Are The Rules telling me how to be fake?

Dear Lisa,

I’ve just read The Rules Book for the first time and I have a bone to pick. How are we as women supposed to balance expressing the full range of our emotions and be authentic yet in compliance with “The Rules” telling us that we should act as though we were “born happy”?

–Rule Breaker ( ♀ Ladysmith)


Dear Rule Breaker,

This is one of the difficulties I have with The Rules Book also; it is full of messages telling women how to act around men, which has left many of my female clients like there is maybe something wrong with their ‘true nature’. For those who aren’t familiar, here are a few quotes:

Dress nice, be nice, good-bye and go home. Not too much feeling, investment, or heart. You’re probably wondering how long you an keep up this act, right? Don’t worry, it gets easier! – Rule #9: How to act on dates 1, 2 & 3

…tuck this book away in your top drawer and make sure any self-help books are out of sight. Have interesting or popular novels or nonfiction books in full view. Hide in the closet any grungy bathrobes or something you don’t want him to see, such as a bottle of Prozac. – Rule #20: Be Honest but Mysterious

Don’t fill him in on details of raising children or how your ex-husband was supposed to baby-sit and is just so unreliable! It isn’t necessary for a man to know you haven’t gotten your alimony payments for the last three months and Tommy really needs new sneakers.’ – Rule #24: Slowly Involve Him in Your Family & Other Rules for Women with Children

Thankfully, the last quote is followed by the caveat: ‘Please do not take this advice the wrong way. We are not telling you to be ashamed of your past or your children. Just wait a while before involving him…. Meeting your children should be an honour, not a routine occurrence. Just the way you hold back on other things in the beginning of your relationship, this too should take time. Make him work (again? yes) for the privilege of meeting your loved ones.’

Ellen and Sherrie are right; men are attracted to mystery, and that despite themselves, they do love the chase. These women say things that everyone thinks, but never say out loud because it seems manipulative to do special things to make yourself more attractive to a man. Isn’t it?

Here is how I look at the book: the masculine is attracted to the feminine, and the feminine is attracted to the masculine; gay or straight, this is how it works. There are plenty of reasons for this, but at the root of it, the masculine is looking for the flowing, sensitivity of the feminine, and the feminine is looking for the steady, security of the masculine. This book gives you some foundational rules for how to act more feminine in a world where women are so practiced at being masculine – let him take the lead, be mysterious, don’t chase etc. They throw in a crash course in self love – be a creature unlike any other, love only those who love you – which is really where the cultivation of your femininity comes from… only they do a poor job of bringing the two together.

Throughout the book it is implied that if you have adequate self esteem/confidence/worth/love, you won’t want to break the rules anyway, but it is important to remember that it takes more than just practicing the rules to actually feel good about yourself. It’s not that the rules are wrong because they don’t tell the complete story. In fact, for some women, The Rules are a great foundation for understanding the complexity of the masculine / feminine dynamic. But they are just that, a foundation that only really begins to describe how the relationship dance works.

To answer your question, think of the rules as a temporary solution to be used while cultivating self-love. A lot of women share their emotions and feelings with men to get something from them as we have been taught that this is a viable way of securing a mate. The Rules is setting out to stop this and other such learned behaviours. However, as your self esteem/confidence/worth and love increase, your ability to bring your full range of emotions (without their hidden agenda) into the relationship naturally and authentically will too, and you will find that, for the most part, The Rules do naturally fit into the mix as well.

– Lisa



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