Dating Advice, Relationships

10 Online Dating Rules for Women

69 Comments 17 June 2010

Here’s how not to scare off a potential match, because even a harmless-seeming e-mail can sabotage online dating. From The Rules for Online Dating.

Whether you were recently hurt or haven’t been in a relationship for a while, you want immediate gratification and compensation for all the pain and heartache of recent years or even decades. But get a grip and tell yourself there is no shortcut to courtship, things take time, so you must not act impatiently or desperately. You are a CUAO (Creature Unlike Any Other), remember? You need to force yourself to refrain from saying anything too intense or negative that could scare a man away. Unfortunately, no matter what your heart says, you must hold back a bit for your own good.

Here are Rules to help you be light and breezy in your e-mails:

  1. Sometimes giving a man no answer is being light and breezy. If a man doesn’t write you a sentence or two specific to your ad, but rather just sends you his profile through a “wink” or a “rose” (stock-response features that allow you to click on an ad and send your profile to the chosen ad), or if he sends a photo only, do not respond at all. It shows no effort, very little interest in you, merely a click of a button. Just delete it. He is just using online dating for fun, not to seriously meet someone. He’s just cruising online.
  2. If a man sends you an e-mail and he doesn’t have a photo online, say “Would love to see a photo. Thanks.” That’s it, nothing else. Do not have a long conversation with this man no matter how interesting and long his e-mail to you was. If he refuses to send his photo, there is usually a reason. We are not being superficial here. When he does respond with a photo and you like it, do not write “Cute pic” or “Nice abs.” Just say “Thanks for the photo” and answer his questions.
  3. Don’t tell a man you checked his profile, even if you did. Just write back in response to his e-mail, “You sound nice,” and anything else you want to say. Do not write, “Read your ad, my brother is also an accountant, and he also played basketball in college. I love skiing and tennis too…We seem to have a lot in common.” As a Rules girl, you are too busy to be memorizing men’s ads, remember? Even though you did.
  4. Do not look through his profile for conversation pieces. For example, do not notice that he is newly divorced and say, “Sorry about your marriage…why did it end?” or see that he has two children and ask their ages. None of your business at this point. Save it for when you are dating awhile or when he brings it up. Also, don’t ask questions about his work. It’s an obvious ploy to find out how much money he makes and if he will be a good provider. Take a chance if you like him, don’t worry about his income. Let him ask a few questions about you. Women tend to get into these long question-and-answer sessions with men online and it is a complete waste of time as most never even make it to date zero anyway.
  5. Never e-mail a man a second time if he neglected to respond to your e-mail, even if you think that he is your future husband or soul mate. Never! E-mailing a man twice in a row is the antithesis of being light and breezy. He may be away on business or just busy, and you will come across as desperate, or he may just poof! If he does, just let him poof! Don’t think his or your computer is not working. On some systems, you can check sent mail to see if the e-mail has been read. Do not e-mail him, “Wasn’t sure if you got my last e-mail…” He did! If he never e-mails you again, so be it, next! Just know that if you do e-mail him twice in a row and he responds, you will have made yourself the pursuer. He will know how much you like him, and the relationship will follow suit.
  6. If you get any angry e-mails back, such as “I want more than three sentences from someone I would want to date, someone open and honest, no games,” hit the delete button. However, if a man writes back nicely and says “Tell me more about yourself,” you can tell him a hobby or two or favorite TV show or about your recent ski trip.
  7. For the first three months, do not initiate e-mails; only respond to e-mails he sends you — and only if his e-mail merits a response to a question. Do not e-mail back if he sends you a joke or just says something like, “Did I tell you how adorable you are?” although if he sends these kinds of complimentary e-mails regularly you can wait for three to add up and e-mail back, “That is so sweet, thank you.” Just wait 24 hours before you e-mail him back.
  8. Don’t be a downer. If you had a bad day, your job is on the line, money problems, health scare, and so on, do not weave it into your e-mail conversations as a way of bonding with this man. For example, don’t say “Crazy week. 30 people were let go at work. I could be next. Mother just diagnosed with cancer. Last boyfriend was a jerk, hope you are different.” This might be fine for your girlfriends, even a female acquaintance, but it is not the way to get close to a potential date. On the contrary, it will make the average man think “Nut case!” or “Who wants to hear her problems?” and he will never ask you out. Instead say, “Hi, got your e-mails…crazy busy with work…going to work out now and burn off some Italian food from last night…have a really great day…”
  9. After three or four months, you can initiate one quick fun e-mail – such as a joke, or something that made you think of him, but nothing about sex, just a small innocent e-mail. For example, if he is a basketball fan and his favorite team lost the playoffs the night before, you can e-mail him, “Hi, there. Hope you’re doing well. Sorry about the Knicks. Maybe next year!”
  10. Words never to use in your e-mailsand things never to discuss in e-mails (even if he does):
    • soul mate
    • dream man
    • commitment
    • commitment-phobia
    • anything about sex
    • his or your long-term plans
    • ex-boyfriend
    • ex-husband
    • last relationship
    • marriage
    • connection
    • intimacy
    • or anything about game-playing (e.g., “I don’t play games”).

