The Dos and Don’ts of Dating

Syndicated radio, TV and film personality Steve Harvey insists if a woman wants to lure a boyfriend or a husband, she should “act like a lady,” but “think like a man.” 

One way to do that, he says, is to follow the “90-Day Rule”-wait three months before becoming intimate with a romantic prospect, so she can get to know him, his intentions and his long-term potential.

But do men and women in the D agree?

“A lot of little ‘come hither’ things that women do,” says 23-year-old Detroit filmmaker B’Daren Payne, “let me know they’ll wait 90 minutes as opposed to 90 days.”

Payne joined jeers and cheers on this topic as a dozen-plus men and women gathered recently at a downtown Detroit salon to talk about relationships. 


The conversation included some of Harvey’s advice, first laid out in his New York Times best selling book, "Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man."  He says a good man will endure a three-month probationary period to get the “cookie”-Harvey’s word for sex-from a woman he respects.

Harvey’s rules for winning the game of love are sure to spark more debates as his movie, Think Like A Man, from Sony Pictures, hits theaters nationwide on April 20.

“Ladies, until you understand the mindset of a man,” Harvey says in the film as himself, “you’re never going to win the game of love.”

The romantic comedy already has Detroiters talking about the game of love, and who should set the rules-if any should be set at all.

Playing by Harvey’s rules

If a woman is going to play by Harvey’s rules, says William Smith of Detroit, she should be consistent.

“I respect if a woman makes everybody wait,” says the 41-year-old divorced father of four, who is happily engaged.  “But if I know she gave it to my boy on the first date, and she’s making me wait because she thinks I have potential for a long-term relationship, that’s not fair to punish me because I’m a ‘keeper type.’”

Native Detroiter Jameeka Booze, 30, of Haslett, (near Lansing) believes getting to know a man is important before becoming intimate, but couples should go with the flow without rules about time. “With some guys, you feel very comfortable with them so you may sleep with them prior to being with them three months.” 

Likewise, that mindset prevents the manager for a medical records review company from following Harvey’s rule that tells women to never bring a man home until they’ve had five dates.

Detroiter Marcelus Brice, 27, who is single, works in city government and dates different women, adds,

.”My best girlfriend and I first had sex within a week of knowing each other. Then we became a couple. To this day, she’s the best woman I’ve ever dated in my life.”

But Kim Edwards, 44, of West Bloomfield, says not so fast.

“When we get the results of that blood test before we get married, and you’re (HIV) negative, and I’m negative, it’s on now. We need to look back to Biblical days and bring the godliness back to modern relationships.”

Edwards joined the recent discussion at Salon on the Park in downtown Detroit, with her husband of 15 years, Larry Edwards, Jr., 43. He says too many people overlook the fact that sex is far more than a pleasurable activity in the moment; it can result in a lifetime of raising children with someone you barely know.

“The 90-Day Rule is telling everyone to make informed decisions at the end of the day,” says Edwards, who with his wife has 13-year-old twins. “Being a responsible adult, if you decide to make that leap into intimacy, it’s important to be responsible and use protection.”

Stan Rayford, a Troy-based therapist who counsels couples before and after marriage, agrees:  “If the 90 days ends before they get married, I would wait longer!”  He says intimacy is a beautiful gift that should be anticipated during courtship and shared on the honeymoon.  

“Why buy the cow if you’re getting the milk for free?” asks Smith’s fiancée, Jennifer Willis, 33, of Southgate. “That’s always been my thing. You have to get to know a person. I don’t believe in giving up the cookies that quick.”

Waiting may be “old school,” but it’s the best approach, Rayford says. “Intimacy is the deepest level of vulnerability you will ever experience. If you think of intimacy as ‘into-me-see,’ then it makes sense to get to know someone.  It also reduces the potential for somebody giving themselves to someone who doesn’t deserve to receive them.”

That is key for Candice Little, 46, who is enjoying a new relationship that reminds her of Harvey’s philosophies. “If you carry yourself like a lady, you will attract a gentleman,” she says. 

The Detroiter adds that before a woman can find “Mr. Right,” she has to become “Ms. Right” herself.

Communication is key

Darnell Glover, owner of Salon on the Park, says he hosts Saturday night discussions about relationships to help men and women communicate about romantic issues that get overlooked and cause problems.

