Setting Your Initial Search Criteria

As we established in Part 1, the purpose of online dating is to cast a wide net. The more open-minded you can be in terms of your search criteria, the more success you will have. This is more than just changing the settings in your account-- you have to be open-minded and broaden the criteria you’re holding onto in your soul.

You should think of your search criteria as ‘first date disqualifiers’. If you exclude something from your search criteria, you should be comfortable saying to yourself, ‘If I met this kind of guy, I wouldn’t even bother going on one single date with him.’

That might sound harsh-- it is harsh-- but used correctly that’s OK! If you want kids, why waste everybody's time going on a date with a perfectly lovely guy who will never want kids? It's OK to use that to narrow down your dating pool. This will keep you from chasing guys that you’re fundamentally incompatible with.

It also keeps you from searching for frivolous things. 'If I met a man who wasn't taller than me, I wouldn't bother going on one single date with him.' 'If I met a man who was into any of that nerdy crap, I wouldn't even bother going on one single date with him.' Notice how petty and unreasonable those sound? These are NOT reasonable disqualifiers. These are insignificant details that only matter when you’re dreaming up a caricature, not when you’re getting to know a real man.

When you’re snuggled up on a cold winters’ night, are you going to get any enjoyment out of getting out the measuring tape and double-checking that your man’s still over 5’ 9”? When your car won’t start and it’s 5 degrees out and you need to get to work, is he gonna whip out a youthful, boyish hairline to help you? If Idris Elba took you out bowling, dropped to one knee, and pleaded with you to become the mother of his child, are you really going to say, ‘No, Idris. I’m sorry, but you're really into RuneScape and you don’t share my rapturous enthusiasm for Harry Potter’? If not, then why are you holding your dating prospects up to these weird requirements?

That being said, it is true that the higher your own relationship value is, the more stringent you can be with your set of criteria. An overweight woman will have to be open to dating overweight men. A woman that already has kids from a previous relationship will have to be open to dating divorcees/men with kids, whereas a younger woman does not.

Take a good look at the criteria you’ve been using-- not just the ones you explicitly built into your online profile, but the ones you're privately holding onto in your heart. Are any of them unnecessarily restrictive? Could you be overlooking great men because you’re expecting to be bowled over by how suave and debonair he comes across on a dating app? Are you secretly, in your heart, expecting more from the men you date than you, yourself, can offer?

My personal list of first-date criteria was as follows:

  1. Looking for a ‘long-term’ relationship as defined by OKC’s search engine.
  2. Never married, no kids, but wants kids.
  3. No smoking, no drugs.
  4. Must have a skilled job or imminent job prospects (like a man finishing his degree, etc.)
  5. Must live within a one-hour drive. My rationale was that it was unlikely that a sustainable non-LDR relationship would develop outside of this radius. However, this is one criteria that I could expand if I wasn’t getting enough ‘bites’.

Choose 3-7 solid ‘First Date Disqualifiers’. Make a pact with yourself that if a man meets these criteria, and the opportunity presents itself, you will agree to at least go on ONE date with him.

Resist the urge to quietly scroll past a guy or reject a first date for petty reasons such as not liking his hobbies, his job in finance sounding quotidian and unsexy, or his online banter not being the crispest around. You have established that he factually, objectively has potential. You have no idea what he’s really like until you’ve actually met the man in person.

It is your DUTY to your future self to get out there and meet these guys with potential!


Your goal in this stage should be to quickly double-check whether meeting in person is warranted, and if so, to set a date in the immediate future to meet up.

  • Feel free to begin the chat yourself. At this stage, there is absolutely no need to wait for him to send the first message. Try to give him a little something to work with-- don't just say 'hey' and then hold it against him when he doesn't fire back some astonishing witticism.
  • Try to keep on top of your messages. Inconsistently checking the app, neglecting to respond to messages, and letting the conversation fizzle out with one-word replies all increase the likelihood that you will overlook someone incredible. If you start up a conversation with a great guy, and then quasi-ghost him because you're flakier than a fresh croissant, he’ll quickly dismiss you and move on. Even if you don't feel like it that day, try to give it a shot.
  • Do not fall into the trap of endless chatting. For our purposes here at RPW, until you meet up in person, you haven’t really MET them. What you’re actually doing is pre-forming your concept of them, and in some cases building them up in your mind. The longer you do this, the more likely you are to be disappointed when you do meet them. Furthermore, the longer you wait, the more likely it becomes that your relationship will STAY online-only.

