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Modern Queer Dating Rules Everyone Should Follow

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Nov 14, 2023

Modern Queer Dating Rules Everyone Should Follow

Queer dating is fun! It’s exciting! It’s a chance to try new things, discover your pleasures, and learn more about the way you relate in intimacy to others. There’s a lot of possibility and, when done according to your needs and wishes, a lot to gain.

However, as much as modern dating can be attractive to those seeking love and companionship, you probably also know it comes with its challenges. Vulnerability can be intimidating in its own right, especially with people we don’t yet know we can trust. 

Not only that, but not all daters approach the road to finding The One with the same integrity, responsibility, and respect for themselves and the others they meet. Naturally, people sometimes won’t be a match just as much as they will be, but between fears of rejection, miscommunications, a lack of boundaries, and/or simply shitty bitches, there are many ways that our emotions and reactions can make it a frustrating and painful experience.  

There’s no one-size-fits-all, perfect solution, but the modern dating rules below can guide you to make the dating journey smoother and (hopefully) more joyful for you and your new loves.

What are dating rules? 

Unwritten dating rules for happy and healthy queer relationships

Source: Insider

Despite some of us perhaps wishing for it, there is no magical, ultimate guidebook for queer sapphic dating. There’s no one way to go about it, and there are also no formal laws governing it. 

That means that when we talk about dating rules, we’re speaking of universal truths that are unwritten yet generally considered fundamental, moral, and healthy. When we speak about dating rules, first and foremost, we speak of acting with decency, integrity, responsibility, and respect because we’re all here opening our hearts and finding our unique ways to intimate connection. 

For all of us who have felt disrespected, unseen, betrayed, slighted, or any other less-than-wonderful experience on our dating paths, and for all of us who generally act with kindness, I wish to believe that being open-minded, attentive, caring, and so on would be obvious.

However, shit unfortunately does happen and so there have come to be some unwritten dating rules exercised in the queer dating scene we’re part of today. Let’s get into these further!

Unwritten dating rules for the courteous queer

Expert tips for dating on the road to finding The One

Source: Business Insider

For better or for worse, our modern dating scene does (largely) operate according to some basic principles – for our pleasure, for our ease, for our safety, for our mutual respect. 

Don’t be afraid – if you aren’t intimately familiar with them already, many of these may just be intuitive and/or ways you’re behaving already. Check them out:

Don’t let yourself be ruled by the fears of what can be an exciting exploration

I start with this super simple yet super underestimated guideline: if you want to take part in modern dating, don’t let your fears stop you! 

It’s not quite a “dating rule,” but think about it: if all the emotional and timid sapphos are choosing not to put themselves out there for fear of… whatever, there’s no one for someone who does to engage with in the first place. 

Don’t get me wrong – there’s no judgment about feeling intimidated, overwhelmed, or nervous about exposing yourself to what can totally be a treacherous world of online dating. However, if being a sexy superstar with a bunch of lezzie hotties is something you’re after, sooner or later you’re going to need to push past the fears and just dive in.

Find your own way to do that – after identifying what you specifically want, no holds barred, how can you get curious about arriving there? If you speculate about the people you’ll meet on the way, learn to open your awareness to see who actually shows up. Start small, at the level that feels accessible at this moment. 

It’s not a race, even if it sometimes feels like it, and you have all the time in the world to find what makes you feel confident and clear. 

Get past your fears by talking about them

This might seem like another basic, but just stick with me because that’s not necessarily true for everyone. Especially in the areas where you feel embarrassed, ashamed, or nervous, be open and transparent with your dates and share these things, in words, with them. 

It’s not just that it may prove useful to you for moving past your fears, but your transparency is also a courtesy to others who deserve to be as informed about their dating experiences as you do. Plus, sharing that kind of depth and vulnerability makes you someone sensitive, interesting, aware, personable, mature, etc. for potential dates.

