Six rules for Internet dating

I was talking to someone the other day about Internet relationships and how “safe” they are – or not. I think people were surprised to know that I have had a few such relationships that began online, the last of which has provided me with a dozen or so years of blissful couple-ness.

Relationships that begin online can work, and work well. In fact, when I look back on my past relationships, one in three serious ones that began online turned out successful and long term. On the other hand, zero percent of the loves I met in real life panned out. So there you go. Empirical evidence it ain’t, but I’m convinced.

I learned a few things as I went along and I’d like to pass along six rules for online dating. I’d be interested to hear if anyone has anything to add.

  1. Take it slow. In those first, heady days when you’re finding out what you have in common and writing loooong letters to each other, it is easy to think this is it! But give yourself lots of time.
  2. Read between the lines and trust your hunches. If you’re at all uncomfortable about something that was said (or not said) or done, pay attention. Try to discern what’s being left unsaid “between the lines.” Talk to someone you trust about your thoughts.
  3. The next stage should be telephone conversations – not meeting. You can tell a lot more about a person after hearing them speak, but the first call or two won’t tell you much. You need to learn the patterns and tones of their speech to be able to figure out if they’re being honest or not.
  4. Only after emailing and talking on the phone for a while should you meet. Make it a bright, public place that you go to, preferably bringing along someone you trust. If you can’t or don’t want to bring someone, work out a code with a friend so you can call them if you need help or need to escape.
  5. If all the first steps work out well, congratulations! But before you decide to get serious enough to move in together or get married, be sure to spend LOTS of real-life time together first. That’s where one of my relationships went hopelessly wrong. We didn’t spend enough 3-D time together and it turned out he was not what I thought he was, in spite of my being careful with the first four rules. Besides, you just don’t know if they’re kind to kittens and children or mean to their moms until you hang with them for a few months. Maybe he thinks it’s funny to make rude noises at the dinner table. Maybe she eats like a pig or picks her nose.
  6. Before you get married, do a background check. Call friends and old boy/girlfriends, if possible. Find out if she has a criminal record or if he is up to his eyeballs in debt. Truthfully, this rule is good advice for almost any relationship.

There you have it! Reasonable, yet progressive. Maybe someday you’ll be able to say you have shared a dozen or so years of blissful couple-ness with someone you met online!

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