    It all sounds good on paper, but you cannot write “soul mate” and think you will get one that way. A soul mate is someone who responds to your ad, doesn’t give up e-mailing you, tries to get your number to get a date with you and is a loving and fun companion. Unfortunately, you cannot attract this by writing the word down any more than you can attract wealth by writing down the word “money.” Be patient. More will be revealed. It takes time to figure out who your soul mate is. So beyond looking desperate, it is really a waste of time to write down “waiting for my soul mate” or anything like it.

The Rules for Online Dating

The Rules for Online Dating

Ellen Fein


We are wives, mothers, co-authors, dating coaches, and have been best friends for the last 30 years. We came up with the idea for a self-help dating book called The Rules after many, many dinners with single girlfriends at the now-defunct Sung Chu Mein, a Chinese restaurant on the Upper East Side in New York City—it was sort of like Sex and the City, but before Sex and the City! Like most women our age, we were career-minded with our own apartments, but we also wanted to get married. So over fried tofu and mixed vegetables, we each brought our dating problems to the table. We began to notice that the women who played hard to get, either deliberately or by accident, were the ones who got the guys, while the women who asked guys out or were too available were the ones who got dumped. We put two and two together, and wrote and wrote, and that’s how The Rules were born! We had no idea The Rules would become a bestseller… we just wanted to help women stop making mistakes and get the men of their dreams—and that’s what we still do now, 20 years later! Today, Ellen is married with two children and lives in New York, and Sherrie is married with a teenage daughter and lives in New Jersey. We did The Rules, wrote The Rules, and have helped millions of women do The Rules, too. Now, we want to help you!

  • radicalagnostic

    According to the above, your ‘soul mate doesn’t give up emailing you’ and is also ‘loving and fun.’ So you’re telling ladies to find a man who treats her like a little girl who doesn’t know who she wants because she can only tell who he is when he beats down her door? Gotta tell you, rejection is SUCH a turn on for me as a man. Did you include the part that mentions the guy they might like is too busy hanging out with the cool chick who thinks for herself and can start conversations with him on her own like you know, a woman?

  • Jubilee

    I think all these tips are ridiculous. After 4 months I can initiate an email???? Are you kidding me??? I don’t have the attention span to email someone for 4 months. I married a man I met online and we had a “real-live” date within a week of meeting each other online. Emailing someone for 4 months seems a little creepish.

  • Nicole Friedman

    I wholeheartedly agree to ignore men who only write one sentence, wink or have no pictures. Too many times I gave men who did this a chance, and simply ended up wasting my own time. That being said, I strongly disagree with the rules when it comes to email responses. My now husband had sent me a very lengthy email, with numerous references to my profile (which was much longer than the rules would have liked). I took the time to do the same. We started corresponding on a fri, we went out that sun, and we talked daily after that until our engagement only a month later. Obviously I would not recommend that all women do as I did, but I do not believe in playing games. How can a man get to know you if you are more concerned with not being the pursuer than getting to know him? You don’t have to give everything away about yourself right away, but not commenting on his profile is just dumb.

  • Patsy

    You gotta be kidding! No email for 3 months???? Stupid. I met my “soul mate” on line 5 years ago and we have been together ever since. We shared long informational emails for a few days, met within a week and were married in 2 years (so we were not rushing into anything!). Go with your gut, be yourself, and the rest will follow. Stupid advice.

