July 25, 2006 01:00 PM

He plays a cheating high-school jock in the comedy John Tucker Must Die, but in real life Jesse Metcalfe is a one-woman man: Since February, the 27-year-old actor has been dating British singer Nadine Coyle of the band Girls Aloud. PEOPLE correspondent Alexis Chiu got the former Desperate Housewives star to reveal his own romantic tips. But, he admits, “I want to preface it by saying that rules are made to be broken.”

Rule No. 1: Play it cool
Don’t be overeager. Guys like a challenge.

Rule No. 2: The guy always pays on the first date
If the girl offers, big brownie points – but don’t let her pay. If you do, you’re a punk.

Rule No. 3: Call the next day
The length of time you wait to call after the first date depends on what went down that first date. But generally if I go out on a first date with a girl and I had a good time, I’ll call her the next day.

Rule No. 4: Always leave a message
If I go on a date with a girl and the next time she calls me she doesn’t leave a message, immediately that throws up a red flag to me that she’s insecure. And that’s the first sign of someone that’s trying to play games. Who wants to deal with that?

Rule No. 5: Give gifts
When I really like a girl I just want to show her how I feel all the time. Flowers are always a classy choice. And what woman doesn’t like jewelry? I’m a pretty classic guy when it comes to dating, so I like to give classic gifts.

Metcalfe and girlfriend Nadine Coyle

Rule No. 6: Be romantic
I’ve definitely sprung surprise vacations, romantic getaways. I’ve written songs for girlfriends (he plays guitar). But I think the best way to express how you feel about somebody is just the little things on a daily basis. The little things go a long way.

Rule No. 7: Have your own special spots
Unlike John Tucker, I would never bring different girls to the same place. That’s a bad move. Besides restaurants, I love bowling – it’s awesome. Or go hiking – take a girl out to Malibu, go on a nice hike on a beautiful day. That’s fun.

Rule No. 8: Don’t expect too much
Early on in dating you’ve got to be relaxed, laid-back. You can’t make too many presumptions – you have to just go with the flow.

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