When you begin a relationship with someone you’ve met offline, you can often have a pretty good idea of how things are going to develop.
The first stage
It usually starts with physical attraction. That could be a look across a crowded room, a double-take as you’re crossing the street, a sideways glance on the subway or any of the other million ways of making eye contact and hoping it leads to a conversation.
That’s the first stage.
Then there’s the getting-to-know-you stage: the first date, the second date, the weekend dates and eventually, the first all-night date. Those are the weeks and months when you try to figure out how much you like each other, whether you’d be prepared to make the sort of changes that every individual has to make when they become part of a couple, and whether you really do have a future as a pair. It’s a time of adjustment and doubt, but also of hope and expectation. And yes, often of disappointment too. That’s the second stage.
Finally, if all goes well, there’s the shift into permanent couplehood. This is the third, final and longest lasting stage of the relationship when you begin to see the future in terms of “us” and “we” instead of “I” and “me.” That’s the third stage.
A little different
Online, relationships develop a little differently.
First of all, love at first sight is even rarer online than it is offline. While it’s not impossible for you to feel a quick thrill when you spot a pic of a great-looking hottie who lives near you and meets your criteria, it’s not quite the same feeling as suddenly seeing a drop-dead gorgeous person standing next you on the bus or alongside you at the bar. You only get to see fireworks when you meet in the flesh.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Often the relationships that start with the biggest bang can burn themselves out pretty quickly. If online relationships tend to have cooler beginnings that only gives them the opportunity to warm up slowly and develop a heat that burns longest.
It also means you’re less likely to put all your eggs in one basket.
Hundreds of emails
When you spot someone truly fantastic on a dating sitea, your first thought is likely to be that that person must get hundreds of emails.
You’re probably right. They probably do. But that certainly shouldn’t stop you from writing as well. You’ve got nothing to lose except the few minutes it takes to scoot out a quick email—and a lifetime of happiness to gain.
But knowing that you’re certainly not the only person to have seen that profile—and written to the person behind it—will mean that you’re not going to rely on that one option in the same way that you might have done if you’d met them on the bus. What it will do though is free you up to send lots more emails out to lots of other people. If it’s considered bad form to hit on more than one person at a time offline, online it’s the best strategy for lining up successful dates. With less early passion, you don’t just get longer-lasting passion, you also get more chances at a life of passion.
That first look and first email marks the end of the first stage of online dating. The second stage is online flirting. This isn’t quite the same as dating. Dating means going out, having fun, meeting in person and checking out the chemistry. Online flirting is nothing more than the quick flurry of short emails that lets you both get a slight feel for each other’s personalities.
Normal and compatible
For the most part, this stage is about not making any mistakes. You each want to make sure that you’re normal people with the kind of compatible social skills that lets you make a go of it. You want to be certain that your new pal—a new pen-pal at this stage—is capable of holding a conversation, shows curiosity about the kinds of things you put on your profile, is genuinely interested in the same things that you are and is capable of communicating. If someone sends you a series of giant emails stuffed with family photos, filled with their entire life history and laying out their opinion on everything from the state of Africa to the sex life of Zebras before you even get a chance to reply to their first effort, then you might think they’re a bit weird.
Similarly, if they take a month to send a reply to your “I’m fine, thanks for writing. How are you?” it’s a fair bet that they’re going to be too flaky to build a reliable relationship.
Once you’ve both decided that you can each write a normal email as well as create an inviting profile, you can then begin to move the relationship offline.
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