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Dating Someone New? Make Sure You Follow The 3-Month Rule — Here's How

Sarah Regan
Author:
January 26, 2024
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Image by KATARINA SIMOVIC | Stocksy
January 26, 2024
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What's more exhilarating than meeting a potential new love interest and scoring a first date?

Dating someone new is, indeed, an exciting time brimming with potential—but because of that excitement, it's also easy to fall into lust, clouded judgment, and ultimately not see the person clearly amid the surge of feel-good hormones.

As such, the viral "3-month rule" has taken the internet by storm on TikTok, with videos under this hashtag garnering nearly 40 million views. And if you've never heard of it, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the rule before getting involved with a new romantic interest—it might just save you from a dating disaster.

What is the 3-month rule?

The 3-month rule can be thought of as a rule, test, or even "probationary period" for dating that suggests waiting three months before deciding whether to commit to a person. And given all we know about the initial stages of dating, it's pretty solid advice.

As couples' therapist Linda Carroll, M.S., LMFT, previously wrote for mindbodygreen, the first stage of dating, or what she calls "the merge" stage, is the initial, sweeping romance that often consumes a couple when they first get together.

Because it can be so all-consuming, she says, "Go slow with making any big decisions. The merge can fog your vision and make you want to dive into situations that might not actually be wise or healthy for you in the long run."

That said, according to psychotherapist and relationship expert Babita Spinelli, taking your time during the first three months of dating, and watching for those telltale green (or red...) flags, is crucial for deciding how you want to move forward.

While it's still possible, and even likely, that you could still be in the honeymoon phase after three months if the relationship is going well, there's a good chance you'll know for sure if it's not going well by the end of month three.

How to follow the 3-month rule

1.

Understand your own nonnegotiables

Before you even plan your first date, it's important to go into dating with a clear idea of what you want and what your nonnegotiables are. Make a list if you have to, and check it twice!

As licensed psychotherapist Amanda Jean Rocchio, M.Ed, LMHC, previously wrote for mindbodygreen, "Regularly check in with yourself to understand your wants, needs, and emotions. Prioritizing self-reflection means devoting time to introspect and gain insight into your emotions and desires."

2.

Get to know this person's habits, quirks, and communication style

You're not going to learn everything there is to know about a person in three months, but according to Spinelli, you can get a good sense of their habits, communication style, and personality quirks. "Reflect on whether their communication style meets your needs," she says, adding to watch out for consistency, tone, how they act with their friends, and whether they're respectful.

"Habits are also significant to see if you both are aligned. If your habits are significantly different, reflect on whether those behaviors are acceptable and fit into the healthy life you are seeking," Spinelli notes.

3.

Ask plenty of questions

The first few months of dating should be a fun and enjoyable period when you're getting to know each other, so ask lots of open-ended questions! As Rocchio explains, fostering open communication involves creating an environment "where both people feel secure and encouraged to communicate their opinions, feelings, and concerns without fear of critique."

And as Spinelli adds, three months is still early on, "but getting a sense of the individual’s history, life goals, and perspective on the world is something to keep in mind to understand if their values align with yours."

4.

Learn each other's boundaries

Boundaries will never stop being important, whether you're one month or one year into dating. So, do they respect yours or are they love bombing you? As Spinelli tells mindbodygreen, it's paramount in the early stages of dating to respect each other's boundaries and the pace at which you're both willing to move.

Your respective boundaries will further give you both a sense of the other's attachment style, which is important to take into account too, Spinelli adds. "For example, do they avoid you or communicating if there is a challenge or disagreement?" Definitely something to watch out for.

5.

Discuss what you're both looking for 

You can be absolutely smitten with someone, but if they're not looking for what you're looking for, it's a setup for hurt feelings. So, Spinelli notes, it’s extremely important to explore if you both are on the same page about why you are dating.

For instance, does this person ultimately want a partner or are they just dating for fun? "Two very different things, [so] be clear and honest with yourself about what you really want," Spinelli says.

6.

Watch for red flags

If it wasn't obvious, please watch out for red flags while dating someone new, and do not delude yourself into turning a blind eye. People put their best foot forward when they're meeting someone new, so if red flags are popping up early on, they're likely not going to get any better.

