Is It Time To Meet In Person?
By Natalie Ermann-Russell
So you found someone you think could be a great match online—the photo was cute, you have the same interests, and the email flirting has been terrific. Perhaps it’s time for the moment of truth: The face-to-face meeting. Are you ready to take that step? What if your online amour doesn’t live up to your expectations in real life, or vice versa? How — and when — to initiate that first face-to-face meeting is a tricky question for many singles, but there are ways to make a smooth transition from e-pals to an actual item. Read the specifics right here.
Don’t wait too long—or jump the gun
It’s the classic conundrum: Should you email back and forth with someone for weeks on end to get a better sense of who he or she is, or should you jump right in and suggest meeting for coffee as soon as you’ve established that the interest is mutual? In terms of general guidelines, “Exchanging emails for at least a few days to a week is a good idea,” says Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist and singles dating coach in St. Louis. That should give you enough material to assess how motivated and sincere the other person is. And on the other end? “I recommend that people not wait more than two or three weeks to meet,” says Coleman. If your online amour stalls beyond that time frame, “that person is either not ready or has a hidden agenda,” says Coleman. “It’s best to tell that person, ‘Call me when you are ready, and, if I’m available, we can discuss meeting then.’”
Swap some more photos
Even if you’ve seen several photos of this person in their profile, it’s wise to ask him or her to send some more, and you should offer to do the same. Why? Because let’s face it, online daters usually post only their very best pics. By exchanging more, you’ll both get a more well-rounded impression of what each of you looks like, says Bev Bacon, author of Meet Me…Don’t Delete Me!, and thus reduce the risk of being unpleasantly surprised when you meet face-to-face. To make this request without coming off as paranoid or overly demanding, take the initiative and send yours first (including at least one head-to-toe shot), explaining, “I thought you might like to see a few more photos of me. I’d also love to see more photos of you, would you mind sending some when you have a chance?” If your e-pal refuses, that could mean the posted profile photos are outdated or otherwise inaccurate—not a reason to ditch someone entirely, but it should be duly noted.
Lay your deal-breakers on the table
“If a particular issue is really important to you, make sure you ask about it via email before the relationship goes too far,” says Alyssa Wodtke, co-author of Truth, Lies, and Online Dating. Issues like religion or smoking status should all be addressed if they’re deal-breakers for you. “It'll be easier on you both if you find out it's not going to be a good fit now rather than later.” Also ask about hobbies and what he or she enjoys doing during spare time, adds Wodtke. Sure, favorite activities are usually listed in the online profile, but take this opportunity to probe a little deeper, especially if any of them raise a red flag for you. If the profile shows an intense interest in going to the gym, for example, and you don’t want to be dating a gym rat, ask how often he or she works out. “This way you can weed out the couch potatoes and the sports fanatics, if you're not looking for either,” says Wodtke.
Do some prep work before your date
So you’ve finally done it—you’ve emailed and phoned each other enough times to offer up the statement, “I’d love to meet up sometimes” with positive results. Now what? For starters, most experts recommend setting up a first date that’s short and sweet, like coffee or a cocktail—that way you can end it quickly if it’s not working or keep it going if you’re having fun. To plan the perfect first date, scan your phone or email correspondences for clues: If she says she loves flowers, for instance, you’ll come across as thoughtful and attentive by suggesting you meet up at an orchid or cherry blossom festival. “Ideally you want to be comfortable but you also don't want to be boring,” says Wodtke.
On the big day, make sure to skim your date's profile to refresh your memory about that person's background and interests. Not only will this help you avoid awkward silences, it may help keep you from making the all-too-common mistake of confusing this person with someone else you’ve also been emailing. Think of a couple of questions you’d like to ask to get things rolling—if your date mentions being a fan of jazz or Steinbeck, ask what his or her favorite work is and why. Make sure, though, to deliver these questions naturally by listening to the answer and letting the conversation take its course, rather than peppering your date with a laundry list of queries. After all, this isn’t a job interview, but a chance to get to know someone who, in all likelihood, is equally curious about you!
Natalie Ermann-Russell is a freelance writer based in Virginia. She’s written for Martha Stewart Living, USA Weekend, and Elle Decor.
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