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When to Meet an Online Match in Person

So you've been a member of an online dating service for some time now, and you've met someone you think you'd like to meet offline. What next?

The online dating progression is familiar to most—emails lead to phone calls; phone calls lead to real-life dates. Some people skip the middle step (though this far from advisable), but everyone who's dabbled in or just considered online dating understands that this is the basic premise. How (and when) to implement this in reality, however, tends to be a bit more complicated for most people.

The following tips are designed to help minimize the complications and maximize the rewards when making the transition from online to offline dating.

  • Don't Skip the Middle Step.  Sure, some people go straight from email communications to setting up their first offline date, but don't you be one of them!  Really. There are certain things you can tell about a person from a phone conversation that there is simply no way to convey in an email.

    A person may be an excellent writer, but a miserable person; alternatively, a person could write terribly and yet express himself beautifully when he speaks. Talking to someone on the phone tells you more than just how his voice sounds. It gives you a deeper insight into how he expresses himself and carries himself, and a greater clue as to whether or not there's chemistry between you.
  • Make Sure You've Already Covered the Basics.  Now, before you decide to set up that all important first offline meeting with someone you've met online, be sure that you've already found out a few key things about this other person.

    In particular, you'd like to know ahead of time that the two of you have at least some common ground - something in common - whatever it may be - beyond a physical attraction to each other's online photos that can form the basis for some interesting and satisfying conversation. Being lonely is not enough to have in common with someone to predicate a first date.

    When to make the transition from email to phone? Three to four emails seems to be the standard amount before most online dating members feel secure enough in a match to take their correspondence to the next level.
  • One to Three Phone Calls is Enough.  Some people feel confident and comfortable enough with another person to set up a meeting after a single phone call. Others need one or two more to feel ready. More than that, however, is excessive. It suggests some sort of resistance to moving forward in the relationship (or the mere possibility of a relationship, really).

After one to three phone calls, you should have a good enough idea of each other to know whether you'd both like to meet in person. If not, you should both be asking yourself what the hold-up is. If something feels off about the chemistry, then politely end the correspondence there and move on. If, however, there seems to be potential brewing between you two, then honor it!

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