‘But u/zsadiist,” the astute observer might protest. “I’ve been reading that generally I should let him pursue ME. How can I control how long we chat if I’m not supposed to be the one setting up the date?”

When you have decided that the chatting has gone on long enough, and it’s time to Alluringly and Femininely Piss or Get Off the Pot, you can put the ball firmly in his court with “Hey, let me know if you ever want to meet up sometime!” You then free yourself from the obligation to continue the endless chatting. This statement is not a demand, but makes it clear that he can ask you out without being rejected. He is then free to WOW you by planning a fabulous date.

It’s A Date!

Disclaimer: This post assumes you have a pretty decent grasp of RPW advice. All the standard advice applies. Don’t sleep with the guy on the first date.

Your official RPW objective on the first date is to have fun.

  • Channel your inner Goddess of Fun and Light (see any of Laura Doyle’s books, which are standard RPW reading, for more info on this topic). If you’re focusing on whether you want a second date, whether this guy seems interested, or any other ‘meta’ considerations inside your head, you will not be able to fully engage with the date or the man. Furthermore, you will come across as anxious or distracted. You can scrutinize all of these details privately later.
  • Be flexible. Allow him to plan the date, but have a few ideas handy if he asks. This sets the precedent of allowing him to do things that delight you, rather than you calling the shots all the time (a desirable dynamic).
  • A date that includes a quiet, absorbing activity for both of you to do, so that conversation can naturally ebb and flow, might be preferable to a dinner date that creates pressure to fill silences. Consider mini-golf, Paint Nite, a drive-in movie theater, bowling, an outdoor flea market, or similar. Ideally there will be plenty of opportunity to talk, but no awkward pressure.
  • You can kiss him if the opportunity arises and you feel good doing it, but someone who is concentrating on having fun would never feel obligated to kiss a guy if she wasn’t feeling it yet. Because that wouldn’t be fun!

When you get home, now is the time to debrief, unpack your feelings, and decide whether you want a second date or not.

  • If you loved it-- great! Text him and let him know that you had fun! That opens the door for him to ask you for a second date.
  • If you hated it-- good! It’s over, you never have to see him again, and you did your duty to yourself by checking the guy out. You knocked out one of the dates that happened to be on the path to finding a great man. You are one step closer. Do some fun self-care activities and move on to the next guy.
  • If you are somewhere in the middle-- perhaps some more thought is required. First dates can be awkward. If it definitely wasn’t love at first sight, but you had a pretty good time-- you don’t have to, but I would encourage you to go on one or two more dates to see if you develop a little more chemistry. By the third date, you should have a better idea of what to do. If you still only feel lukewarm, this is probably a good indication you should move on.

Willy Wonka and Abundance Mentality

Abundance mentality is a concept that you might see discussed in the men’s subs rather more often than the women’s. If it is only discussed in the context of dread game, it can strike a relationship-oriented woman as bitterly distasteful. However, it is highly relevant to the modern female online dater.

You need to realize that there is no ‘one’ perfect man that you’re looking for.

That might sound off-puttingly unromantic. But it’s actually FABULOUS news. The truth is that there’s many men in the world that you could build a beautiful life with, who have the potential to make you very happy. They only BECOME ‘the one’ when you build a life together. You only need to find ONE of these men.

There is no need to fear that you just missed the greatest opportunity you'll ever get when some OKC guy is slow to respond to that last text. There is no need to pedestalize one guy that’s clearly just biding his time until his ex is available again. The energy one might waste fretting over these guys should be invested in finding one that reciprocates. It doesn’t all ride on you finding one perfect needle in a haystack-- you just have to find ONE of Willy Wonka’s several Golden Tickets.

If you obsess over the single chocolate bar in your hands, without ever unwrapping it or giving other chocolate bars the time of day, the probability is high that you are wasting your time. When you finally do unwrap it and it turns out to be a dud, you’ll be disappointed. Similarly, you shouldn’t spend endless energy stalking one guy’s social media presence before you decide to meet him. There are tons of other men you should be checking out!

If you opened a chocolate bar and there’s clearly no Golden Ticket-- If you’ve been on dates with a man and he’s not that interested, but you stubbornly chase him and demand his attention, you’re still going to end up disappointed. He’s not going to turn around and suddenly have that Golden Ticket.

None of these behaviors increase the likelihood of finding a great man.

If you open lots of chocolate bars by going on lots of first dates, each date you go on might be that one you’ve been looking for! You might have an unexpectedly hilarious time that leads to a long relationship… which leads to marriage… But you’ll never know from just browsing his online profile-- you OWE it to yourself to actually open the chocolate bars and go on those dates!