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What is the 72 hour rule in relationships?

The 72 hour rule is an informal dating guideline that suggests when beginning a new relationship, you should limit communication with the other person during the first 72 hours after an initial date. The idea is that by resisting the urge to constantly text, call, or see each other right away, you allow anticipation and excitement to build in a way that is healthy for a budding romance.

What is the purpose of the 72 hour rule?

There are a few key reasons why relationship experts recommend following the 72 hour rule in new relationships:

  • It prevents you from coming on too strong and scaring the other person away.
  • It gives you both a chance to reflect on the date and your compatibility.
  • It builds attraction and interest by creating some distance between dates.
  • It keeps the relationship from progressing too quickly before you really know each other.

Overall, the 72 hour rule helps set a healthy pace and prevents premature emotional attachment before determining if the relationship has long-term potential.

When does the 72 hour rule start?

The 72 hour clock starts ticking after the end of the first date. So if you go out on a date Tuesday evening, then the 72 hour period would be from Wednesday morning until Saturday morning.

During this time, you should avoid initiating contact via call, text, social media, etc. There are some exceptions that we’ll cover, but in general you want to hold off on proactively reaching out during the first 72 hours.

What’s allowed during the 72 hours?

While you don’t want to be actively contacting the other person, there are some exceptions to the 72 hour rule:

  • Responding to direct messages/texts. If they reach out first, it’s fine to carry on a conversation.
  • Discussing date logistics. Quick check-ins regarding planning the next date are okay.
  • Work obligations. If you met at work or through business, critical work discussions are allowed.

As long as you’re not constantly starting conversations and asking to meet up again, some intermittent contact is acceptable.

How strictly should you follow the 72 hour rule?

How closely you adhere to the 72 hour rule depends on your personality and relationship style. Here are some tips based on different preferences:

  • If you tend to come on strong… Strictly limit contact for the full 72 hours to give the other person space.
  • If you prefer to take it slow… Use the rule as guidance to pace yourself and match the other person’s interest level.
  • If you fall fast and hard… Try your best to hold off but don’t stress too much if you break the rule once or twice.
  • If you are more nonchalant… You likely don’t need to actively enforce the rule, but be careful not to come off rude or disinterested.

The most important thing is adjusting your communication style to align with the person you’re dating and their comfort level.

Does the 72 hour rule apply after the second date?

Opinions differ on whether you should follow the 72 hour rule after the second date. Some experts recommend enforcing it after every date to maintain a slow build up. Others say it is only necessary after the first date when attraction and interest are still tentative.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to apply the rule again after a second date:

  • How did the second date go compared to the first? Was there a mutual feeling of interest and chemistry?
  • Have you discussed interest in pursuing something more serious beyond casual dating? Clear mutual interest makes the rule less necessary.
  • What kind of communication pace have you established so far? If you’ve been talking constantly, maintaining some space may be advisable.

Use your best judgment based on the specific circumstances of your relationship. The 72 hour rule is not a hard and fast decree – it’s simply a guideline to help build a healthy foundation.

What are the benefits of following the 72 hour rule?

Using the 72 hour rule, especially after a first date, provides some definite advantages for starting a relationship on the right foot:

  • Builds anticipation. Holding off on contact for a few days makes you look forward to connecting again.
  • Creates intrigue. Keeping some space adds an element of mystery and uncertainty in a good way.
  • Gives needed perspective. Having time to reflect allows you to gain clarity without getting caught in the moment.
  • Sets a healthy communication pace. Jumping into constant contact right away can set unrealistic expectations.
  • Prevents overexposure. Holding back stops you from revealing too much too soon before you know each other well.
  • Avoids coming on too strong. Maintaining some distance gives the relationship space to breathe and prevents scaring the other person off.

What are the risks of not using the 72 hour rule?

There are a few potential downsides of ignoring the 72 hour rule and contacting your new romantic interest right away after a first date:

  • You may come across as overly eager or desperate.
  • The other person may feel overwhelmed and need space.
  • It can set unrealistic expectations for rapid relationship escalation.
  • You may not be taking the time to evaluate compatibility and red flags.
  • The spark and intrigue can fizzle out more quickly.

While not necessarily guaranteed, these risks are why many dating experts caution against abandoning the 72 hour rule too readily after a first date. Adapt it as needed once you get to know each other better.

Does the 72 hour rule work?

Research on dating rules like the 72 hour rule shows mixed results. Some studies have found following this rule can positively build attraction and intrigue between potential partners. However, other studies found no significant difference in relationship outcomes whether couples adhered to the rule or contacted each other right away.

The effectiveness likely depends on the people involved and their specific communication preferences. What works well for building interest and excitement between certain personality types may feel off-putting or strained for others. It also depends when in the dating process it is applied.

While not universally agreed upon, the 72 hour rule makes sense for many people after a first or second date as a way to prevent moving too fast before evaluating compatibility.

Pros of the 72 hour rule

Here are some potential benefits of using the 72 hour rule:

Pro Explanation
Builds anticipation Holding off on contact for a few days makes you look forward to connecting again
Creates intrigue Keeping some space adds an element of mystery and uncertainty in a good way
Allows perspective Gives you time apart to gain clarity without getting caught in the moment
Sets communication pace Avoids unrealistic expectations for constant contact right away
Prevents overexposure Keeps you from revealing too much too soon before you really know each other

Cons of the 72 hour rule

Here are some potential drawbacks of the 72 hour rule to consider:

Con Explanation
Can kill momentum Cooling off too much between dates can stall a budding romance
Creates false scarcity May feel like playing games instead of showing real interest
Leads to overthinking Having too much time apart could lead to second guessing
Depends on personalities What creates excitement for some individuals may frustrate others
Hard to enforce After a great first date, it may be challenging to hold back


The 72 hour rule is a guideline rather than a definitive rule for dating. It suggests limiting contact for about 3 days after an initial first or second date to allow excitement and interest to build naturally. While not universally agreed upon, many dating experts recommend the rule to prevent moving too fast emotionally and physically before truly evaluating compatibility.

Benefits of the 72 hour rule include building anticipation, setting a healthy communication pace, avoiding overexposure, and preventing one person from coming on too strong. However, it does require restraint, may kill momentum if overdone, and ultimately depends on the people involved. Use the rule as a flexible framework to guide your own dating style.

Focus on quality in-person connections during dates, but foster that spark in between through some space and mystery. If things progress, the 72 hour rule becomes less relevant over time. But in the delicate early stages of dating, it can help lay the groundwork for a budding relationship built on patience, perspective, and intentionality.