By Fran Creffield
So you’ve found a match you’re interested in and the feeling is mutual – but now what? Meeting an online match in person is the crucial next step but how long should you wait before you suggest or agree to it?
Online dating can be a lot of fun – as the film You’ve Got Mail showed so brilliantly. It’s exciting to see a new email from a love interest; you can read their romantic messages over and over again, reading between the lines and developing all sorts of fantasy scenarios in your head. It’s fun, but it doesn’t become ‘real’ until you meet up in person and find out if there’s a spark between you. But how soon? A number of factors will affect how long you wait and each situation will be unique,
Meeting almost immediately
Some people like to meet up with their matches as soon as possible, especially if they’re local. This can be done very safely if you choose a daytime meeting in a busy local cafe and arrange to have a quick coffee to decide if you’d like to get to know each other better. This approach has many advantages: you can learn more about someone within 10 minutes of meeting them than you would in hours of carefully constructed emails. This is also a good approach for people who aren’t confident expressing themselves in writing. Meeting up for a coffee date also gives you less time to get anxious or self-conscious because there’s less build up. Financially, it also allows you to meet lots of matches without splashing out on expensive dates.
This approach won’t suit everyone. Some people are anxious to know all they can about someone before meeting them. This is perfectly understandable, and you shouldn’t meet up with anyone if you’re unsure or uncomfortable about it. The same safety rules apply to a coffee date as any other date; check in with a friend before and after and make sure you have enough money to get home.
Waiting for the green light
Most people choose to wait until there are enough signs that the other person is interested in them before they suggest meeting up. These signs may include:
- An exchange of information about each other
- Evidence of shared interests and compatibility
- Regular and ongoing contact whether by email or on the phone
- A good rapport and a sense of humour
Of course, it can take time for all of this to come to light, but it may be worth waiting if you want the assurance that someone is really into you before you steel yourself for meeting up face to face. The danger with this approach is that the longer the ‘getting to know you’ process goes on, the higher the expectations of both people can become – the higher the expectations are, the bigger the potential disappointment if you do finally meet and there’s no chemistry between you.
How long is too long before meeting up?
While circumstances, distance and other factors all play a part it’s reasonable to expect that, after six weeks of regular online contact, the subject of meeting in person will have been discussed. If meeting up is difficult because of location then an exchange of phone numbers might be the step that takes your communication offline and off the site. Talking on the phone, or over Skype, will help you decide whether to overcome the obstacles to meeting because you’ll get a more realistic idea of whether there’s a strong connection between you.
Waiting for the other person to suggest a meeting is fine but if it isn’t forthcoming, you may need to give them a nudge in the right direction and let them know that you’d welcome meeting up.
Don’t be shy. It can never be a ‘real’ relationship until you meet the ‘real’ person and if it doesn’t work out you will both be free to move on and connect with other matches.