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The Rules for Online Dating

Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right in Cyberspace
By Ellen Fein, Sherrie Schneider

Read an Excerpt

E-mail and The Rules for Online Dating

E-mail has become a universal part of relationships these days, whether a relationship starts online or not. Millions of women around the world are "e-dating," whether they meet men online or in a local bar. In the last two years, we've seen a rapid shift in our consulting business -- today about 50 to 75 percent of the calls and e-malls we get concern relationships being conducted on the Internet. And these women have been asking us for a book of Rules for dating online.

As many of you know, our first book, The Rules, spawned a worldwide movement. Readers began -- and continue -- to set up free online and offline support groups around the world and visit our website ( at the rate of over 400,000 hits a month. But when we wrote The Rules seven years ago, little was known about online dating-many even considered it dangerous -- so we did not even include it. By 1997, when we wrote The Rules II, there was a little more interest in online dating and we wrote a short chapter telling women the pitfalls of this chat-intensive dating method, how to best apply The Rules, and how to play it safe.

Back then, there were only a handful of dating websites. By 1999 there were more than 2,500 Internet sites devoted to matchmaking. And the numbers are still climbing worldwide.

Today, busy professional men and women think nothing of placing an ad and photo online and coming home every night to dozens of e-mails from desirable members of the opposite sex. They spend hours on the computer every day in online relationships or chat rooms or just answering their e-mail. The only problem is that online dating has become a little like a bad bar scene. Women are making serious mistakes in the way they meet and talk to men online, Women need to know:

  • how to write effective ads

  • how to answer e-mails

  • how to act in chat rooms

  • how to set boundaries with men online, and

  • how to weed out the good guys from the bad.

And we're not just talking about women who use online dating services and chat rooms (an online forum where people can converse with each other by posting messages in real time). Today, virtually everyone uses e-mail; it's as common as a phone call. More men are simply asking women out or asking them about their day by e-mail instead of or in addition to calling, whether they first met these women through love@aol, personals,, or at a party at a friend's house. These days, men and women meeting for the first time often exchange e-mail addresses -- sometimes before they exchange phone numbers!

Women meeting new men at business conferences, birthday parties, or clubs give out their e-mail addresses and also take men's e-mail addresses, and then find themselves in an e-mail relationship with a man. These women are just as prone to making the same mistakes online as women using online dating services and chat rooms -- mistakes that can ruin their relationships.

E-mail courtship has made dating more hazardous than ever. With e-mail, women are tempted to let their guard down, let it all hang out, Instant Message men all night, and have cybersex (not The Rules!). But we believe you cannot e-mail with abandon, without thinking, without Rules. You must watch what you say, how often you say it, no matter what or how often he e-mails you, otherwise the relationship becomes so casual that it can go poof! -- disappear -- like a blank computer screen.

What many women don't realize is that an e-mail is just like a phone call-it does count! Women are making the same kind of mistakes online they make on the phone, mistakes that allow an e-courtship to become too easy. But these mistakes can be easily corrected with a set of Rules do's and don'ts. Hence The Rules for Online Dating. In this book, you will find out, among other things:

  • Why you must let a man e-mail you first, regardless of how you met him

  • Why not to answer men's ads

  • How to create a good screen name or ad name

  • The right way -- and the wrong way -- to write an online ad

  • How and when to answer men's e-mails and Instant Messages

  • How to do The Rules in any relationship that uses e-mail, no matter whether you first met online or offline

  • How to prevent the relationship from becoming too casual

  • How to not let online men waste your time

  • How to set up the first face-to-face meeting with your e-mail guy ("date zero")

  • How to evaluate the quality of an online relationship as it develops

  • Potentially life-saving safety tips

You may be wondering at this point: If the premise of The Rules is that a man must pursue a woman and she must be mysterious and challenging, how is that premise going to work on an Internet dating website where you have to post a photo and describe yourself in an ad for all the world to see? You can definitely retain your mystery and keep yourself from being too available on dating websites and even in chat rooms. Read on, and we will tell you exactly how to apply the basic Rules premise to online and e-mail dating for the best possible results.

Copyright © 2002 by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider



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