Online Dating: Meeting for the First Time
If you date online, you'll probably have a few first meetings in-person. Hardly anyone goes on blind dates since the rise of online dating, but after you've made a connection online and get ready to meet in real life, you'll probably feel the same pre-date jitters. What if she doesn't look anything like her picture? What if he's a Dexter-in-training?
Luckily, you can protect yourself—and your dignity—with just a little planning. Here's how:
Although Chemistry.com, eHarmony, and PerfectMatch.com send you through their own rigid processes, for the most part, your online relationship should progress just like any other relationship. You begin by pruning your criteria for what you're looking for to ensure that the service suggests someone for you with similar interests, goals, values, etc. Then you might exchange a few preliminary messages to gauge initial interest on both sides. You can move forward via the instant messengers on dating websites such as Match.com, Lavalife, and Date.com. If you have a steady banter with plenty to talk about for a week or two of chatting, that's a good sign! Take it to the next level by exchanging Skype or magicJack screen names or Vonage numbers and scheduling a time to talk. If your phone conversations become strained or awkward, quit while you're ahead. But if they go as smoothly as your online chats, take the plunge, and plan for a real-live date.
Do Your Research
Google is your friend for getting basic information about another person. But using a background check service can give you what the web won't: address history, criminal record, marriages and divorces, income, and more. Intelius's DateCheck app will even show you relevant pre-date information on your mobile device! Even if you uncover a negative or embarrassing attribute, it's best to discuss it with the other person before writing him or her off entirely. You decide your comfort level.
Plan the Date
Arrange to meet him or her for a somewhat brief activity, such as after-work cocktails or lunch, in a public place, like a restaurant. Chemistry.com will actually facilitate a casual public meeting for you, lifting a weight off your shoulders for sure! Let someone—a friend, relative, or roommate—know where you'll be, who's accompanying you, and when to expect you back. Take it a step further if you like by arranging to have someone call you in the middle of your date; if it's going badly, you can feign an emergency and get out of there! Finally, be sure to bring enough money to cover your half of the bill and a cab home if necessary; standards have really changed in recent years.
Don't go on a date with anyone who shows any of these signs:
- Withholding information: If your potential paramour won't tell you his or her full name, place of work, or phone number, he or she is trying to hide something.
- Inconsistency: "She just mentioned she was 37. Didn't she say 27 before?" If more than a few such thoughts come to your mind, halt the communication. Your online lover could have a pattern of lying.
- Abusive behavior: Signs can show early on in conversation, such as destructive criticism, controlling habits, overly personal questions, and threats of any type. You haven't even met yet; if this is the other person's best foot forward, you don't want to stick around to see his or her worst days.
- Too much too soon: If someone claims you are the love of his or her life upon or before the first meeting, he or she is extremely emotionally needy. Plus, that's just weird.
- It just doesn't feel right: Even experts claim you should always listen to your gut. If anything feels off, you don't need a better reason to bail!
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