“You have to find the courage to ask important questions on the first date,” says Glover, who says he’s heard all kinds of drama during his 25-year career as a hair stylist.  So he’s compiled 275 questions in a book that he hopes to publish called, "Relationships: A Two-Way Street."

For his discussions, he prints the questions on strips of paper, then invites participants to draw one from a bag, read it, and spark high-decibel debates.

Among his questions: At what point should a man stop using condoms? Should a man or a woman give an ultimatum of marriage in a relationship? What is the real purpose for sex?

“Good communication is the secret to having a successful relationship,” says Glover.  “If you’re scared to talk about your feelings and expectations, the relationship is doomed from the first date.”

Couples therapist Rayford says statistics show that 80 percent of divorced couples blame poor communication for their failed marriages.

Communication early in the relationship is imperative, Rayford says, to diffuse the fantasies that men and women create about romance and marriage.

The soon-to-be-married Willis says she gets to know a man by asking a lot of questions, such as, “What is your five-year plan? What was your history growing up? Do you have kids?”

A hostess at an upscale restaurant, she adds, “I don’t want a shocker later on.  We need to lay it all out on the table from the beginning.  And if he’s uncomfortable with simple questions, and doesn’t call, he did me a favor.”

Relationships work, Rayford says, when men and women really listen to each other and validate each other with the two most important rules of romance:  respect and love.

Others say rules cheapen relationships because they make romance feel like a game.

“The 90-day rule and the five-date rule sound like we are going to start out playing games. Not interested,” says former Detroit radio talk show host John Arnold, Ph.D, now a professor of mass communication at Lane College, an HBCU in Jackson, Tenn.

Says the 50-something divorcé, who summers in Detroit: “I just don’t think women should ever lower their standards, because men will do whatever it takes to get the cookies.”

Alex Vuai, 27, a Detroiter who works in customer service, says “This is the 21st century, not the 1920s.  Some men and females get their freak on the first date.  But there’s nothing wrong with waiting; maybe in an older generation you can.”

Old-fashioned courtship never goes out of style, says Kim Edwards, whose husband brought candy, flowers, a balloon and romantic notes to her 21 years ago when she worked as a bank teller and he was a customer. 

“We dated six years,” says Kim Edwards, who works for the Michigan Department of Corrections. “We wanted to make sure we had gone to college, traveled to Europe and the Caribbean together, and established ourselves in careers that have a pension before we got married.”

Larry Edwards, who works for the U.S. Postal Service, agrees:  “When I first saw my wife, I knew I was going to marry her.  I earned her respect because I treated her like a lady.”

He’s disturbed that “young boys these days don’t know jack about how to treat a lady. My advice for them to be a man is to talk to the older generation. Sit down, shut up, and listen. Learn how to communicate, and find the courage to ask questions.”

Likewise, Harvey’s rules play on popular advice of decades past. 

Back in 1995, many a woman’s purse contained the The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, by Sherrie Schneider and Ellen Fein (Grand Central Publishing). 

Then, in 1997, came another wildly popular book, The Sistahs' Rules: Secrets For Meeting, Getting, And Keeping A Good Black Man, Not To Be Confused With The Rules, by Denene Millner (William Morrow Paperbacks).

Many women say these rules serve as a good reference, but it’s important to set your own standards about what is important.  Meanwhile, men agree some rules smack of insincerity.

“Different women have different rules based on what their momma, their aunties and their cousins told them,” says Smith, a telemarketer.  “Women use these rules to play it safe, but it creates a fake person.  It becomes a game, and it’s not honest, so the game hinders you from getting to meet the right person.”

Payne, the head docent at the Motown Historical Museum, agrees.  “I was wooing this woman, and my sister’s friend said, ‘You’re going at it the wrong way.  She wants to be pursued.’  I said, ‘I don’t have time to chase, pursue, coo and woo.  If I like you, I’m going to let you know.”

Couples therapist Rayford says rules can set a standard, but “relationships are so personal and so customized, you can’t apply the same rules to everybody.”

Elizabeth Atkins is a veteran journalist an author of five novellas, including “White Chocolate,” featuring mixed-race people in provocative plots. 

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