According to Spinelli, some keys to watch out for are self-absorption, doing things "on their own terms," a lack of self-awareness, and more. Here's our guide to red flags in dating so you know exactly what not to tolerate.

7.

Stay clear on what you want

The first three months of dating can be a whirlwind, and that can make it more difficult to see this person clearly. They could check a lot of your boxes, but one or two things about them might stick out as red flags. Don't ignore those.

As Rocchio puts it, "Never compromise your core values to boost someone else's ego. Staying true to your core values means prioritizing yourself, abiding by your morals, and aligning your behaviors with your values."

And as Spinelli adds, "We repeat what we don't repair. Notice if there is a familiar behavior pattern you are ignoring because you want a relationship." To that end, don't fall in love with the potential of this person and/or think you can "change" them.

What not to do during the 3-month rule

1.

Don't spend all your time together

It can be easy to get swept up in the initial romance and want to spend every moment together. Don't do that.

If it's meant to be, you'll have plenty of time to spend together in the future. If it's not, spending all your time together will make it that much more difficult to stay true to yourself and your own wants and needs. As Spinelli says, "Don't demand they spend all their time with you or give up activities they enjoy for you. Balance is important all around."

2.

Don't invest too much too soon

Similar to investing all your time in a new potential partner, you don't want to emotionally invest in them too much either. "One can get caught up in investing emotionally without taking a step back to continue to discover if this is the right person for you," Spinelli tells mindbodygreen, adding, "By moving too fast, we miss things."

If you're feeling the urge to give up on things that are important to you for this person, take a step back. "Often, we don’t realize our anxiety is leading the tempo of the relationship or we're getting caught in the dopamine rush," Spinelli explains.

3.

Don't ignore your gut

And lastly, of course, don't ignore your gut! At the end of the day, these tips are pretty universal, but everyone's dating experience is different, and only you can truly know whether someone is right for you or not.

"It's important not to ignore your inner voice or gut. If something doesn't feel right, there is a reason," Spinelli says.

Deciding whether to commit

By the end of the first three months of dating, you should have a good sense of whether this person is right for you. Here are a few pointers, depending on which direction you want to take things.

If you don't want to commit

If you've realized this person isn't right for you, don't be discouraged. In fact, celebrate the fact that you know yourself well enough to walk away from a situation that isn't right for you!

In terms of letting them down easy, be open and honest about what you're looking for and why you don't think the relationship is a good fit for that. You don't have to get too specific, which could lead to hurt feelings. Preparing a script such as, "It's been great getting to know you, and I think you're a wonderful person—just not necessarily what I'm looking for at this point," is a good idea.

To that end, avoid ghosting. While it's become commonplace after a first or second date, three months is long enough that you can honor this person with an in-person talk. It might be uncomfortable, but you can both walk away with your dignity and mutual understanding.

If you do want to commit

If it's been three months and you want to keep seeing this person, that's great! Of course, you don't have to commit after three months if you're not ready, but there's a good chance you may be looking to take things to the next level at this point.

Having the "what are we?" conversation can feel daunting, but if things have been going well, the love interest in question will likely be elated that you're still looking to keep things going. And for what it's worth, research has found men do take about three months to say "I love you," while women take about five months—so things could be getting serious!

And at this point, you'll ideally both be on the same page about what you're looking for, so if it seems like a match, defining the relationship now isn't out of the question.

Here's our guide on defining relationships for tips on how to initiate the conversation. Just remember, three months is still pretty early, so don't be afraid to continue taking your time and moving at a pace that's comfortable for you both.

FAQs:

What is the 3-month rule for dating?

The 3-month rule for dating suggests you should wait three months before committing to someone in order to assess if they're right for you.

Why is the 3-month rule important?

The 3-month rule is important because it's incredibly easy to get swept up in the excitement of dating and not see the person clearly.

The takeaway

The first three months of dating are a fun and exciting time of flirting, date nights and getting to know your potential love interest. Try to enjoy it! Without the pressure of needing to commit, you can focus on truly getting to know this person, as well as focus on yourself, so you avoid missing red flags and can know for sure whether this person is right for you.

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