Why relationship experts say the ‘3-month rule’ for dating is too simplistic

Published Jul 4, 2024


Dating in today’s world is a mix of excitement, confusion and advice from all directions.

From Steve Harvey’s “Think Like a Man” to the latest “Sprinkle Sprinkle” trend, everyone seems to have an opinion on how to win in the dating game.

Dating is ultimately about finding someone who resonates with your values, interests and goals.

While advice books and dating methods can offer useful tips, it’s essential to navigate relationships with an open mind and heart.

Sometimes, the sheer number of dating rules can be overwhelming. Don’t show too much interest, playing it cool. Be a damsel as some say acting a bit helpless can attract potential partners.

@joeykidney 3 month rule explained #fyp #3monthrule #dating ♬ original sound - Joey Kidney

Amidst all these guidelines, one piece of advice stands out for being, well, quite misleading, according to experts.

The 3-month rule

The “3-Month Rule” suggests that after three months of dating, you should know if the relationship is serious or not. But many relationship experts argue this isn't practical.

Everyone’s pace in relationships is different. Some might feel a strong connection within weeks, while others might need more time to open up.

We can’t run away from the fact that real-life obligations and personal challenges can make the three-month mark an unfair timeline for judging a relationship.

And to be fair, rushing to decide can lead to unnecessary stress and potentially end a relationship prematurely.

Krystal Mazzola Wood, MEd, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Phoenix, Arizona, believes the three-month dating rule is too simplistic.

Some people can hide their true selves for much longer than three months. “Think about an abusive narcissist who uses love bombing,” she told Well+good.

“They might still seem perfect at three months, but they’re just using tricks to hide their harmful behaviour.”

The do’s and don'ts of the 3-month dating rule. Picture: Pavel Danilyuk /Pexels

Patrice Le Goy, PhD, LMFT, adds that the best time to discuss “what are we” varies from person to person.

“If you live close by and see each other often, you might need less time to define the relationship compared to a long-distance scenario where you don’t spend much time together day-to-day.”

Using the  3-month rule as a dating guide

When we first like someone, we often only focus on how attractive they are. This can make us overlook their true personality.

According to a Hetexted article, using the 3-month rule helps you see if someone is really compatible with you.

By not rushing, you increase your chances of finding a partner who matches you in more meaningful ways, beyond just physical attraction.

That’s where the 3-month dating rule comes in. This guideline helps us see the full picture of who someone really is. It reminds us that what we first see is not always what we get.

For the first 90 days, the focus should be on having fun and enjoying each other's company. This doesn’t mean you should ignore your feelings.

Just keep in mind that you’re on a mission to build a healthy, long-term relationship. Taking things slow now can lead to a stronger, more genuine connection later.

The dos and don'ts of the 3-month dating rule

Do: Talk a lot during this period

Make it a point to communicate frequently. Whether through texts, calls, or face-to-face conversations, talk about everything. From silly, light-hearted topics to deep, emotional discussions, your goal is to get to know each other better.

The more you talk, the easier it will be to follow the 3-month rule. Discuss interests, beliefs, and opinions to get a full picture of who they are.

Don’t: ask them to be your partner yet

Resist the urge to label the relationship too soon. Keep it casual and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself or your date.

Don’t: feel pressured

Only do what feels right to you. It’s important to move at a comfortable pace and not feel pressured into anything you're not ready for.

Don’t: show them off just yet

While you may be excited, it’s best to keep things under wraps for now. Aim to be more than friends but less than full-blown partners during this period.

Be cautious about mentioning the rule

If you decide to tell your date about the 3-month rule, do so carefully. They might feel like they’re being tested, which can be off-putting for confident individuals and stressful for those who dislike pressure.

Find ways to test compatibility

Subtly test your compatibility. For example, to see if they’re the jealous type, mention you’re going out with friends and observe their reaction. This way, you can better understand if your values align.