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Taking Your Cyber Relationship Offline
Now that an online personal ad is an essential item in almost every dater's toolkit, new questions are arising regarding the "right" way to take a cyber interest consisting of winks and emails to that first face to face encounter. While there is no one right way to accomplish this, the following tips touch on the important things to consider and address some of the most common questions and concerns voiced by virtual daters everywhere.
Carefully read over their profile and email before you agree to talk on the phone.
It's important not to rush the process because they SOUND good on paper and seem to be what you are looking for. Read between the lines, look for inconsistencies and ask yourself if anything feels "off." Then, address your concerns in your next email. It is not necessary to be confrontive or harsh, just open in your questions and observations. Keep your comments open-ended, which will help to keep things light and flowing between you- yet allow you to get the information you need. Too often the desire for a relationships overrides a person's good judgment. If someone has real potential, they will not run away from respectfully voiced questions/concerns.
Don't wait more than a few weeks before arranging your first meeting (date).
Unless there are very special circumstances, several weeks of emailing and phone calls should give both people enough information to decide whether they want to take the next step. If one person always has an excuse for why they cannot meet and/or is inconsistent in their communication or virtual availability ? this is a red flag that should not be ignored. If distance is an issue, then this should be discussed upfront, and a plan for that first date should be included. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a holding pattern with someone who may not even be who they say they are and/or may be very different from what you had imagined from afar.
Don't reveal too much personal information before you have had the chance to meet in person.
All you can be sure of is that SOMEONE is on the other end of these emails and phone calls. It will take time to experience them and evaluate your interactions as you look for inconsistencies and red flags as well as the positive traits/connections that you are looking for. As your comfort level increases and you begin to build some trust, you can slowly share more personal details. Besides, you need to save some things to talk about on your first date.
Agree to meet if everything feels right and you have no big reservations or concerns.
After a few weeks of getting to know someone online, it is time to make the call about moving forward or not. Your instincts will be your best guide here; so let them weigh heavily in your decision. Since safety is always an issue, you should never ignore anything that makes you uneasy or uncomfortable. Also remember that you will not have the whole picture or know if the chemistry is truly right until you meet in person.
Practice safety and arrange meet in a public place the first time.
You may be old fashioned and believe that the man should pick up his date; however- this is not a wise practice when you haven't even met one another yet. So, choose a place where it is very open and there will be many people around. Also, for you women out there- consider parking in advance and if you will be required to park in a dark area or far away from the meeting place. If so, consider taking a cab. Depending upon how the date goes, you may want to go on from (for instance) coffee to dinner, or dinner to an after hours place for a drink and/or music. If so, take your own transportation there, or a cab together. Then, go home to your own place. If this is the right guy there will be many more dates to come.
Pick a venue that is both public and flexible.
Even if the person you have been corresponding to online and talking to by phone sounds perfect, you won't really know if this is someone you will have the right chemistry with until you meet. Therefore, it is important to consider choosing that first meeting place with all scenarios in mind. For instance, if your first thoughts are about how fast you can comfortably excuse yourself, you will be miserable if you have committed to attending a professional ballgame, at a distance from home. However, if you meet at a nice coffee house and the date is going well, you can always decide to continue on to dinner, drinks, etc. Best times are lunch or late afternoon, which leave you an easy out or time to continue on.
If the date is going well, you will want to have some ideas in mind for how to continue it.
Bring along times for movies, names of clubs and featured entertainment, or ideas for a nice (close) place to get a bite. Always bring extra money and your cell.
Be prepared for how to say goodnight.
If the date went well, have a plan for how you can suggest the next meeting or talk about where to go from there. If necessary, practice some lines if you have difficulty talking about your feelings due to fears of rejection. It is often necessary to take a risk to get what you want. If the date is one you never want to repeat, you will need to find the words to gently communicate this. Honesty is not only a good thing; it saves the other person from being left hanging and from repeated attempts to communicate with you-, which will be unpleasant for both of you. It is not necessary to be brutally honest about your feelings- just clear that the connection wasn't there for you and that you want to be upfront and open about this. They may react badly, but that will be the end of it.
Healthy, successful dating requires self-knowledge, maturity and a willingness to take risks and handle the disappointments and difficult moments that everyone needs to go through. If you truly want a relationship, you will be open to the good and bad that come with finding and creating one.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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