A decade ago, it was still considered sort of creepy if you admitted to meeting someone online. In many people’s minds, meeting on a dating site or via email was an automatic strike against your chances of forging a serious, long-term relationship.
Not any more.
Online dating has gone mainstream. People all over the world are striking up friendships and romances with people they meet online on facebook, in chat rooms or game forums, and via email and apps. Meeting online is now one of the most common ways to find a partner.
Literally millions of people (including me) who first met online are now married, and psychologists are starting to examine these relationships. If you meet online does that tend to make you more or less compatible? More or less happy? More or less likely to stay together?
One independent study surveyed almost 20,000 Americans who met their spouse online. Those of us who met their partners online will find the results encouraging.
“Online marriages were durable. In fact, people who met online were slightly less likely to divorce and scored slightly higher on marital satisfaction.” (Bohannon, 2013, Online marriage is a happy marriage).
So… scientific support for what many of us have known for years – meeting someone online can work.
However, you can still do a lot during those early stages of checking each other out to boost your odds of making it work for you! This is especially important when you meet online across distance.
So today, I’m going to tell you about 4 common pitfalls of meeting someone online and 4 ways you can avoid those pitfalls and increase the chance that your relationship will work. But before we get started on that, I have a free gift for you.
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4 Common Pitfalls When You Meet Online
When you first meet someone you are interested in, you can spend more energy trying to make sure that they like you, than thinking about whether or not you like them.
You tell your best stories and try hard to be interesting. You spend a lot of time and energy wondering what the other person thinks of you. In the process, you sometimes don’t listen carefully to what the other person is saying (or not saying) about themselves. You can forget to think carefully about whether you might be truly compatible.
This dynamic can happen during the early stages of any romantic relationship, but when you meet online you have to navigate additional pitfalls, as well.
For starters, when you are interested in someone you meet online, you can assume that there will be good in-person chemistry. This doesn’t always turn to be the case; no matter how much phone or email chemistry you share. (I once exchanged emails with someone for months and then flew internationally to meet him. I was sure he was “the one.” But you know what? No chemistry in person. Not a single spark.)
Secondly, when you meet someone online, it’s easier for your imagination to get carried away by that heady mixture of excitement and hope. It’s easier to idealize someone – to imagine that they possess all sorts of exceptional qualities and traits, and that they would make an ideal partner.
You can make these sorts of quick and unconscious assumptions in the early stages of any dating relationship. However, when you meet online (and especially when you meet someone who lives far away) it is particularly easy to assume that this other person is more suited to us than they actually are.
Finally, most of us are not as careful when we meet someone online as we would be if we had met them in a coffee shop. We share more details about ourselves, more quickly. We can do “casual intimacy.” When we meet online, therefore, it is easier to strike up a relationship with someone we are actually not all that compatible with.
4 Ways To Avoid The Pitfalls Of Meeting Online And Make It More Likely That Your Relationship Will Work
The solution to these online dating pitfalls?
One obvious solution is to meet in person as soon as possible. This will help you gauge quickly whether there is any in-person chemistry. It can feel a lot more natural to ask and answer questions over a cup of coffee than via email. You also have more opportunities to see whether someone’s words match their actions.
Meeting for a quick coffee early in the process isn’t always feasible, however. So what else can help you stay safe and date smart when you meet someone interesting online?
Be careful. Guard yourself against the assumptions and idealizations that can flourish in a long distance relationship.
Also, be picky. Don’t just think about the image you are presenting to this prospective partner, think about what they are telling you. Remember that the aim of online dating is to find someone who suits you, not just to find someone.
Finally, you really need to ask good questions and listen carefully to the answers.
If you just rolled your eyes at me, wait! I know this sounds SO simple. It IS simple. But it’s also incredibly powerful. There are good reasons that asking questions and listening well are relationship superpowers.
Often we neglect the basics because we’re looking for a surefire tip or a secret answer we just haven’t figure out yet. When it comes to online dating (and dating in general, really) there are no surefire tips to make things work. But when it comes to building good relationships there are a handful of core skills that really help–things like asking good questions, listening carefully, and learning how to manage differences and disagreements constructively instead of destructively.
The better you are at asking questions, the more you’ll learn about someone you meet online and the better you’ll be able to gauge whether this person might be a good fit for you (and vice versa).
So what should you ask someone interesting when you meet online? Here are three topic areas to get you started.
3 Important Questions To Ask Someone You Meet Online
1. What do you do?
This question gets a bad rap sometimes as unimaginative and banal, but I think it’s hugely important.
What people do to earn a living tells you a lot about them. It can clue you in on what they’ve studied (or not studied), what they find interesting (or whether they’re trapped in a dead-end job they loathe), and what they spend a good chunk of every day doing and thinking about.
But don’t stop at just asking them what they do and then make assumptions what they think and feel about what they do.
Follow up! Ask them what they love about what do, and what they find a drag about their studies or their job. Ask them where they see themselves in the future, or what their other hopes, dreams, and plans are.
2. What are some things you admire or respect about each of your parents?
Whether we like it or not, our family experiences have played a large role in shaping us in all sorts of ways – our likes and dislikes, our approach to communication and conflict, and what we instinctively consider to be “normal”.
Early on in any new relationship, it’s wise to get a sense of how someone thinks about (and relates to) their parents and siblings.
If you’ve just met someone online that you’re interested in, the fact that they have a terrible or broken relationship with family members shouldn’t be an automatic deal breaker.
However. (You knew there was going to be a “however” didn’t you.)
If you date or marry this person, issues associated with their family of origin will rear their heads in your own relationships. You have a much better chance of recognizing these issues and tackling them productively if you understand something about your partner’s relationship with their immediate family. So, ask about it.
3. Tell me about times you’ve felt loved and appreciated. Tell me about times you feel you’ve “loved others well.”
How someone answers these questions can tell you a lot about their natural “love languages”–how they give and receive love.
How someone answers to these questions can give you clues about how to love them well, and also let you know how they may often try to express their love for you.
If someone is unable to answer these questions (or uncomfortable doing so) that can tell you important things as well.
So there you go… Three key areas to discuss with someone you meet online or someone you are thinking about dating.
We’ve just scratched the surface with this topic – there are plenty of other things you should discuss before making a decision to date someone seriously.
Let’s help each other out here!
Leave a comment below and let us know other topics or questions that are important.