I received this email last week from a new client. She is in her 60s, widowed, and this is her first foray into online dating:

“Alan has texted me three times and has not suggested getting together. Of course I have done the same. I’m losing interest in continuing this back and forth. I have the sense that he prefers intellectual banter to emotional intimacy. Do you have any suggestions, either meeting for coffee/tea or letting him know or trusting my instinct to back off in a kind manner?” 

This email came one day—yes, one day—after her new profile went live on one of the dating sites. I encourage all of my clients to schedule a date fairly quickly after connecting with someone, but I thought this woman was taking things to the extreme. My response was as follows: “I have the sense that he prefers intellectual banter to emotional intimacy.’ This is a huge assumption (and one I would not agree with)! Assume he doesn’t know when to ask you out. Many men just repeat the behavior that the last woman taught him, so if one woman wanted lots of messages before the date, he’s using the intel on you. It’s incorrect, of course. I would not back off. Rather, I would say something like, “I’m really enjoying our conversation. Should we meet for a coffee to get to know each other?” I think he’ll jump at the chance. 

Luckily, she replied to me with this just the next day: “FYI, you were so right about Alan. We’re having lunch on Saturday.”

In more general terms, what happens when you have a lovely exchange with someone, but it seems to be leading nowhere. You have a few options:

1.     Stop all communication. Clearly they have no interest in meeting in person.

2.     Keep messaging each other for the rest of eternity.

3.     Suggest meeting in a casual, non-aggressive way.

 The answer is #3. Why? Assume ignorance. They don’t know what they’re doing either! As I mentioned, many people, especially those who are trying online dating for the first time, aren’t sure what the protocol should be. And what works for one person may not work for another. In order to speed things up and help facilitate getting to the actual date, I recommend saying something like these lines below:

 “I’m really enjoying our conversation. Do you think we should meet for a drink or coffee to get to know each other?” (This is what my client above used. It’s a somewhat passive, yet still unambiguous, way to suggest meeting.)

“You ask such great questions—I could never do them justice over this site! Maybe we should meet to chat.” Or, along those lines, “Great question—much better story in person!”

To make it even easier, add this to the end: “I’m available Tuesday or Wednesday evening if either works for you.”

At this point, either the person takes the bait or not. He or she can agree to one of those days, suggest another day, not answer at all, or answer but not make mention of meeting. Any of those responses will give you clarity on this person’s intentions.

In the end, there are two main points:

1.     You get what you allow. If you allow the conversation to go on endlessly while always replying, that’s what you get.

2.     No one is a mind reader. If you want to meet, mention it.

 Now, go forth and plan those dates!


Erika Ettin is an online dating expert and dating coach who helps people navigate the world of online dating. Her expertise includes profile creation, photo selection and photography, message writing, and date planning. She is also the author of the book Love at First Site: Tips & Tales for Online Dating Success from a Modern-Day Matchmaker and the co-host of the popular dating podcast So, We Met Online.

Erika’s work has been featured in media around the country, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and Ask Men, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated dating column. Erika studied economics at Cornell University and received her MBA from Georgetown. She has worked with over 1000 clients and is responsible for relationships, marriages, and the confidence some people simply need to “get out there.”

If you want to learn more about how you can work with Erika, simply click here.