So you hit it off online? Great! Soooo . . . WHAT'S NEXT?
How long is optimal to wait between those first couple of emails and meeting in person?
First, as with many things in life, this could be different for different women. And the following advice chunklets in this section are mostly for those seeking more durable connections, not strictly one-nighters.
Second, no matter what you had in mind, we'd still recommend at minimum waiting until you feel sufficiently comfortable and safe, along the lines of the stuff we recommended on the "keeping yourself safe" page (and we'd recommend reading that next).
But generally, while exact timelines may vary individually, there probably is an optimal happy medium between meeting immediately and letting a text and/or phone only interaction ramble on for multiple months.
Third, a more extended text communication can help you weed out inappropriate people without having to bother TO go on that date.
Fourth, speaking now about women with whom you are actually well-matched, it is entirely possible to make a great connection over the course of consuming one beverage even if you know little about her. But it's far easier for most to continue an interesting dialogue you were already having before meeting in person. It's also easier to start entirely new conversations if you already have a basic idea of her interests.
Double or triple that if you're shy or have a tendency to get tongue-tied when meeting new women. She is also more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if you do get a little tongue-tied and/or overly monosyllabic during your initial meeting if you've already demonstrated some interpersonal interest value in the correspondence leading up to it. This as opposed to a situation in which your initial behavior is virtually all she's got on you. The very same two women can meet in different ways and have it turn out quite differently.
Yes, corresponding for a bit first might take a bit more effort and patience than rushing out your collective doors after only one email. But it will also likely make that first meeting more comfortable, the conversation will likely flow a bit better, then that will likely amp mutual interest for additional meetings.
Meanwhile, in a more hearts and flowers sentimental sort of way, many say a certain romance becomes involved in getting to know someone via what she wrote. There's an undeniable and often more durable intimacy that can be fostered in that specific way. Some say you see "her mind." Others say text is more someone's "soul." Different others say it's a way to get to know her apart from the strictly superficial. Even if you have photos, you don't know what she's REALLY like, in person, physically, how she laughs at things you say, how she moves, how she'll look at you. You are still interacting on a level that's more intellectual or emotional.
Which can really be very nice.
We're still not suggesting you let that carry on and on indefinitely.
IF you let a strictly online romance go on and on for too long, you'll likely fill in the unknown variables with projections of traits that are pleasant to you. You'll plug the holes of your knowledge with a dream of what you would like, then feel shocked when your online paramour unmasks herself in person through the simple reality of being a living breathing being rather than a set of collective text areas, instant messages, or a headshot. She may very well turn out to be different in some ways than what you'd imagined.
Those unknown variables regarding what she is like in the flesh will often be imagined to be exactly like you'd most prefer her to be . . . and/or some fantasy you had one day.
Which, even if she is REALLY FRIGGIN' FABULOUS, and totally WAY COOL FOR YOU, she still probably won't be EXACTLY as you'd fantasized her.
It's just statistically unlikely, you know. If you go on and on and on for months and months imagining stuff about her, probably a lot of it won't end up being true.
And if you do that unrealistic fantasizing stuff for too TOO long, it will warp your mind, so when you FINALLY meet that woman with whom you've been corresponding that's actually REALLY GREAT FOR YOU, you might imagine that she's NOT, because she is not and could never be the woman you unrealistically built her up to be, in your mind, after all that crazy fantasizing that went on for way too long. And then you'll end up rejecting the woman that you really SHOULD HAVE ENDED UP WITH!
GAH! THE HORROR!
So yeah, don't do that.
"But I want an actual timeline, damnit! Gimme a timeline!"
Just not into the general recommendations accompanied by working it out for yourself as an individual thing, huh? <grin>
OK, for you inpatient and overly literal types, HERE'S an actual timeline:
3-5 weeks of frequent emails and/or other non-in-person communications, during which you'll both have seen the other's photo, during also which you'll also find each other severely thoughtful and amusing and insightful and generally entertaining and pleasant. That needs to be followed by 2-4 phone conversations that will be similar and will include attraction to each other's voice, followed by an in-person meeting in a dark bar with a couple/six cocktails, during which you will find each other extremely attractive and exceedingly touchably soft. Exceedingly attractive and touchably soft enough for a serious groping session in the parking lot after the cocktails. There's your timeline!
HA HA HA! Not really!
(OK, maybe . . . REALLY!)
(Can you tell that timeline wasn't um . . . fictional?)
We've also personally corresponded with many lesbian couples that experienced something quite similar to the above, meaning posting a personal profile on our site, followed by 3-5 weeks of texting in various ways, followed by some phone conversations, followed by an in-person meeting, followed by their unique version of interpersonal bliss. The whole kit and kaboodle usually took between 3 and 6 weeks. No less than 2 weeks, no more than 2 months from initial email to in-person meeting.
