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Dear Dating Coach-
I decided to try an online dating service to meet compatible men and it worked! For over one month now, I have been exchanging emails and talking on the phone with a really great (I think) guy. During this time, we have developed a close cyber relationship and are now planning our first meeting. He lives in another state, so it has been a little more challenging than arranging a first date with a guy in my immediate geographical area.
HOW do I tell my friends and family about this new relationship? I feel at a loss as to how to even approach the topic as I am pretty sure that they are not really open to the idea of online dating and would have many concerns for my well being, safety, etc. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
As you can probably imagine, you are not alone. Every day individuals are meeting through personal ads and successfully taking their online relationships offline and beyond. For a great many of them, the issue of how they met is something they are reluctant to share, due to a fear that their new love interest and the relationship itself will be put under a microscope and scrutinized unfairly. While it is true that this does happen for some couples, there are many others who are pleasantly surprised by the understanding and support they receive.
Intimate relationships are all about a bond between two people who have chosen to be together based on their rightness for one another. The circumstances of how they met can provide a great story for years to come, but have little or nothing to do with the ultimate success of their union. Just think of all the marriages that have ended in divorce that began with two people who grew up together, were introduced by a mutual friend or met through their church, temple or other socially acceptable connection.
Your question is a good one, but may be a little premature, since you have yet to experience this new guy in person. Your need for revelation will be determined by the physical connection and chemistry (or lack of) that you and he feel for one another and how well you can turn this interest into a budding relationship. If all goes well, you two will be having that conversation another month or two down the road and then it will be useful to have a well thought out way to handle this.
To begin with, you and your new friend will need to come up with your own "how we met story," that can be the naked truth or a carefully edited version of it. You could also opt to fabricate a story that fits what you believe your loved ones will want to hear. If you take this second approach, remember that the truth always seems to come out sooner or later--and this can lead to hurt feelings, distrust and strained interactions all around. The only thing that is not negotiable is that both of you need to be in agreement with what "the story" will be and that you will each honor the other's feelings around this issue. Consider it a kind of practice run for all the rough spots that will lay ahead if your relationship turns into marriage and a lifetime together. Remember that the only thing that really matters here is what the two of you think.
(from October 2006)
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
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