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Who Makes the First Move: Does It Really Matter?

by Eharmony Editorial Team - April 1, 2021

There are some mysteries we’ll never solve. Like whether Atlantis existed, who really killed JFK and why there’s still a debate about who makes the first move in today’s day and age. In all seriousness, though, making the first move is something that gives a lot of people – men and women alike – a lot of anxiety.

Should women make the first move?

On the face of it, this seems like an absurd question in the much more feminist world we live in today. But there’s a surprising amount of debate over who takes the initiative, and whether men like it when women do.

Yes, go ahead and ask him, Ladies!

A woman who knows what she wants? Attractive as heck. Ladies, don’t let dated conventions and stereotypes put you off going for what you want – according to one 2012 study, 92% of men reported being comfortable with the idea of women making the first move.

It takes the pressure off him, too. Patriarchy hurts guys too by expecting them to always take the lead when maybe they’d like to be courted instead. And honestly? Sometimes even the most intelligent guys need a little nudge to see what’s right in front of them.

And why it may not be a good idea

How unexpected it is for women to make the first move? So unexpected that sometimes it can wind up backfiring – a guy being put on the spot may make him say something awkward or unintentionally hurtful. And if he’s a more old-fashioned kind of guy, he may not appreciate the tables being turned no matter how interested he is.

Should guys make the first move?

When talking about who is proactive, guys have traditionally been the ones in charge of this. And the argument can be made… if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

The ball’s in your court, gentlemen

While it may be a slightly outdated tradition, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one. It takes a certain degree of confidence, not to mention vulnerability, for men to ask a woman out, which in turn makes him more attractive in her eyes than if she’d had to take the initiative herself.

But perhaps it’s time to hand it over to the ladies

Women are generally programed to say yes even if they’d rather say no, just to be polite. Which means, a man who makes the first move and asks for a date, gets a yes out of surprise, or because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Which is why it may be better to let her ask, since then it’s clear she’s really interested.

How to make a first move: Strategies for two different circumstances

Regardless of who makes the first move, approaching someone you like can be very anxiety-inducing. For those of you wondering how to approach a man or a woman you’re interested in, the following tips may come in handy:

When dating online

Through dating apps, you don’t have the advantage of being able to read the other person’s body language, so it’s even more important to know how to make a first move. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it light and chatty: Knowing someone’s philosophical or political views is important. But bring those topics up too soon, you’ll likely send them running. Instead, a good first move is to keep any initial contact light and chatty but still personal – weekend plans, for instance, or what they think about something in pop culture or sports.
  • Go beyond text: A great way to take things to the next level is to suggest a switch from messages to phones, or even to a video call. If you’re concerned about safety though know that many online dating apps, like eharmony, have built-in voice and video chat tools. Or if you’re still not comfortable, you can always create a throwaway account just for when you’re on the relationship hunt.
  • Be direct. Sometimes the best first move is to just ask.

On an actual date

Success! You’ve already crossed the first hurdle: asking the person you’re interested in out. Here are some tips on how to make a move on a date without being creepy.

  • Be aware of body language: Our bodies are often much more honest than the words we speak. How is your date’s body language? Open, welcoming, with smiles or leaning towards you? Or are they closed off, with little or no eye contact? Often, you’ll know if they’re interested in you without having to ask.
  • Be Yourself. Don’t try a smooth pick-up line if you’re not a Casanova by nature, you’ll come across looking like an idiot or a try-hard. Instead, lean into your natural personality. If you’re a geek, talk to her about whatever it is that makes you totally geek out; if you’re a sports fan, ask them what they think your team’s chances are in the playoffs. Your authentic self is all you need to be attractive to someone.
  • Guys, ask her to teach you something. With so many guys eager to mansplain, asking her to teach you something shows her you respect her knowledge and abilities, and is a way better compliment than telling her how pretty she is. Plus, it’s a great excuse to spend more time with her.
  • Ladies, a little touching goes a long way. Make sure he knows you’re receptive to any overtures on his part by making your body language obvious – put a hand on his arm, brush lightly as you walk past him. Sometimes actions work better than words when it comes to making a move.

It’s not who but how making the right first move will help you find a partner

Regardless of who makes the first move, doing it well is crucial when the time comes to ask someone out. Approaching someone you’re interested in can be very scary, but remember: the worst that can happen is that he or she will say no. And if that’s the case, there’s always eharmony to help you find your next great relationship.

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