Should you make the first move?

October 28, 2009

Tried and tested dating advice from Zoe Foster and Hamish Blake from their new book “Textbook Romance”.

In this lesson, you’ll learn the art of allowing men to initiate interaction. You’ll also learn that you pretty much seal the doom of your entire relationship just by disobeying this one simple rule.

‘I wish more women would make the first move.’ – David, 32, lawyer

‘Why should we always have to make the first move?’ – Cameron, 25, model

‘Women want equality – well, why they can’t they ask us out for dates, then?’ – Steven, 32, engineer

As the dating columnist for Cosmopolitan, I have undertaken to ask pretty much every man I meet, single or in relationships, their thoughts on this topic. Amazingly, many of them, like David, Cameron and Steven, will sit there, look me dead in the eye and tell me lies.

And they are lies. Because deep down no man actually wants a woman to hit on him. Let me rephrase that. No man looking for a Quality Relationship wants a woman to hit on him. Those just looking for a ‘good time’ have no qualms about it whatsoever. But we’re not concerned with that lot, as fun as they are.

So, guys say they’re tired of doing all the work. Tired of the possibility of rejection every time they spot a lady of interest. They’re shy. They want some help to get the ball rolling, to know that the girl is

But when a girl actually does this, when she flirts openly with a guy, starts the conversation, slips him her number, there is a small part of him that dies inside. It’s not his ego. Nor is it his masculinity. It’s his need to put in effort. Y’see, when you do these things, he immediately knows you’re keen, which means he needn’t spend weeks or months trying to ascertain whether you are or not. You deprive him of The Chase.

Once he’s put your number into his phone and you’ve sashayed away thinking about what an exciting New Generation bird you are, he’s looking at the fun girl by the door who has paid him absolutely no attention all evening. Because whereas you have offered your intentions on a platter, she has offered him a challenge.

As one guy I asked put it, if she immediately makes her intentions transparent, he pretty much allocates her to ‘disposable’ status. He doesn’t believe women can’t let guys know they’re keen, but that there is a way to do it that is encouraging but still tinged with a little mystery. ‘You want to feel like you had something to do with attracting her,’ he said, ‘that you had to earn her interest as opposed to being a target in her trajectory.’

It’s not about sitting back on your Snow Queen throne in your fancy uggboots, swizzling your icy beverage, waiting for a guy to bow down to you and beg for a date, risking rejection, belittling and much ribbing from his friends. No. It’s about allowing a guy to show you he’s interested, which in my opinion and experience, is going to create a far more harmonious and enjoyable situation/relationship for both parties.

If you’re thinking it’s possible to ‘set it up’ so that he makes the first move, I don’t recommend it. Subtle encouragement is more than enough. We don’t need to fish or hint or actively invite men to be interested in us: they either are or they’re not. Just as it is with us and men. Encouragement can be as simple as a dazzling smile when he’s looking your way, and then that delightful little thing you do where you catch his eye then look down just he returns the gaze. This way, he knows he’s walking into safe territory, as opposed to walking up to a woman who is likely to verbally submerge his confidence into a large vat of boiling lard.

Even if women do try to make the first move, most of the time it fails. Men and women are vastly different when it comes to communicating. Some women might think they are making the first move, visually or verbally, but just as hints about anniversaries and Prada wallets for birthday presents go unnoticed, so too do many female ‘pick-up’ signals and lines. (T-shirts with ‘I have breasts and I’m single!’ emblazoned across the front excluded.)

But if you’re determined, and somehow you do start off the relationship by making the first move,
subconsciously you have created a template where you’ll now be expected to initiate everything throughout the entire relationship. If you think you can ask him out on the first date and then sit back and enjoy him wooing and courting you, you’re mistaken, and have obviously NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION.

Of course, there are women who genuinely don’t want a ‘chaser’, and would prefer a less aggressive man. For them, making the first move makes sense because it immediately sets up the dynamic of the relationship. If that works for you, congratulations! You can stop reading and enjoy life with your new friend. But most of us are looking for something a little more challenging, a little more equal.

The fact is, successful male–female relationships begin naturally with the man falling for and pursuing the woman. The woman feels adored and cherished from day one and the man feels proud of his securing her. This foundation – where both parties are equally thrilled about their entry into the relationship – solves a great many possible relationship issues. How much more secure, for example, will you feel knowing your guy chased you and wouldn’t take no for an answer, as opposed to knowing you asked him out, and he didn’t have to invest any effort or expose himself to any vulnerability to land you?

Extract from “Textbook Romance: a step-by-step guide to getting the guy” by Zoe Foster and Hamish Blake (Penguin, $24.95).

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