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Making Online Romance Real

Dear Philippa,

When is it time to meet someone in person when you've been e-mailing each other for a some time? I met this great guy online but he doesn't seem in any hurry to meet. What should I do?

�Gloria, Cincinnati, OH


Dear Gloria,

You haven't indicated whether you have even spoken to each other on the telephone yet. If not, that seems like the logical next step before you meet in person. How a person sounds on the telephone and how you instinctively feel about them when you hear their voice is an important indicator.

I like telling the true story of a brunch date with a guy I had never met or spoken to before. He happened to be a psychiatrist. When I met him at the restaurant (at noon), he was slurring and swaying�drunk as a skunk and in clothes that looked like he'd spent the night sleeping in his car. It looked like he had more problems that all of his patients combined. I made sure that was one of the shortest dates I have ever been on.

Even if you get on famously on the phone, this does not mean you will click in person. Long e-mail relationships and long phone calls can give you a false sense of intimacy. It's best to screen for basic compatibility, then plan to meet for a very brief coffee-date as soon as you can. Otherwise you can build up your fantasies about someone who in reality is totally wrong for you. Phone calls, photos, e-mails, none of these will guarantee that you will click. The best way to assess chemistry and compatibility is to talk in person.

The problem with having e-mail communications with someone you haven't met is that you can misinterpret someone's tone or sense of humor. A friend of mine told me she had been communicating with someone online for a while. When he mentioned that he had grown children, she responded with some questions about his kids. He interpreted that as too personal while she thought she was just showing polite interest. If they had that conversation on the phone he might have read her words in a different way.

There are many reasons why people postpone meeting in person. Some people find the invisible nature of Internet dating and e-mails both safe and comforting. Low self-esteem or a prior negative dating experience can cause them to be overly cautious. They may already be involved with someone or even married and be seeking some form of outside intimacy.

If you feel comfortable with what you know about this guy, and you feel that there is some potential for taking this to the next step, then the right time for you to meet is right now. Focus on how you feel and share it with him so he can tell you how he feels�rather than speculating in your mind about what he may or may not want. If he says that he isn't ready to meet you, then maybe he isn't the right guy for you. No one person sets the pace. Each person has to take care of his or her needs and talk it over with the other person. Accept and understand that he may not be ready for the kind of intimacy you may be seeking. Then be good to yourself and make room for someone in your life who will be excited at the prospect of meeting you now.



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