Do you need to be mean to keep him keen?

Do you need to be mean to keep him keen?

“Dear Robyn: I am just starting out with The Rules and I keep hearing about bootcamp rules and strict rules. How do I know if I’m being strict enough and when would I want to be bootcamp? My gf says I should be b*tchier with guys, but I’m not sure. Thanks!” 

This is an email I recently received from a new subscriber, and it reminded me how much confusion there is around doing “boot camp” or “strict” rules. If you’re reading this blog and you’re not sure what The Rules are, check out to learn more about The Rules book and its updated version, Not Your Mother’s Rules, by authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider.

I like to say that if a woman is going to do The Rules she should do them exactly as written rather than “strictly” because some women go too far and act strict, like a sour old granny. That’s not very sexy or appealing. You want to ignite a chase, not stop him cold in his tracks. Also, sometimes girls get the idea that strict rules mean we should act like b*tches, but this attitude will work against you if your goal is to marry a quality man. The rules woman should be light and breezy, and a pleasure to be with; she has poise and great manners. Think Kate Middleton, not Courtney Love.

For a man’s perspective on mean vs. rulesy behavior, read The Rules Revisited blog on boundaries which lays out the differences very clearly. If you suspect you’ve been over-correcting for your naturally nice personality, Andrew’s post will help steer you in a better direction. After all, being easy to be with is an important part of your essence and appeal.

Tip #1: Do all the Rules, all the time.

This is a really important point, because to do the rules well, you’ll want to apply them to all areas of your life. You will have a hard time being rulesy on your dates if you have poor boundaries at work or with your kids and family. Learn to use the rules in a way that naturally fits your personality, and you will be able to practice them all the time. I don’t know many professional environments in which being cold, unapproachable, and mean are great career-building qualities. Minding your own business and avoiding gossip and negativity—that’s part of doing the rules at work—but you can still interact with your colleagues in a kind and pleasant way. You will have many more opportunities in life if you choose to live graciously and with good manners.

I get calls from women who have given up on the rules because they have trouble doing them consistently. They might start out in a rules relationship and then let things slide as they mistakenly believe it’s time to be “real” with a boyfriend (i.e., stop doing the rules); or they simply can’t keep it up past the early stages of a relationship. If you focus on being yourself—the best, most confident version of yourself —you may find it easier to do the rules consistently, with everyone, and that’s the best way to internalize healthy boundaries.

Tip #2: Confidence is cool, but poise has more power.

Just as men who loudly flaunt their successes can seem insecure—the opposite of what they hope to project—the mean girl is also less desirable than a woman who quietly radiates true inner confidence. I have seen women go overboard at singles events or in clubs, trying to seem disinterested and aloof, or bantering with men in a rude manner. Instead of seeming cool these girls are just awkward. Understand that if a man finds you physically attractive, he will pursue you regardless of how grumpy or ill-mannered you are—that’s not the issue. The problem can be that you won’t attract and retain a quality guy who will want to bring you into his life for keeps. Don't be his "conquest" for the night.

"Real men don't love b*tches. But we'll sleep with one if she's hot." — Mike (age 37)

Marriage-minded men are looking for a woman who is naturally poised and relaxed. You will instantly signal quality if you practice an open and quiet confidence when you are in social settings. Always listen more than you speak, and you will not seem nervous — even if you have first-date jitters. Fully accepting and being at peace with who you are is an essential part of your beauty. Successful men choose wives who can handle themselves in any social setting (this is often a subconscious preference), so interacting easily with those around you can help you attract your Mr. Right. 

Tip #3: Keep it light and breezy.

Bootcamp rules are the strictest interpretation of the rules. If the book says you should “rarely” return a man’s call, the bootcamp approach would be to never return his calls. Bootcamp is meant to help the “overly nice, gushy girl” present a more balanced personality. But what if you aren’t the gushy type? The answer is that most women don’t need to be bootcamp. The Rules is strict enough, as written.

If you’ve determined that bootcamp rules work best for you and your personality type, just make sure you're not applying a "bootcamp" attitude to your actions; always keep it light and breezy. 

There is one scenario where bootcamp rules can't help, and that is if you’re dating Mr. Wrong. If you feel the need to be bootcamp with your guy, it could mean that deep down, you don’t trust him. Be careful that you aren’t simply delaying the inevitable. If you’ve caught him cheating on you or otherwise truly disrespecting you, he is not your Mr. Right, and bootcamp rules are not going to change that. The rules say to move on — not to invest more time and energy in a man who doesn’t love you.

Remember, The Rules are like vitamins: in the right dose they are healthy and positive; but don’t assume that doing more than is necessary or taking them to extremes will get you a better result. Be hard to get—but not impossible to get. Do the rules as written, with warmth and charm, and you’ll be attractive and confident in all areas of your life. All of us are capable of achieving the inner radiance that comes from being a Rules woman.

Robyn Wahlgast is a Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women. Book a private consultation or subscribe to her FREE dating and relationship newsletter and get priority access to all new content.