The Four Stages Of Making The First Move

I should start off by stating the absolute obvious truth: I am single.

Of course, the interesting part of anyone’s relationship status is not so much what it is, but how they got there. There are the girls who are still madly in love with their high school sweethearts and those that are on sugar daddy number five. There are the cynics who have given up on the idea of finding “the one” and the hopeless romantics who are always in love with the idea of being in love, but never manage to hold onto someone.

I’d say I probably fall more into the latter half of that last statement.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a total cynic who thinks going my whole life trying to find “the one” is not worth my time or effort. There are plenty of people who can make you happy who don’t meet a specific set of criteria, but can fulfill that love-sized hole in your heart and stop your co-workers from forcibly downloading Tinder on your smart phone.

For me, the only criteria I truly have are that they are
1. Attractive to me,
2. Attracted to me,
3. Compatible with my personality, meaning they’re probably also a massive dork that loves to laugh.

But if it were all that simple, I wouldn’t be here. I would be out on a date with my “kinda the one” on this late Thursday night instead of scooping out the innards of a mincemeat pie with my fingers while listening to One Direction.

It’s not to say that my life is unfulfilling without a “kinda the one.” I live in London getting my Master’s in science-y science stuff, I have many friends that I talk to regularly, and I don’t know about you, but I feel like after 24 years on this planet, I finally feel like I’ve figured out a hair style that works for me.

None of that matters though when you see another person on Facebook getting engaged/married/producing offspring. You begin to question things. Namely: is she really going to get married before me? It’s enough to kill any single person’s confidence. Even just for a second before unashamedly returning to sing out the lyrics of “Drag Me Down” because there is no one to judge you in your cocoon of singleness.

Still, I wondered: why?

I considered my lack of effort in dating, which is likely my biggest hurdle when it comes down to it. But I always had crushes. There is never a time when I am not crushing on someone. It borders on the desperate, really. So why did I seldom make a move?

I remember asking a guy out via text and sending a long, embarrassing message that I thought made my point. I sent the text, re-read the text, and realized I sounded like an absolute crazy person. I immediately deleted the text, threw my phone across the room, and went to my living room to contemplate all of my life decisions that made me think that was a good idea.

He said yes and I felt awesome and giddy, but nothing ever really happened between us. And while I have no regrets about sending that text, I was no less single than I was before.

So I did some research and I think I came up with my own personal little algorithm for figuring out if I will make my “move.” (I put it in quotes as I’m not 100% sure actively trying not to sweat profusely and make flirty conversation with an attractive person counts as a “move.”)


Basically, every social situation in which I would potentially make a move can be low stress or high stress and low risk or high risk. Stress being defined on how much you feel like you’ll be rejected and risk being how bad the consequences will be if you get rejected and/or engage what is ultimately a failed relationship.

Broadly, I define these four situations as follows:


Low stress, low risk: friends of friends, good acquaintances, anyone who you hang out with voluntarily.


Low stress, high risk: co-workers, neighbors, anyone who you know well and have to see on a regular or semi-regular basis.


High stress, low risk: any kind of cold approach in public. Grocery stores, bars, like, any public place at all.


High stress, high risk: your roommates’ hot S.O., your boss, married people, anyone who you should really never, ever pursue because it may destroy your personal or professional life or just make you feel like shit.

Analysis of Situations

1. The ideal.
The plus side: You guys are friends. You feel comfortable because he thinks the fact that you know how to code and he doesn’t is pretty cool. You don’t feel intimidated by him, but are intrigued by them because he always has interesting stories to tell you about that cat that keeps climbing into his flat and always try to make you laugh when you feel like everything totally sucks.

The only thing stopping you? His girlfriend that makes you feel like Taylor Swift in the first half of the “You Belong With Me” music video.

2. The “great I have to see him even though I look like shit.”
The plus side: You see him almost everyday and probably have an inside joke or two. He’s really cute and you’ve gotten to know him really well over the past semester, but man, it’s going to be so awkward if he doesn’t like you back. He’s the only one who actually knows what’s going on in your organic chemistry lecture and you kind of need to be in his study group if you want to pass.

The only thing stopping you? Having to find a different seat in class because you can no longer look at him without your entire body cringing.

How you can make this more like situation 1:
Become a philosophy major and try to seduce him with your intimate knowledge of ancient Greece. You may still have to see him around campus, but at least he’ll be in the lab while you roam free quoting Socrates for the next four years.

3. The “is he checking me out or just eyeing the 3 for 2 deal on pizza.”
The plus side: You didn’t even know people that hot went to the grocery store. Like, he looks like he was carved out of marble. Are you staring? Stop that right now. He’s not a piece of meat. Of course, that’s one of the things you came to the supermarket for, so…

The only thing stopping you? There is no guarantee anything you will say will be anything close to a coherent sentence. Better just to buy 3 pizzas.

How you can make this more like situation 1:
Do all of your grocery shopping drunk so you may have the liquid courage to approach beautiful people while they buy detergent. You may not be any more coherent than you were when you were sober, but the chances are you won’t remember the encounter the next day anyway.

4. The “don’t you even think about it.”
The plus side: There is no plus side. Don’t sleep with non-single people or people who have authority over you. There is inherently a power imbalance in these situations. They may be hot, but that’s no excuse for not keeping it in your pants.

The only thing stopping you? Self-respect.

How you can make this more like situation 1:
There is another universe in which that person is available and you can date them. Unfortunately, this is not it. Keep that in mind as you eat another tub of ice cream.


So, the question of “will I make the first move” isn’t as straightforward as I thought. There are perfectly legitimately reasons of not asking out a hottie. I personally like to get to know someone before I make the first move. I like to do my research; I like to take my time. It’s not the fastest approach and maybe I’ll send a good amount of time alone before I find someone who meets my expectations, but I’m kind of okay with that. And I probably could have written the entire article just saying that.

For me, though, knowing how I operate in different social situations helps me think that there are ways to figure my way through the dating world. Or I could just do online dating. Maybe I’ll do that. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

blog comments powered by Disqus