(We also know a large number of lesbian couples that didn't meet in person for the first time in a dark bar. Just sayin'. We're all for diversity. We take all kinds. Seriously. EVEN those that NEVER met a Someone Special in a dark bar. <grin>)
"HERE I AM!!"
Yes, this bears repeating. If you make a date to meet someone in person, show the f*** up already. Do the right thing. Barring an unexpected event requiring sudden hospitalization, don't flake.
If you don't want to go on the date, don't make the arrangements. If you thought you did then changed your mind, let her know BEFORE she'd need to leave to get to the date's location. Don't let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don't want to do, but don't make plans with folks unless you actually sincerely intend to get your ass there for them.
Just not showing up is cowardly. Cowards make the world a crappier place. Or even if you're too selfish to care about that, you just never know when you’ll run into someone you were rude to on the internet “in real life” or someone you met on the internet then stood up. That person you wronged (no doubt thinking your bad behavior would never result in any negative consequences . . . for YOU) may end up moving next door. Or working where you work. Or striking up a friendship with one of your current friends. Probably? Maybe not. But why send karma an engraved invitation to kick your ass?
It will also totally suck for the other woman. The woman on the other end of the profile is a person with feelings and a life and a schedule with less than infinite blocks of free time, just like yourself. She also "put herself out there" just like you did by posting an profile. Treat her with the respect she deserves, the same sort of respect with which YOU would also like to be treated. Try super hard not to totally suck. Sheesh.
First Date Sex? ???
We’ve read a lot of relationship advice columnists who recommend a longer getting-to-know-you period beforehand. We've also read just as many that say in this day and age, it doesn’t matter. We’d say if you and your date agree that right away is the right idea, go for it, but with these provisos:
1. Safer sex highly recommended. And no, this doesn’t just mean commenting that you “don’t want to meet anyone with an STD” in your text area(s), people. Flip switch for common sense into “on” position.
2. Don’t assume it means anything at all other than a physical attraction that ignited during that day, and that day alone. If you have a problem with the previous statement, we’d recommend avoiding it. First dates often fail to lead to second dates. Sex (even really GREAT sex) doesn’t necessarily change that. If you’re fairly certain you’d be emotionally squashed and/or feel used, abused, and totally confused if your first date sex turned out to be a one-night stand, you shouldn’t have first date sex. Not a criticism, just your reality. Honest self-assessment here is key.
3. Avoid it with anyone you suspect is: emotionally unbalanced, a little too needy, in the middle of any sort of active and untreated psychiatric difficulty, recently released from prison, still seriously upset about a recent breakup of another relationship, in the throes of a severe substance abuse issue, and/or anything else likely to lead a date and/or any emotional situation wonky. If your date is at all inclined to become totally unhinged and/or start stalking you post-date, having sex with her first will probably improve those unwanted odds.
4. If you think your date has much stronger positive feelings for you than you reciprocate, best to abstain. She’ll likely find it more difficult to get over you after you let her know you’re done with her if you had sex with her first. She might also feel (even if not legitimately warranted by the conversational transcript) that you “led her on.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting together with someone as a probable one-night stand or periodically as a “friend with benefits” (no thick strings attached). HOWEVER, it IS an engraved invitation for unpleasantness of some sort unless all parties have similar expectations . . . or a similar lack thereof. If you think she's “falling in love” with you and you’re certain you won’t be seconding that emotion, gently encourage her to have sex with someone else instead. Everyone involved (that means you too) will probably be glad you did.
5. More or less ditto the preceding paragraph for someone with vastly less sexual experience than yourself. If it’s only her first or second big <whatever> but you’ve been doing it for sport every other weekend since the 1980’s, your emotional reactions to the <whatever> may be too different for a good mesh. Unless you think there’s already an excellent probability that your “newbie” is someone with whom you’re willing to spend a significant amount of follow-up time, it might be ethically and practically preferable to shag someone in your same experiential ballpark.
6. Try to avoid becoming unhinged yourself. Refer back to #2.
7. Attempt to prepare yourself for any consequence, from hearing a sudden profession of love over the a.m. beverage to her taking off in the middle of the night then pretending you've never met or the sex didn't happen the next time you run into each other. People can get unexpectedly funky about sudden intimacy, especially if they’re not sure exactly what it means or what they’d like it to mean. Or if for some reason (beer goggles, sudden discovery of previously undisclosed spouse, etc.) what they wanted it to mean last night feels like something else in the morning. If the idea of a morning or next-day surprise outcome completely freaks you out, refer back to #2.
8. Even in this day and age, remember . . . there’s still NOTHING WRONG with getting to know someone for a while first. Everyone is absolutely entitled to their own opinion and their own sexual behavior with other consenting adults. However, anyone that tries to pressure you into adopting their point of view on this issue or tries to make you feel badly you didn't is an ass.