With the popularity of dating apps like Bumble, where heterosexual women make the first move or else the match disappears, gender roles in marriage continue to change, and studies that showing that 1) women are 2.5x more likely to get a response and get better matches if they initiate online and 2) 91 percent of men are into a woman asking them out, you'd think we'd have no problem messaging "Hey, how's it going?" to a someone on a dating app first, right? Not exactly.
When Bustle teamed up with Happn, the dating app that connects you with people you've crossed paths with, for a survey on dating app behavior, we found that most women in their 20s and 30s are waiting to be approached on their apps. After surveying 1,100 Happn users, where the vast majority identified as straight, 70 percent of women (versus 13 percent of men) said they wait for the other user to message them. And earlier this year, an OkCupid report revealed that most women, regardless of sexual orientation, don't send the first message either. Straight woman were 3.5x less likely to take the lead compared to straight men. What gives?
As much as I wanted to see that more women were initiating conversations, this is definitely a common issue I see among my own friends too — the assumption that "if he was interested, he would have messaged me first!" So it's time to talk about it and figure out how women can feel more comfortable making the first move.
Many women I know figure that guys are so used to making the first move and it must say something when they don't — but I don't think that's completely accurate. I've heard my guy friends complain that women never take the initiative online and they're tired of doing all the work. It took me some time to feel comfortable making the first move online, but I found it liberating once it became a habit. A few months on Bumble helped me get used to initiating conversations on that platform and other apps too — and equally as important, help me not give a sh*t if someone didn't respond. Another thing I like to remind myself about approaching guys online or IRL? Thinking about the people I've dated in the past and whether they would've been cool with me reaching out to them first had we met online — and without a doubt they would have.
Today we're dating completely differently than our parents and grandparents did. We have new ways of meeting people, new definitions of relationships, and new forms of communication. Why hasn't this part of dating evolved?
"I deal with men all the time who are frustrated that when they make efforts they go unreturned, and I deal with women who don’t understand why men they want don’t make effort to get to know them," Gina Stewart, online dating coach and owner of Expert Online Dating tells Bustle. "I think it has to do with a struggle with traditional gender roles and the perception of effort. Women feel like before online dating, men used to have to make a lot more effort to meet and date a woman... Considering dating and pursual is now taking place on phones, women feel like men don’t have to make much effort or risk whatsoever. The first move is the equivalent of a few finger strokes. And I think women like to think they are worth that much, at a minimum. "
As Toronto matchmaker and founder of Single In The City, Laura Bilotta, points out, this is something we've been hard-wired to do. "It’s in our DNA, it’s ancestral, it’s societal, it’s not easily re-programmable," she says. "Innately women are still old-fashioned in the dating department. There is still a fairy-tale like wonder attached to finding Mr. Right." Eric Resnick, owner and head online dating coach of ProfileHelper, agrees that, although it's becoming less prevalent each year, societal norms are still saying men should make the first move. "I've had several female clients who tell me they are worried a guy won't like a woman who is that forward or that they fear making the first move could be emasculating to the guy," he says.
So what can we do about this old-fashioned, sexist dating rule that hasn't been put to rest yet? How can single women feel more empowered to go after someone they want online (and offline)? Here's what dating and relationship experts have to say:
1. Remember That Men Are Afraid Of Being Rejected Too
"I own a small niche dating site and have interacted with a lot of female members over this exact issue," Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed psychologist and founder of Christian Crush, tells Bustle. "When they are encouraged to take the initiative and reach out to men, many of them respond with something like 'I'm still old-fashioned and feel like the man should make the first move.' However, I've noticed a generational difference where those in their 40s-60s feel this much more than those in their 20s-30s."
But take this into consideration: "One thing for women to keep in mind online is that men are often just as timid as they are at taking the first step," she says. "Many men fear they'll be rejected or there will be no response so they wait and hope someone will contact them first instead. Therefore, ladies, take courage! Stick your toe in the water and try sending out several smiles and messages each week to increase your chances of making a successful connection."
2. Look At It From Their Position
"I think women also wonder if they’ve made the first move are they supposed to then also suggest the date," Stewart tells Bustle. "Since they made the first move, who is the one leading the next steps? Generally, I’ve found women almost always prefer men to but this process can feel blurred when women make the first move." So what should you do? Put yourself in his shoes.
"To start, I always advise female daters to look at dating from the man’s position," she says. "Would it be easy for you always be the one to make yourself open to rejection? You’d probably have a little more empathy and understanding for men and you’d realize that men will often make the advances (in life or online) when they feel like their advances will be welcomed. Think about it, pretending you’re a guy, if a girl at a concert is smiling at you, you’d be way more likely to have to the courage to talk to her, right? Well, same with dating apps and online dating. There’s no greater way to show them that their advances are welcomed than by sending a quick message. If you’re doing traditional online dating, you can baby-step your way there by winking, favoriting, liking etc. Honestly at the end of the day do want to split hairs over who should message who first or would you rather get offline for good and have that relationship? The answer should be easy. Ladies: Make. Your. Move! "
3. Remember You Know What You Want Better Than Anyone Else
"Math is your friend," Resnick says. "This might sound silly, but by not reaching out to people, you halve your opportunities. If you just sit on your hands, you limit yourself to incoming traffic. Every person you contact is someone who might not have even seen your profile. You know you are better than that. Besides, why trust complete strangers to decide what's best for you? You know what you want better than anyone else. If you don't make the first move, all you will get are messages from people who think you are good for them. That doesn't take your wants or needs into account at all. " Can't argue with that.