Don’t be discouraged by the possibility of word vomiting or scaring your date away. Yes, it could happen, but no, it doesn’t impact how much of a catch you are, beauty. Maaaybe you need a few tries to smooth out your technique and become a bit more accessible, but regardless, your transparency and openness will, more often than not, be warmly received (and even considered endearing). 

Take it from one (me) who shares liberally when I’m feeling self-conscious or hesitant. I stand by this decision and have been rewarded with some remarkable friends (it’s okay, it was mutual) and some pretty incredible lovers 🙂 Call it personal branding 😉

Be honest about what you’re looking for, upfront

Be honest about what you’re looking for in modern lesbian dating

Source: iStock

This isn’t just a good idea for improving your own dating experience, but it’s also largely considered an essential part of modern dating etiquette. If you’re looking for veryyyyy slow, veryyyyy casual dating, say so. If you’re looking for a friend with benefits (FWB), say so! And yes, if you’re looking for a wifey situation, say that too. And say all these things before you get into the thick of things.

Obviously, if two people who have very different expectations start dating believing that their interests are aligned, how do you think that awkward, inevitable conversation (much later down the line) will eventually go? All will be revealed and it may or may not be supportive for everyone. 

It’s completely fine not to be a match with someone – that’s only natural. However, we can be considerate of each other’s time, needs, and wishes, and play our part to set up a productive exploration, even if we still don’t end up together. 

Plus, untangling our hearts from an involved relationship after seeing it was never meant to be can simply be difficult. We can’t control every moment of our dating lives, but we can be sensitive to the dynamics of the experiences all of us might have along the way. 

Date at the pace you want… but no need to rush

I don’t know about you, but growing up as a 90s baby, there were a bunch of seemingly arbitrary rules about how long to wait before calling someone back, how many minimum days between dates, and so on. I think you weren’t supposed to respond to someone’s interest (especially at the beginning) for at least three days? Know what I’m talking about?

Being a bit more grown up now, I have to call nonsense here. You do you, boo – date, call, text, instant message (the good old days), fuck as often as you want. There really isn’t a fixed rule that can be universally applied, because everyone’s needs are completely different. 

Maybe you’re neurospicy like me and you simply lose the sacred message from your crush in your chaos – and then your subsequent dating life is regulated by your cognition, haha. Maybe you thrive by having a date, with a different person, five days out of seven. Maybe it does take you three days to work up the nerve to call someone back after all? Whatever feels best is best. 

That said, whatever your pace, also remember that you do have time and that there is no dating scarcity. Especially for you who feel you move a little slower, you are not losing anything or missing out. There are plenty of fish (kitties?) in the sea with whom you will have all kinds of adventures, and you give everyone the best chances of experiencing it fully when you create a nourishing environment for yourself.

If your date’s not a match, be explicit instead of ghosting

Two queer women talking about their relationship instead of ghosting as an example of modern dating etiquette

Source: Verywell Mind

Sometimes, things are simply never going to happen between you and them, but communicate this clearly (and kindly) instead of ghosting like an asshole. 

Chances are, it would hurt you for someone (especially who you were attracted to and thinking you were vibing with) to completely disappear without a trace after the first or second date. And then très awkward to run into them a short while later with their arms around someone else, yeah? 

Confidently putting yourself out on there and going on dates can be hard enough as it is without thoughtless or deliberately hurtful people wreaking havoc on our sense of worth and fears of rejection. I firmly believe that all of us playing this love game should consider how we can contribute to a more uplifting and harmonious experience for others, even when we don’t feel a personal allegiance to them (aka a non-match).

Therefore, depending on how long you’ve been seeing them, make an effort to deliver the news of a non-match in the appropriate format. A (thoughtful) text message is probably fine if you’ve only had one date (or video call or equivalent), but if you’ve been involved for a while, I encourage you to have that conversation in person (in an accessible environment). Again, this looks different for everyone, but you’ll know which is the considerate choice in your case.

