Q & A: When do we move from online messaging to an actual date?

Q: Dear Pella,

A J-Dater has corresponded via J-Date email back and forth five times. My feeling is we need to talk on phone to see if there is a connection. If not, I want to move on.

He has not brought up talking on phone or meeting. Am I correct in thinking he should have by this point? What would u do?




A: Dear Louise,

I agree with you that it's about time to take the next step and talk on the phone.

I was given a great piece of advice when I was single and doing lots of online dating: get offline and onto the phone as soon as possible, then get off the phone and meet in person as soon as possible. (Obviously, this is assuming that you don't have any warning signs telling you to not take the next step).

There are a number of reasons that this is good advice. One, you want to make sure your date is who they say they are. I don't just mean that they're not an axe-murderer, but also that they generally appear the same age, weight, and friendliness as they present in their profile and photos.

Also, it's easy to get wrapped up in a fantasy about your potential partner when you haven't even met yet. I remember one time I started writing flirty and funny poetry back and forth with this guy I had met online. I started to fall for his sense of humor and quick mind before I had even spoken to him on the phone. We had a great first date, then it turned out he was dating someone else and he ended it. While it was really fun to have the online banter, I wish I had cut to the chase sooner and saved myself the disappointment and time that I lost.

I have a client who used to have whole 'relationships' over online messaging before they'd met their date in person. Sometimes, things would continue for a short while after they met, but often my client discovered they were not actually attracted to the person or the person only wanted something in cyberspace, not a real live relationship. (A couple of people kept putting off meeting in person until it became clear that they just wanted to flirt and talk online). We've worked together to change this pattern, so that now she moves things quickly from the internet to a face-to-face meeting (with a phone-call in-between for a gut check about safety and basic social skills). This saves her a LOT of time that she used to waste and now she has more energy to engage with people who are actually available.

Louise, you ask if your (potential) date should have brought up a phone call or meeting by this point. The answer is yes, according to the guidelines I'm putting out, but not everyone has read this particular playbook. Many people don't have great dating skills, but this doesn't mean they don't have good relationship skills. Also, sometimes people move at a slower pace than others and this doesn't necessarily mean they are not ready and available for a real relationship.

All that said, since you're ready, there's absolutely no reason that YOU can't suggest the next step. It's as simple as saying something like "Would you like to talk on the phone?" The old rules about gender in hetero relationships (the man has to initiate everything and the woman can only agree or set limits) no longer apply. If he's scared off or turned off by you asking for a phone call, he's probably not the one you're looking for.

Go for it and see what happens!

Let me know how it goes.



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