by Lauren Henderson
The rules according to Jane Austen
Navigate the modern dating scene with the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen - inspired by Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and her other beloved novels.
Don't Put Your Feelings on Public Display Unless They are Fully Reciprocated
Marianne in Sense & Sensibility gets her man by showing him how much she likes him. Sadly for her, she doesn't get to keep him: Willoughby chooses to marry for money rather than love. Marianne is absolutely right to make it clear to Willoughby in the beginning that she has a strong preference for him. But she's wrong to keep showing him how much she likes him when it is clear he's pulling away. She could have spared herself a lot of extra pain if she'd looked more clearly at the truth of the situation. That's what Marianne has to teach us.
Don't Make Snap Judgements
Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice makes a snap judgement of Darcy, thinking that he's proud, prejudiced and haughty, and she's not wrong; but she doesn't see all the good qualities concealed by his unpleasant façade. Don't be blinded by your own preset ideas of what you are looking for. The right person for you may not be the same as the ideal image you've constructed in your head. Don't make a template of who you want and reject people because they don't fit into it.
Be Prepared to Wait for the Right Person to Come Along
Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility is rewarded for his patience with Marianne's hand and heart. And 'reward' is exactly the right word. He has done everything right all along the way, so that when Marianne does get over Willoughby, she doesn't feel pressured by Brandon, who gives her all the time and space to find her own feelings for him.
Be Witty If You Can, but Not Cynical, Indiscreet, or Cruel
This chapter is for anyone who suspects that they might be using humour as a defence or as a way of hiding from their true feelings. The Jane Austen heroines we warm to most of all - Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet - are sympathetic because they are open and lively and love to joke. They have characteristics that we identify with; we would love to be like them - playful, funny and charming. But in this chapter we look at how well Elizabeth manages her sense of humour, using it to get to know people and endear herself to them, and how Emma sometimes goes over the top with hers and has to train herself to rein back its worst aspects. After all no self-respecting girl wants to end up like the sourpuss Miss Bingleys!
Pick a Boyfriend Who's a Good Influence on You
In Emma, Emma and Frank Churchill bring out the worst in each other. They tap into each other's sarcastic, careless side, and it leads them to behave badly. Frank's encouragement even leads Emma to be rude to poor, talkative Miss Bates, mocking her inability to stop prattling. Married to Jane Fairfax and Mr Knightley respectively - quieter, more morally responsible people who can calm them down - Frank and Emma have a strong chance of emphasising the good sides of their characters, rather than the bad. But if they had got together, they would have been toxic.
Have Faith In Your Own Instincts
What enables Elinor, in Sense & Sensibility, to keep her calm? Her faith in herself and her own instincts. She knows that Edward loves her. Nothing can shake this belief, and she is right. Even though Edward is engaged to another woman, even though Elinor has no reason to believe that she and Edward will end up together, she keeps control of herself because she feels that she knows the truth of the situation, and she takes strength from the fact that, even though her love for him may be hopeless, she knows herself to be loved in return.
JANE AUSTEN'S GUIDE TO DATING by Lauren Henderson is published by Headline, £9.99, on 19th September.