Make sure you’re comfortable with (healthy) conflict before dating

This is another of these personal tips slash community courtesies that come with the territory. You’re not going to match with everyone you meet, but not only that, you’ll inevitably come face to face with some kind of conflict, one way or another. At the very least, if your dating efforts result in a full-blown relationship, hun, do you think you’re getting out of a fight? 

Part of being a mature adult in a mature dating experience involves having a certain capacity to navigate conflict. Sometimes, that means staying patient (enough) to listen to your girlfriend’s “wrong” perspective just because she deserves your attention. Sometimes, that means restraining your frustrated (and, frankly, aggressive) disagreements on the first date when they’re talking about the triggering or absurd thing they support. 

You don’t need to concoct a make-believe passion, submit to their demands, or force any particular connection, but committing murder as the first response when they’re pushing your buttons also isn’t the way to go. Dare to walk the middle ground as a grown-up who knows conflict is an essential part of life and love.

The best dating tips from relationship experts

The best dating tips from relationship experts for modern lesbian dating


As I hope you’re already starting to see, modern dating is not simply shaped by a bunch of arbitrary, unwritten dating rules dictated by rigid social norms. I mean, sure, there are clear ways you can act like a decent human being and others in which you’d be an asshole. Respect, compassion, and care are foundational and non-negotiable. 

However, more than that, “dating rules” is simply another name for how we lovingly practice self-care, listen to our intuition, and take responsibility for our boundaries throughout the dating process. “So you’re saying that to be the best date, we should always strive to be our best selves?” Yep.

To inspire your confidence and empower you, I’ve included some dating wisdom from people who know what they’re talking about.   

Start small and step by step

“Take baby steps. You don’t have to do everything all at once. You don’t have to plan five first dates in one week. You can start by doing things that are super small, like getting back on a dating app or sending someone a message, and then calibrating there. See how you can take care of [yourself] in this new place. Then, progress that a little further. How do I ask someone out for a coffee or whatever it is?”

Ariella | Queer Dating Coach

Own your standards for second dates and beyond

“You can think to yourself ahead of time,“ How will I know if I want to go on a second date with this person? What will I ask myself after the date to give me clarity around whether I want to see this person again? Those could be questions like, “Did I laugh? Am I curious to know more about this person? How did I feel in this person’s presence?”

Ariella | Queer Dating Coach

Commit to being completely yourself, no matter what

Source: Westend61

“Here’s the thing: everyone wants something different, right? This may surprise you, but my advice on how to get a girlfriend is: be clear about what you specifically want. Once you meet a person that you want to make your girlfriend, don’t start lying for no god**mn reason. If you’re looking for a wife, put in your [dating app] bio that you’re looking for a wife.”

Stevie Boebi

Lying is never cooler than honesty

“Some people think it’s cool to, like, lie about what you want. Don’t try to be cool by pretending you’re more casual than you want to be. Because then, you’re not wife material, because you’re a liar.”

Stevie Boebi

Embrace the non-matches as a resource for clarity

“There’s value in going out with people that you don’t end up choosing because you get to stack them up against each other and say, “Wait, I used to think that a sense of humor was the thing that I wanted most and now, I see that yeah, it’s nice to have, but that ultimately what I need most is for somebody to make me feel safe”… or whatever it is. So it helps you to really see what is truly important to you and to let go of the things that were perhaps superficial.”

Lauren Smith  

While we covered several important topics, this is only the tip of the sapphic dating iceberg – there are many ways that we can act with the respect and love for ourselves and the others we’ll date. It just depends on who we are and what we need when we have our experiences. 

However, ultimately, the lesson is this: there are no hard-and-fast dating rules besides being kind and having fun, whatever that looks like to you. Be attentive… but don’t overthink it. Just enjoy 🙂

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Jillian Gogel is a writer and editor living her queer futchy dream life in Berlin. When not writing for clients, she is sharing her poetry and building intimate, creative, queer-celebrating community on her Joy Journeys Substack publication (@jillianjoy). She cares about dogs, yoga, sexual liberation, and holding space for exploring self-intimacy in all ways.

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