(OMTimes | Marcia Sirota MD) Online dating is only part of the picture. These days, we are conducting so many of our relationships online that when we are finally face-to-face with another person, we are often more awkward, uncomfortable and unsure of ourselves. Lately, I have heard stories from a few women who were trying online dating. They shared that the men they were communicating with were happy to chat online but weren’t getting around to making an actual in-person date.
We figured that maybe the men were married and not ready to take their flirtations beyond the virtual. Maybe they were so used to online interactions that they didn’t feel comfortable meeting in the real world. Either way, these men weren’t setting up actual dates.
This underscores the two main problems of spending so much time online. First problem is that people often misrepresent themselves in their online profiles. The second is the more we email, text, Facetime, Tweet or swipe right, the less comfortable we are with dating in real life.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to both these problems. Learning a few basic communication skills will help us take our online chats into the real world and create more successful dates.
Learning to identify dishonest people online
First, we need to identify the dishonest people online, and this comes down to recognizing a few red flags. If the other person immediately wants to go off the dating site and start emailing on their private email, that is a red flag. Or, if they want to skip the protocol of the site and go directly to communicating via personal email, this is also suspicious.
Online dating sites do their best to keep you safe, so when someone wants to leave the site or break protocol, it is often because they are not on the level.
Another red flag to look for is when a date is being planned and the other person is very particular about when they can and cannot meet. Someone who has obvious time restrictions could very well be in a relationship and have only a small window of time in which to cheat on their partner.
Pay attention to red flags when dating
The next red flag is a profile photo in which the person is flaunting wealth; for example, leaning up against a fancy car or flashing a high-end watch. Think of these as fishing lures–shiny objects meant to snare the unsuspecting minnows in the dating pool. Of course, some people are so good at lying and cheating that they won’t show you any red flags before you meet. So, then you need to look for the red flags when you’re on your actual first date.
It’s best to make the first meeting a short, daytime coffee date. Drinking alcohol on a first date makes it much harder to observe the other person and to get a sense of whether they’re legit. A too-long first date or a too romantic one is more likely to create a premature or false sense of intimacy that could make it easier to ignore any red flags.
Red flags on a first date include bragging, name dropping, rudeness toward servers, hostile or critical remarks, talking excessively about the ex, being overly flirtatious or sexual, poor eye contact, or focusing on technology more than on you. They also include any signs that the person could be married; for example, being cagey about their living situation or extracurricular activities.
If you notice any of these dating red flags, do take them very seriously. You can avoid a lot of trouble if you pay attention to the red flags early on.
Communication is very important in dating
Communication is so important when it comes to dating. The key at the beginning is to keep it light and pleasant. Too much intensity is uncomfortable and inappropriate. Do not get into your deepest thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams on the first date, or even the next few dates. It is too much, too soon.
Likewise, don’t overshare about past relationships or painful experiences. There is a gradual process of getting to know each-another. This should happen over several months of dating.
Physical intimacy can be tricky as well. Oftentimes, having sex will give you the impression that you are a lot closer than you are. Unfortunately, though, for many people, sex is just sex. Sex too soon can make you feel more vulnerable. Then, if the other person was only looking for a quick hook-up and has taken off, you will be left feeling violated and humiliated, and you are still single.
You have all the time you need to get to know each-other, both physically and emotionally. Take your time, enjoy some small-talk, and get a feel for one another. Let things evolve gradually over several dates, rather than trying to cram it all in at once.
Good communication on a date is expressing your thoughts, feelings and needs clearly and directly. If something bothers you, speak up. That is the only way the other person will know how you feel. The same goes with asking for what you want.
Listening to the other person – reflect your understanding
Listening is the other side of good communication, so listen carefully to the what other person is saying, and ask yourself how it makes you feel. Don’t make assumptions about what they mean. If you do not understand something, clarify. If what you are hearing makes you uncomfortable in any way, trust your gut. Do not let this person or anyone else talk you out of your reactions.
One issue with online communications versus real-life dating is that we often present our online persona as more attractive, charming, and successful than in real life. It can be nerve-wracking to meet someone new, knowing that the real you is not quite as fantastic as the online version. The antidote to this is to trust that other person is probably presenting a shinier version of themselves online, as well.
When you meet, there might be a surprise at seeing a slightly less glamorous version of each other. But, hopefully, you can both get over this to discover who the real person is, beyond the online persona.
Online communication is all about flashy surfaces and instant gratification. Everything you want is beautiful and glamorous and available at the touch of a finger. Real-life interactions are different. They are more imperfect and need to be slowly cultivated like a garden. Plant the seeds, add water, sunshine and fertilizer, and then wait patiently for whatever flowers might decide to bloom.
About the Author
Marcia Sirota is an author, speaker, coach, and psychiatrist. She is the founder of the Ruthless Compassion Institute. She has two recent books on creating successful relationships. “Women Decoded,” helps men understand what women want and how to choose the right woman. “Back on the Market” helps women return to dating successfully. Sign up for her free wellness newsletter at: www.marciasirotamd.com