Dear Dr. Warren,
As a woman I feel a little strange about making the first move, and yet I see matches I would really like to begin exchanging messages with. If I initiate communication with them, will I come across as not much of a challenge? Does a woman starting contact take the "thrill of the chase" away from a guy?
Susan, Idaho Falls, ID
Thank you for your great question. The dating rituals between men and women can be challenging enough without having to wonder where things like e-mail and initiating communication on eHarmony fall into place. So let’s take a closer look of how men and women relate to one another online.
Long before the Internet came into being, there was an old saying, "Nice girls do not chase boys." It may have been uttered to your mother by your grandmother, and indeed from your mother to you. And if you’re old enough, perhaps you’ve even found yourself giving that same bit of advice to someone younger than you, too. Indeed, in typical dating situations, many women prefer that men take the initiative. This perspective is quite common, and may be right for you when dating in person.
However, as society evolves to accept more open expression from women and technology progresses, the rules of first contact online appear to be different than those observed in offline dating space. Women feel more comfortable expressing their interests in getting to know men as potential partners, and likewise, most men are comfortable with this. Part of this is the feeling of freedom of expression on the Internet itself. But there’s also something else—eHarmony is different.
When you initiate communication with a match on eHarmony, you are not "asking him out on a date" or calling him on the phone. You are expressing interest in communicating with him online—safely and anonymously—for as long enough as required to see if there is any interest beyond the profile and attraction level from photos. In the early steps of Guided Communication it does not matter who initiates communication because both you and your match are gathering enough information to know whether there is enough of a spark to take your communication offline and begin dating face to face. Think of initiating communication as beginning a friendly conversation with no expectations, just a natural curiosity to know more about your match and their interests.
All of your matches have been found already to be deeply compatible on 29 Dimensions of Compatibility, which is already a big step in the right direction to become acquainted with people that you’ll really enjoy getting to know—and who will really enjoy getting to know you, too. Equally important, these people come to eHarmony looking for the same thing: an open and honest sharing of information. eHarmony is less like a club, party or singles’ mixer and more a community of like-minded people who are looking for that special someone with whom they really click. So unlike many in-person situations, the emphasis is not on who starts the communication. What’s important is the appreciation that one of your matches could be the person you’ve been looking for—a person who can love you and share your dreams with you, as well as build new dreams together, for the rest of your life. As a member of the eHarmony community, the more conversations you create, the higher your chances to find that person.
So when it comes to initiating communication on eHarmony, Susan, please do not hesitate to send a set of first questions to someone whose profile catches your eye, and continue to do so with each and every one of your matches you have even the slightest bit of interest in. Not only are most men thrilled when a woman lets them know that she is interested and finds them attractive, but when you start getting to know the men you’ve been matched with, you also may be surprised to find that your attraction for those who you weren’t sure about in the beginning might be stronger than ones you thought for sure would work based on profile alone. So give everyone a chance! Then if there is mutual interest and you have been communicating online for awhile, let him pursue you to the next level—asking for your phone number—then if all goes well, perhaps out on your first date.
There is one important side note about initiating communication that I feel I must mention, and this applies to both women and men. Sometimes when you request communication with a match, they may decline and close you out, and that may hurt. I’d like you to keep in mind that honesty, no matter what the truth, is better than any other version; it’s better to know up front if someone is not interested. Being closed out doesn’t always happen, so please be strong and persevere. Keep trying, and I think you’ll agree that the risk of rejected communication is very small, especially when compared to the reward of meeting someone who could be the love of your life! I don’t want you to miss out on the happiness and contentment that a successful relationship can bring. So put aside any doubts and let eHarmony be an opportunity for that kind of joy for you. Let us know how it works out for you. Sincerely, Dr. Neil Clark Warren