Should I Write to Someone Online Even If I Don’t Meet His Search Preferences?

Hi Evan,

I am brand new to the online dating scene and wanted to get your opinion on something…

I have noticed on many men’s profiles that they are seeking women who have never been married (older men included.) While I can understand that (to a degree) I find that when I “match” all of their other criteria and would like to communicate with them, since I am divorced I have not been communicating based on their preferences.

It seems that these men are limiting themselves especially when they have no idea why a person may be divorced in the first place.   It seems like preemptive discrimination, if you will.

Thoughts? Advice on whether I should communicate with these guys or is it a waste of time?

Thanks so much!


Dear Heather,

This feels like a perfect time to dust off one of my favorite online dating concepts: that you’re as valuable as your options.

In short, you can be as choosy as you’d like to be, as long as you have an endless supply of people from which to choose. Once you start eliminating everyone from contention, and there’s no one left to date, you’ve effectively priced yourself out of the market.

As always, I’ve got some anecdotes to back this up.

You’re as valuable as your options.

Client #1 is a 69-year-old woman who is struggling to get attention online. We rebrand her on Yahoo with new photos, essays, and an empowering technique with which to write to men. Even so, it’s a tough go, mainly because there are 3 times more single women than men over the age of 65, and half of those guys wouldn’t consider a woman their own age.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

Anyway, a 67-year-old man writes her a note. He’s in good shape, successful, and, most importantly, interested. She scrolls down his profile to check for common interests.

“Oh, no. He’s into aviation. I’m more of a stay-home-and-knit kind of woman. I’m not going to write back to him.”

Client #2 is a 56-year-old man who was widowed last year. He’s extremely wealthy and wants a beautiful woman to share in his life of luxury. He writes only to women who are drop-dead gorgeous and at least fifteen years younger. Many of his emails are to women across the country, who have thousands of wealthy men in their own cities from which to choose….

Client #3 is an ethnic minority who has a lot going for him. He, too, wants to date a very beautiful woman. Except he refuses to write to any women that are his own ethnicity. He only goes for Caucasian women, the majority of whom aren’t interested in a man of his race.

All of these clients are effectively pricing themselves out of the market. Or at least narrowing their options considerably.

Criteria only serve to limit us, and yet few of us are willing to compromise.

None of them are bad or wrong or unreasonable. They want what they want. We all do. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we all engage in some form of preemptive discrimination. Except we don’t call it that. We call it “having preferences.” I’m quite sure you have them as well, Heather. And I’m quite sure that you’re discriminating against a guy who’s perfectly suited for you — just like these guys are doing to you.

And lest you think I’m talking down – I’m guilty as everyone else of this:

One woman wrote to me on JDate, but was six years older than me. I ignored her. Six months later, I met her in real life and fell in love.

Another woman who dazzled me at a party revealed that she never went to college. She traveled, started working, and became successful in her career by the time she was 22. I never would have met her on Match with my “bachelor’s degree” search criteria.

And my current girlfriend? A prime example of someone I would have passed up online — older, Catholic, and Republican. 11 months later, we’re an obvious match made in heaven.

Open up your search criteria to “Any” for every category, unless it’s a DEALBREAKER.

When I work with my private clients, I HIGHLY encourage them to open up their search criteria to “Any” for every category, unless it’s a DEALBREAKER. Hey, you’re allergic to smoke, you don’t have to date a smoker. You’re a devout Mormon? No need to browse the 14 Jews in your state. Everything else should be kept open, for the reasons I’ve detailed above. You wouldn’t believe how many Mr. and Ms. Rights pass in the night because she’s looking for a guy over 5’10” and he’s looking for a woman under the age of 50.

These criteria only serve to limit us, and yet few of us are willing to compromise.

By the way, our refusal to compromise is the very reason that people lie online. That’s right. I’m blaming all of us with our rigid criteria. While WE want someone to give US a shot – even though we’re likely shorter, older, or fatter than we’d like to be – we never give a break to anyone else who falls outside OUR desired standards.

So short men discriminate against heavy women.

Heavy women discriminate against heavy men.

Heavy men discriminate against old women.

Old women discriminate against old men.

And around and around we go….

You’re not wrong to feel that these guys are being unfair, Heather. By the same token, there’s no value in trying to convince them to give you a chance. As long as they feel they have other options, they’re going to exercise them. If a guy can approach hundreds of never-married women online, he doesn’t need to write to you, a divorced woman.


You need to accept the fact that just because YOU find someone desirable doesn’t mean that they have any interest in you. And you can bang your head against the wall and complain that it’s just not fair, but people have choices. You can’t twist someone’s arm into giving you a chance — anymore than anyone can do that to you. Seriously. If a 62-year-old man from Des Moines wrote to you, you’d brush him off without a second thought. But what if he saw something special in you? What if he were positive that if you only gave him a shot, you’d fall for him? What if he kept trying to convince you that you were making a huge mistake by not considering him? That’s pretty much what you’re doing when you say, “So and so should give me a shot.” You’re expecting someone to break his own rules, the same rules you wouldn’t break for someone else.

Which brings me to perhaps my favorite online dating story of 2007.

54-year-old male client tells me recently about the most electric date he’d ever had. The chemistry was palpable; they talked all night, laughed a bunch, and made out in the car afterwards. As he brought her home, she decided she had to confess something.

MOST people lie…because others discriminate against us.

“I’m not really 54,” she says.

“That’s okay,” he says. “How old are you?”

A brief pause.

“It’s okay, you can tell me,” he reiterates.

Another pause.

“Let’s just say I’m in my sixties,” she says.

Let’s face it: those two crazy kids NEVER would have met if she had been honest. Which is why she lied. Which is why MOST people lie. Because others discriminate against us. And that’s why the average woman in her 40’s is twenty pounds heavier than she claims online, and the average man is one inch shorter.

I know this is a long diatribe, but I can’t state this enough.

Give others a chance, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll give you a chance.

Give others a chance, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll give you a chance.

But as long as we have these arbitrary search criteria, we’re severely limiting our options.

You’re allowed to drop these guys a line, Heather. Just don’t expect very much in return — no more than a short, old, guy from Bangladesh should expect to hear back from you.

If you want to maximize your online dating experience — to get the highest percentage of people to write back to you — my Inner Circle group coaching is your best bet.