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A Dater's Bill of Rights

So, let's say the first or third or thirtieth date goes so well that the datee ends up spending the night. Assuming that the host actually likes the other person and wasn't just looking to hook up, they are responsible for acquiring bagels, donuts or other breakfast stuffs, as this tells the datee -- "Hey, I actually like you and I wasn't just looking to hook up."

You have the right to a minimal amount of drama

Within the first 30 days of the relationship, you should not be expected to provide a car payment, rent, bail, drugs, drug counseling, CPR, a blood transfusion or national security codes (this is D.C.; could happen). If your new paramour can't keep his act together in the first 30 days, just extrapolate how much worse things will be when he's not trying to impress you anymore.

You have the right to regular status updates

That is, the "where do we stand?" discussion. I despise uncertainty. I think the problem is that in dating, there are no metrics. In sports or business or politics, there are clear ways to measure success -- won-loss records, quarterly earnings, vote totals. In the early days of a budding relationship, when you don't yet know the other person's signals or how best to communicate your own feelings, sussing out where things are going can be like reading skywriting on a windy day. Skywriting written in Sanskrit. And you're not even looking up.

To remedy this, I think both parties should exchange formal reports once a week, detailing attraction levels, the effects of various factors, etc.: "I'm happy to report that my affection for Ryan is up 31 percent this week, continuing a steady three-week growth of increases (see chart on p. 34). Picking me up, with flowers no less, in the first quarter of week three caused a 25 percent increase alone. Since we have become intimate, Ryan has shown a lot of potential and a real go-getter attitude in the sack, as well (see chart labeled "Satisfaction" p. 36)."

Or, in lieu of all that, make an effort to communicate clearly your feelings and level of interest. Dating works best when everyone is on the same page.

To me, all of these rights are based on one guiding principle: dating is about balancing what's best for you with respect for the other person and a desire to make him or her happy. Easier said than done, I know, but keep this equation in mind when trying to solve a dating dilemma and you'll be much happier and more likely to survive with your sanity intact. In the months ahead, I hope to apply that principle in columns on topics such as: How do I ask someone out?; how do I know when we're exclusive?; how do I share my deep, dark secrets?; should you stay friends with exes?; what to put in an online dating profile?; what are the best (and worst) ways to break up?; how do I get my friend to be more than friends?; and more.

For the next column, I'm looking for suggestions from women about the little things every guy should consider doing on a first date, or early in a relationship, that he might not know about. Send your ideas to dating@washingtonpost.com

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