Women Talking Taboo: Matchmaker Radhika Mohta on women making the first move

Ahead of International Women’s Day, she helps us break down all the myths and mysticism around women making the first move, so that you don’t have to walk on eggshells around the topic anymore!
Matchmaker and relationship coach Radhika Mohta
Matchmaker and relationship coach Radhika Mohta

Think of Veronica from the film Cocktail or Geet from Jab We Met – iconic characters who exemplify women who are never afraid to make the first move in romantic relationships. In popular perception, however, they are often reduced to ‘manic pixie’ tropes, facing the consequences of being vulnerable with the wrong people. Unfortunately, the situation, in reality, does not fall far from this. In fact, according to a 2017 survey conducted by a leading Indian matrimonial site, as much as 70 per cent of women participants stated that they would not consider making the first move in relationships. 

Cut to 2023. Be it the pandemic or social movements furthering the cause of gender inclusivity, the dating landscape in India has undergone massive changes. Despite that, making the first move continues to be taboo for a lot of women and brings home a lot of questions. Should women make the first move? What do MEN think about women doing so? Most importantly, what exactly should be considered the first move?

To understand these and more, we sit with Bengaluru-based matchmaker and relationship coach Radhika Mohta, who, in her own words, “helps single people get ready for their last first date.” She writes a newsletter, runs a dating accelerator, and hosts exclusive events for single people.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, she helps us break down all the myths and mysticism around women making the first move so that you don’t have to walk on eggshells around the topic anymore!

What does your job entail?
In my work as a matchmaker-relationship coach, I have enabled over 3,000 single people in their search for life partners. I write a weekly newsletter comprising dating advice, highlighting singles events where my subscribers can meet other single people and sometimes, anonymously profiling my clients to receive inbound interest for them. I co-host singles events as well. I run a dating accelerator programme called Elevate, enabling singles to gain clarity about themselves and relationships, optimise their dating or matrimony profile and work on a social calendar so that they can meet people outside apps.

In your experience, have you seen enough women making the first move in dating?
Women who believe in themselves, who understand their values and goals, and what they are looking for in a relationship and from a partner – are indeed making the first move to open the window that allows for healthy conversations and possibly, a life together. They are not waiting to be chosen. I'll admit that the percentage is small given how we’ve always been conditioned to accept what comes to us and who chooses us. My February cohort had a 40-year-old woman, from Virginia, mention how her dad would agree to anybody as her partner who was willing to say ‘yes’ to the dark-skinned, 5 feet 2-inch tall woman as if she had no say in her own life. Now, she is an independent woman who has her own house in the US, works with an American MNC, has frozen her eggs, and is looking for a life partner by herself.

Why do women hesitate to make the first move even in this day and age?
Our upbringing, social conditioning, fear of rejection, and assuming that a woman would seem needy/desperate or not be valued because she made the first move, are some of the reasons for this.

What kinds of gestures can ideally be regarded as a first move?
I wouldn't label planning a date as making the first move. Often, women are not comfortable calling it a date because it feels overwhelming and sets the bar too high. So it's okay to hang out over shared interests and activities that allow for a range of conversations. Since nobody is a mind reader, when you do feel the connection, have a clear conversation to say how you feel and ask them if they'd like to explore this further and date.

From a man's point of view – is it a turn-off or an attractive trait when a woman makes the first move? 

Generally, men are rather relieved when a woman makes the first move. After all the anxiety, despair, and rejections they should have encountered on apps and everywhere else, it's a relief to have someone who likes you and makes the first move. Besides, you tend to like people who like you anyway. Most importantly, it takes the pressure off them to come up with a grand gesture to ask you out or propose.

Traditionally, women have been conditioned to wait for men to make the first move. How can they break out of that mindset and take the initiative?
Become friends first. We all have made friends – at school, college, workplace etc. We know how this is done. Make eye contact, smile, compliment, notice similarities, and make a plan to hang out together or in a group. Familiarity breeds trust. And once you trust them, you will find it easy to make the move. 

How can women navigate the tricky balance between being assertive and coming on too strong when making the first move?
When you express yourself in any relationship, it is to share what you feel about that relationship. You’re not entitled to hear a ‘yes’; nobody owes you that. Allow the other person to take their time, think through their response, and come back to you when they have it. Have your checks and balances in place so that it does not end up being an offer that is available forever.

Lastly, can you suggest some creative or out-of-the-box ideas for women who want to make the first move in a fun and memorable way?
Go out for an activity date – bake a cake together at a cooking studio, go for a walk together somewhere, revisit the place where you first met, or go through your old pictures to talk about how you have evolved through the years. If you’re in a long-distance relationship, book a virtual Airbnb experience – like the virtual tour of a city or an online scavenger hunt.

(Welcome to Women Talking Taboo — a series of articles featuring exclusively on Indulgexpress — on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Watch this space for more such pieces)

Email: prattusa@newindianexpress
Twitter: @MallikPrattusa

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