  • Eric

    My wife and I met online through Facebook. We started as friends and have now been married for almost 3 years. We started off slowly, but we were talking on the phone within a month (the next progression). I think people need to be initially cautious, but then be yourself. If you are not yourself, then your lying to others and yourself. We all want honesty, not lies. If you want a wonderful relationship, find the person who completes you. That person is out there. Dating is the process of finding them.

  • normal guy

    What terrible advice!

    Waiting 4 months to respond has only one outcome – being written off by the other person.

  • ellen

    ” Also, don’t ask questions about his work. It’s an obvious ploy to find out how much money he makes and if he will be a good provider.” This is stupid advice. On dating websites it is listed what is his/her occupation. If they decide to list it (which most people with a JOB don’t mind doing), you can guess what their salary is. What a ridiculous piece of advice!!!

  • S_Y_Z_88

    I’ve been doing The Rules for years. And guess what, I’m 32 and have never been married. Do you know why? Because every guy I am dating leaves me for some girl who pursued him and showed interest! While I do agree that women shouldn’t ask men out, I have learnt the hard way that being cold and distant does not land you a husband!

  • Mike

    I cant agree with these folks..

  • jenniferbriffa

    If he’s really interested, they will. And bear in mind that that rule is more for people who have been dating for a while and are using email as a means of communication. That rule applies to texting as well. It’s meant to keep you mysterious and seemingly unattainable.

  • jenniferbriffa

    Were you online late at night? If so, that was your first mistake. Your second was to IM with him at all. You should have blocked yourself from IMs so that he’d be forced to email you (and thus, put actual thought into what to say). Since you did IM him, your second mistake was letting it go on too long. Ten to fifteen minutes was all you should have given him. That way, he’s more likely to want to chat again and you don’t give away too much too soon. You’re also less likely to say something innocently that will come across as sexual to him (the “curvy” comment). Third, you didn’t immediately sign off as soon as he said the first sexual thing. Do not waste any more time IM-ing and especially do not waste time with men who make it clear that they’re only after one thing.

  • jenniferbriffa

    There’s a big difference between being a Rules Girl and being cold and distant. Perhaps you should read the books again.

  • jenniferbriffa

    The Rules do not say “no emailing”. They say that you are not the one who INITIATES emails. You also do not respond to conversational emails (after you’ve been dating a while) because the focus is always on getting face time. This is because if you fall into a rut, like so many women do, where all the guy is doing is emailing and not asking you out, it’s a fantasy relationship.

  • jenniferbriffa

    The four month rule is in reference to emailing with someone you have been actively dating during that time period, not someone you’ve never met before.

  • jenniferbriffa

    You’re not being rejected if she consistently replies and accepts your date invites.

  • jenniferbriffa

    You wouldn’t if you were crazy about her, which is the point of The Rules. It’s weeding out the men who aren’t that interested so that we don’t waste time with them which could be spent with someone who is nuts about us.

  • jenniferbriffa

    Maybe you aren’t giving them a good enough reason to respond. If all you’re doing is copy-pasting the same message to 100 girls, then they can hardly be blamed for not wanting to reply. Women like to feel special and we can spot a form letter at 20 paces. Also, are you the best you can be online? Is your profile well-written, with no spelling mistakes and a few good, interesting tidbits about yourself? Most men make the mistake of either posting a crappy three line essay or they hit you with a wall of text. A couple paragraphs with some interesting anecdotes about your life that accurately portray who you are will do wonders. Plus, if your pictures suck, get a friend or even a professional to take new ones. Most guys will slap any old dark, grainy, or even over-exposed webcam photo up. You know the type – the ones where you get a great view of the inside of their nostrils. If you did all the right things and women are still not replying, maybe you need to change your appearance a bit. Overweight? Work out! Scraggly, unshaven beard? Break out the razor! You get my drift. Women are as visual as men are, we’re just slightly more forgiving if a guy can show that he’s got it goin’ on in other areas (and no, I’m not referring to his bank account). There are a lot of things that can influence your response rate. Instead of complaining, get up and do something about it.

  • jenniferbriffa

    Then you weren’t that interested in her, in which case you’d be doing her a favor.

  • Sean

    You’re right, when a woman follows these “rules” with me, I just assume she isn’t all that interested and I move on. No guy wants a clinger, but a woman who never initiates any conversations is boring. At least I now know where they got this terrible advice from.


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