Field Guide to Online Daters
The Four Stages of an Online Relationship
In the "real" world a relationship progresses through several stages. You meet, you like each other, you commit, you fall in love. In an online relationship the stages are not so different; however, the time frames may vary greatly. Knowing your current online dating stage can help to you know how to proceed.
This is the stage where first contact is made. This will usually be in the form of a rather generic message. "Hi, I like your profile. I'm a big country music fan as well. Check out my profile and let's talk." In the real world this conversation is not unlike a handshake and some small talk about the weather. Are you interested? Proceed to stage two.
Getting to Know You
Think of this stage as a tentative friendship. Do not jump directly into romance; this is a time to get to know the other person's likes dislikes and goals for the future. Exchange messages once or twice a day. Pay attention to subtle cues. Keep an open mind as you discover common ground. This phase should not be rushed. The success of your future relationship depends on taking it slowly.
Do We Want to Do This?
As the relationship naturally progresses you should have a good sense of whether you wish to explore it further. Do not feel obligated to continue a relationship that feels "off". Settling for "okay" is not an option. The desire to take the relationship offline must be mutual. Do not pressure the other person and do not allow them to pressure you. You'll know when the time is right.
Real World Meeting
Your first real date should take place in a public setting. Have a casual lunch or meet for morning coffee. Be yourself. Transitioning from emails and instant messaging to face to face conversation can be stressful. Do your best to let your personality shine through. With luck, this relationship will be exactly what you've been searching for. If, however, things do not go as planned, feel free to start back at stage one with someone else!
There is no time limit to any of the four stages of an online relationship. Some may take weeks; others may take years. Online dating is all about exploring your options and learning what you want out of a relationship. With time and patience you are sure to find "The One".