I’ve been talking to some of my patients lately about their adventures in on-line dating, and they’ve been complaining about two different but related phenomena: men who come across as insufficiently interested right at the beginning and men who seem far too interested from the get go.
One of my patients, Shelly, told me a familiar-sounding story this week about how she’d gone through the requisite steps of on-line dating, with the initial contact, the few emails to establish that the other person seemed reasonably sane and then the phone call.
The man had said that he’d be busy during the upcoming weekend but that he’d call her at the end of the weekend to make a plan. She didn’t hear from him until Tuesday morning, and even then, there was no apology or explanation for the delay. During our session, she asked me, half-jokingly, “When did Tuesday morning become the end of the weekend?”
In our discussion, we came to the conclusion that this man had demonstrated a clear lack of interest, not to mention a lack of politeness, toward her and that it didn’t bode well for the future. She chose not to respond to his text.
Earlier today, I heard the opposite kind of story. My patient Sonia was telling me how she’d received, after the initial contact, an exceedingly long email from a man who was interested in meeting her. She’d felt that there was something odd about him having “almost written a dissertation,” in her words.
When we discussed it, I suggested that such an excessive degree of enthusiasm seemed inappropriate for a person he’d never even met or had spoken with, and that it smacked of projection. By that I mean, the gentleman must have been busy imagining something about Sonia that had nothing to do with who she really is.
I also suggested that it was extremely rude of him to expect a total strange to spend her time and energy reading such a long note. He was imposing on her before he’d even met her. None of these things are likely to add up to the possibility of a successful match.
In Shelly’s case, the man’s behavior was “too cold.” In Sonia’s, it was “too hot.” In both cases, what the women needed was someone whose behavior was “just right.”
In my mind, if you want to try on-line dating, “just right” behavior should include keeping emails brief and to the point. People should call when they say they’re going to and they should be courteous, interested, pleasant and not overly familiar. Too hot, or overly intense communications are off-putting and anxiety-provoking, while too-cold or overly-diffident responses are hurtful and rude.
Dating, then, according to the “Goldilocks Principle” is simple and straight-forward: keep it warm and polite, and then, at least, it’ll start out “just right.”