4. You Can Go At Your Own Pace
If you're not used to taking the lead, remember that making the first move doesn't have to be aggressive — it can be a small step."Many women online feel that making the first move makes them less desirable, and may also make them vulnerable to abuse," Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together. If this resonates with you, then consider taking a baby step.
"Try asking the guy you’re interested in a question about something in his profile," Tessina says. "'Hi, I noticed that you wrote you like the beach. What do you like to do there?' The question doesn’t really matter, it’s just a way to break the ice and show you’re interested without being too forward. It invites him to respond."
5. You Can Think Of It As Simply A Way Of Showing Interest
Not ready to ask someone out? You can make steps toward making the first move by just showing you're into someone. "Nobody’s ever died from rejection and that’s the worst case scenario in a first date move? “Would you like to have dinner with me?” is the simple line that is the first move," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle.
Another option if you don't want to ask someone out? "Make it clear by flirting," she says. "Give the other person a clue that you’re interested and want to be asked. People are afraid of rejection and lots of them don’t ask because they fear being turned down. When there’s significant interest expressed, just short of asking someone out, it’s a lot easier to make a move without fearing rejection."
6. What Do You Have To Lose?
"Like the lottery says; ‘You can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket,’" Bilotta tells Bustle. "What’s the worst that can happen? He doesn’t respond? So what? Nobody else knows." Very true.
Bilotta also advises to read his entire profile. "If you’re making a move because you think he looks hot in his photo but don’t know a thing about him — well, you know how it feels to be judged solely on your looks, do unto others," she says. "By reading his profile, you see that you share many of the same interests, point that out! That kills two birds with one stone, it’s a great first move and, should things go a little further, you already have things to talk about."
8. If They're Not Cool With It, Do You Really Want To Date Them?
"Remember, every time a guy approaches a woman he feels the same dread; ‘what if she rejects me?’" Bilotta tells Bustle. "They have been trained to act unaffected, but they are affected, just like we are — he may very well appreciate you making the first move. If the guy you want to approach is offended that you made the first move, that’s a red flag! He is probably a very insecure man who does NOT deserve your affection. Bullet dodged!" Consider your time saved.
9. Remember This Story
It's a common situation: you hit it off online, exchange numbers, and plan to hang out... but you never do. If you feel like the guys you meet online aren't following up, don't automatically assume they're uninterested. "I had a stubborn female client who had been corresponding with a man online that never got back to her after saying he wanted to get together," Renée Piane, international Love Designer and author of Get Real About Love. "He was her ideal man and was moving his life from Florida to Los Angeles and he was excited to meet her [in person]. But he went dark for 10 days. She refused to contact him since he said he would call her. I encouraged her to send him a quick flirtatious email (since moving is stressful and he may have been stressed and wasn't online) to let him know she was still interested. The exact message was, "Hi John I hope your move is going great" and "I'm looking forward to our live or phone-on-phone contact.""
So what happened after she made her move? "[He] contacted her right away and made a date for sushi," Piane says. "He was thrilled she contacted him. On the date she asked why he had not called. He said moving was super stressful and he had felt guilty that he had not called sooner. He thought she'd be mad, so he let it go! He was grateful for the "green light signal" and her warmth. They met that week and were never apart again. They have been married for three years and have a beautiful baby I attended their wedding."
10. Think About How The Person You're Looking For Would React
How would the person you're looking for feel about a woman going after what she wants? "The first thing I ask women to do when they are considering whether to make the first move or not is to imagine the type of man they would like to be with," Allison Abrams, LCSW, tells Bustle." Or, if that’s too difficult, to think about men in their lives who they respect such as a brother or a best friend, for example. Now, imagine how that man would react to a woman asking him out. Would he be turned off or intimidated? Or would he be flattered — and perhaps even turned on — by an empowered woman with enough confidence (and chutzpah) to break outdated gender roles and go after what she wants? Now ask yourself, which is the man you would prefer to be with? To most men, there is nothing more attractive than a confident, empowered woman who knows what she wants."
11. Guys Think It's Hot
"When I work with single men in my practice, I hear over and again how they wish more women would make the first move," Abrams says. "One client summed it up perfectly: 'I love it when a girl makes the first move! It takes the pressure off of us. As men, we’re taught that we always have to initiate, and that's not so easy. We don't like getting rejected either! It's refreshing when she makes the first move — and it’s kind of hot!'" Hear that?
"Now some men may not be mature or evolved enough to appreciate this quality in a woman," Abrams says. "Or, if a man simply prefers more traditional roles, he may not appreciate being asked out. So, if that's not the type of man you want, or the type of relationship you imagine for yourself, better to find out now."
12. It's Worth The Risk
Making the first move — and even being rejected — may just lead you to exactly what you're looking for. "Yes, it’s true that when we put ourselves “out there”, we are making ourselves vulnerable," Abrams says. "We are risking the very real possibility of being rejected, and no one likes rejection. However, if your goal is to create deeper intimacy in your life and to ultimately find the right partner, perhaps a moment of disappointment is worth the risk of coming one step closer to finding true love."
Images: Fotolia; Claire Joines; Giphy