dare-driven bender with Ozzy.
The first rule is that you lose first dibs privileges if you cheat on the person you’re dating. That’s an incontrovertible fact. Secondly, if you bought it, you keep it–unless it was a gift. This prevents the “I’m taking back the necklace I got you for your birthday two years ago” type of assholery. If you bought the crockpot, you get to keep the crockpot. You’ll need it for all those depression pot roasts you’re going to make. This entire concept is actually tied into a much larger concept I like to call…
3. The Income/Spending Algorithm
We’ve come to a point in our society where it’s not only acceptable, but also quite common for a woman to be the senior income gatherer in a relationship (the term breadwinner is outdated; it sounds like a prize racehorse from the ‘20s that your great-grandfather lost the family’s life savings on). This rule is inherently gender neutral. It stipulates that there should be an unspoken breakdown of how money comes in and goes out in a relationship. I’m calling it an algorithm rather than a formula, because a formula implies that there are specific percentages that have to be monitored at all times, which is too much effort. An algorithm is colloquially used as a hazy mathematical concept, and its inner workings are less important than the data it spits out (see: every use of an algorithm in a techno-thriller film ever). The basic idea is that the person who makes more money gets more of a say in how the money is spent. There is plenty to discuss about this topic, but the lesser paid person doesn’t just get to go out and buy a car, a fur coat, a vacation, or a microbrewery that he or she wouldn’t be able to afford without his or her significant other’s net worth. So this, combined with splitting the assets upon breaking up, provides a more stable economic structure for couples.
4. The Must-See Movie Mandate
Okay, let’s get off this depressing money train for a while. Sure, most relationships end due to financial disagreements, but that’s not all that makes up a romance. For me, there’s nothing more important than dating someone who has good taste in movies. Notice I said “good taste” and not “my taste.” I don’t want to date someone who’s seen everything I’ve seen and likes what I like. It doesn’t give me the opportunity for one of the most enjoyable activities that exists, which is watching a movie you love with someone who’s never seen it before. Their fresh eyes allow you to vicariously experience what it was like to see your favorite films for the first time.
In light of this, both people in the relationship get one mandated film viewing per month, and either can institute this mandate at any time. It will often happen in the form of finding out your significant other has never seen something, and then you immediately demand that the two of you sit down and watch it. When you are the one who hasn’t seen the film, you’re obviously allowed to form your own opinion about it, but you have an obligation to treat it with some respect–your partner is obviously showing it to you for a reason. Girls, please actually pay attention to “The Big Lebowski,” because the subtle things in that movie make it the classic that it is. For the dudes, don’t write off “Clueless” because of what it appears to be on the surface. It’s a hilarious semi-satire, and it deserves to be watched intently.
I’m fully aware that the gender tropes don’t necessarily line up like this all the time. Ladies, if you find out your man somehow missed “Reservoir Dogs,” kick him in the pants and sit his ass down. Conversely, don’t be afraid to make your girlfriend watch “What Women Want” just because you’re the guy, even if she likes Tony Scott movies more than you do. It’s 2014, people. Act like it.