Should a Woman Initiate the Emails in Online Dating?

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Several times I’ve been asked if a girl should email first in online dating. First things first: yes, it’s absolutely fine for a woman start the email conversations in online dating. However, I think when this question is asked what these women really want to know: “Will writing first be worth my time? Are men open to this?” This is where the questions get a little more difficult to answer.

Before I get into the advice, it’s probably worth mentioning I only consider myself to be of average attractiveness and I never received much contact from women. I bring this up because the way I looked at receiving emails may be different from other men. Having talked to many other men about online dating, I believe my experience was common and therefore I suspect the advice here is generally good. However, if you’re only contacting the most attractive men you can find, the rules may change considerably. A man receiving five emails every day may not respond like a man receiving one email a week.

I was always open and happy to receive emails from women. However, I’ll be honest and say that the first few moments after being contacted by a woman I always felt a little strange. I guess sometimes guys are so used to working for a date, that when they don’t have to work they start to question if they want it. This is why so many women play hard to get…they’ve figured us out! Still, my ego always won out and I was flattered more than anything else. As my dad always told me when I was growing up: “One of the most attractive traits a woman can have is that they are attracted to you”. He was only half-serious but there is some truth to this!

So yes, I think you should be open to emailing men…as long as you consider the following:

Dealing with Rejection
You may begin to deal with rejection more directly. Not receiving emails can hurt and I’m not trying to down-play that but things are more direct when you’re sending emails, not just waiting for them. There’s a different sort of feel to obsessing over whether or not you should send an email to a guy for a week and then having him not respond you at all. Also, most people who are not interested will simply not respond but occasionally you’ll find someone who takes pleasure in rejecting you. It’s rare but I hear about this from time to time.

Be Open to Emailing Multiple Men
If you’ve decided to email one guy, why not contact a few? When I started dating online I emailed one girl and then waited a few days and if I received no response I emailed another. This is NOT a good way to get dates. It also created a bad habit in me where I would obsess over waiting for a response from that one person. Later, when I would email three or four at once I had a lot more luck and if even one of those four wrote me back, I totally forgot about the other three.

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!
Some guys don’t know how to respond when a woman has contacted them. At one time, I was one of these men. As someone who often responded with too much excitement, I’d ask you to be a little forgiving of those responses that come off as a little strange. He might come off as scary but he’s probably just happy.

Hint, Hint, Hint
If you’re concerned that some men may be turned off by a woman making the first contact, create a process where you give them the opportunity to contact you first. If the site provides monitoring of who’s viewed your profile, look at his profile a few times throughout a week. Not obsessively so! Just a few repeat visits to let him know the first view wasn’t an accident. If the site has a favorites system you can add him to your list. Every service is different but most provide a way for a little electronic flirting.

A More Obvious Hint
I’ve always felt that winks are fine to use. In some ways, it’s like an email but allows the men to feel like they’re still driving the process. I discussed something similar to this in my online dating guide: at a bar a woman will flirt with a man from across the room. He’ll convince himself after getting her number that he took some kind of risk in approaching her when in reality she had decided his success long before they spoke.

Keep Your Email Short
I’ve talked about this time and time again so I won’t go over it again here.

If you’re a woman unsure whether or not you should start contacting men, I’d encourage you to give it a try. Sometimes you can only wait around for so long for the right guy to contact you!



About the Author:

Brad initially struggled with online dating but over time became quite successful using it. He met his wife using online dating and has been giving advice and helping people improve their results since 2007. He has written a Free Online Dating Guide to help others find success with online dating. You can learn more about his personal experience using online dating and running this website here.


  1. Emilio  March 13, 2010

    Outside of the online dating world men have to take the first step about 99% of the time. That means we get rejected A LOT! Speaking only for myself, I am usually thrilled when a woman contacts me, just because it relieves the burden, if only for a moment, of putting myself out there only to get shot down yet again.

  2. Brad  March 14, 2010

    Yeah, I agree with your thoughts. I think my normal response was, “well this is a nice change of pace!”

  3. milly  January 23, 2011

    It amazes me how many people join these dating sites but dont make any effort.
    I hear guys complaining that they never get any interest but it turns out they never initiate contact,they are waiting for the woman to get in touch! sorry men but that is your job initially ,these days men seem to forget that is their role.There is nothing more off putting than a man who is waiting to be pursued.
    Guys,if you are interested in a woman,be a man and send her a message,all women like a man who is capable of being forthright and decisive.

  4. Arielle  March 6, 2011

    What an interesting topic! As a woman who initiates emails in online dating, I was wondering how many other women out there prefer to take the lead and fire off that first email to potential guys of interest. Personally, I like the idea of initiating emails because it opens the door to more possibilities of connecting with someone who may otherwise not have discovered me.

    Of course I’ve had my share of hits and misses. The “misses” being the disappointing non-responses or ego-crushing direct rejections, and the “hits” being the positive connections, i.e., a favorable response leading to continued correspondence. As for rejections, I just think of them as a necessary evil. The more rejections you get, the less impact they have over time. And believe me, the ego-boost of getting *one* positive response more than makes up for a dozen non-responses/rejections!

    As for the positive connections, in most cases I got the impression that the guy was pleasantly surprised to get an email from a woman. One guy even remarked in his reply, “I was flattered to get your email!” So I certainly support the idea of a woman making the first move. A wink is fine, but I think an email works even better because you can personalize it with specifics to really get the guy’s attention and demonstrate sincere interest.

    • Nicole  May 6, 2012

      I enjoy if not prefer to initiate contact online. But that is as far as I’ll go. I still think men should initiate contact in person, and when they’re contacted online they should continue initiating if interested.

  5. Whitney  June 4, 2012

    My experience has been that all the men I am NOT interested in or who never read my profile and send mass mailings are the ones I hear from. But the 10 or so ones I am interested in never bat an eye. I have never written a guy first on a dating site. It’s as awkward for me as it is for some men who receive emails from women. Why? Mixture of reasons. Don’t want to be put into any “desperate” category, don’t want to end up with a passive man, and it’s sexy when a man knows what he wants.

  6. Fatma  August 20, 2012

    Whitney, You’re absolutely right! I have 15 guys added to my favourite list since a year and this is a notification they receive but not anyone of them have contacted me. The guys who contact me (am favourite of some 100 and something guys) I have no interest in.
    Two weeks ago, I decided to initiate contact… fingers crossed.

  7. Venus  December 11, 2012

    I emailed man first and I didn’t get response for a week. When he respond, he told me that he is not on “site’ too often, and he send me his phone number to call him, text, etc.
    That is somehow weird for me, that he sent his phone number just like that, in his first respond. We did not exchange any info about ourselves, jet. What’s going on with him?? Somebody can give some input? Thanks.


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