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Erika Ettin column: Pandemic no excuse for poor communication after first date

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Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.

Q: Erika,

I’m diving into the COVID era of online dating and wanted to get your professional take on “ghosters”/”breadcrumbers” during COVID. Is it OK to give men I’d normally cut off when they fail to follow up/make plans an extra pass given everything that’s going on right now? Long story short, went on a great (masked) first date two weeks ago (first in-person first date since COVID and genuinely fun/natural/deep conversation), made it clear I was interested in seeing him again, he responded in kind, we discussed tentative plans … then nada. The last message I received was about how he was stuck working on a Sunday.

Conventional wisdom says regardless of everything, if he felt equally strongly he would make it happen … but part of me stubbornly wants to resist that wisdom (partially because I have had countless uninspired first dates over my six years of singledom in this city and partially because my emotional energy/bandwidth for new dates is limited right now).

I recognize that it ultimately comes down to how comfortable I am making myself vulnerable by following up again — but being the over-analyzer I am, wondered if you have any advice based on your clients’ experiences during this time.

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— Madison, 29, Washington, D.C.

A: I know what you want to hear, but unfortunately, I agree with your gut. If he wanted to see you again, he’d ask (or tell you he’s tied up but wants to make plans when he can). Men are pretty simple when it comes down to it in terms of being overt with their intentions.

Does that mean you shouldn’t reach out again? That’s up to you, and you might get another date out of it, but do expect that it’ll happen again unless you explicitly say, “If you want to do this again, I’d love for you to ask me.” (I know that’s easier said than done.) I know how hard it is to make a real connection, so I get the hesitation in forgetting about it just yet. Or, you can just be honest, “Hey! I really enjoyed meeting you and was looking forward to doing it again. Just wanted to see if we’re on the same page.” Nothing wrong with being vulnerable. Will you have anxiety until he replies? Yes. But will you get your answer (either way)? Also yes.

Despite COVID, I would hold your standards of communication. If anything, people are more tied to their phones these days.

Let me know what happens!

Q: Good morning Erika,

eHarmony seems to be the same as Match — lots of “fishing” and very few replies back. I think it’s the dog days of summer and many are not focused on dating — they’re focused on enjoying summer. Maybe things will pick up in September.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop trying or responding. But so far, you and I are doing the lion’s share of the work here with minimal effort on the part of men. In your perspective, is this a seasonality challenge (overlaid by complexities of a pandemic)? Or is this just men in general?!

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— Carol, 63, Chicago

A: To answer your question, most people’s success (men and women) comes in the form of who you write to, not who writes to you. So, it will continue to be like that, with you/I doing most of the outreach. I’m sure summer plays a role, but I also want to manage expectations. All of my female clients in their 50s and 60s do most of the outreach because, sadly, men often have their search parameters set differently. You’re still getting a good response, though, and it is a numbers game, so keep it up!

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. ©2020 Erika Ettin Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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