What's your opinion of online dating? I'm in my mid-twenties and have developed a friendship with a young woman I met on the internet. She lives in another state and we've talked quite a bit on the phone since then. We've both expressed an interest in exploring this relationship further, but so far we've never met in person. Do you have any advice as to how we should proceed?
Our advice is to set up that first face-to-face meeting before you allow any more water to pass under the bridge. Do this as soon as possible.
When you get together, bring a list of questions for one another. Maximize the usefulness of your time together by making an intentional effort to get to know each other better. We realize that this may seem a bit strained and awkward – after all, you'll both be operating in "agenda mode." But it's really the only way to get from where you are now to where you want to be. If at the end of this interview you still feel interested in pursuing the relationship, put your heads together and come up with a specific plan to make that happen. Set a date for your next in-person meeting, and then for the next one, and then for the one after that. Whatever you do, don't keep muddling around in cyberspace.
Why do we say this? Because while online dating can be a useful tool for initiating contact with another person – the internet is not the place to develop meaningful and lasting relationships. For that you need lots of time and plenty of face-to-face interaction.
It's vital to underscore this last point. Time is of the essence here. You and your young lady friend would be wise to allow yourselves at least a year to work on this, and to put a great deal of conscious effort into it. There's really no way to cut corners or short-circuit the process. You may be tempted to believe that technology will enable you to create a short-cut, but it simply isn't true. This can be a particularly alluring notion in view of the fact that so many people nowadays are so good at interacting and so poor at actually connecting with one another. We can't urge you strongly enough to insist upon reality and accept no substitutes.
A word about trust and trustworthiness as you embark upon this journey: in the beginning it's important to guard your heart and resist the temptation to trust the other person too easily. Instead, work on becoming trustworthy yourself. Rather than "selling" yourself, make up your mind to be a man of integrity – honest, upright, and forthcoming in all your dealings with people. If you can do this, you'll be laying a solid foundation for the kind of love that can last a lifetime.
While we're at it, it may also be worth asking if there is any way for you to gauge the trustworthiness of the young woman in whom you're interested. We believe there is. It's simply a matter of applying what our counseling staff likes to call the "three-legged stool test." The three legs of the stool are actually three simple questions. First, does what this person says and what she does match up over a long period of time? Second, does what she says today match up with what she says tomorrow? And third, does what she does today match up with what she does tomorrow? If the answer to all three questions is yes, then you can feel confident that she, too, is a person of integrity. Here again, note that time is the most crucial factor in the equation.
Focus on the Family has a staff of trained family therapists available to provide you with sound advice and practical assistance over the phone. If you'd like to discuss your situation, call our counselors for a free consultation. They can also provide you with references to reputable Christian therapists practicing in your area.
Taking It Slow With Online Dating: Dr. Kevin Leman discusses some of the challenges of online dating and the importance of ample "face time" for couples considering marriage.
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