Dear Dr. Bill,
I’m in my mid-20s and have developed a friendship with woman I met online. 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 we’ve never met in person. Do you have any advice on how we should proceed?
Meeting someone online can turn out to be a wonderful experience. I have several friends who met their spouse through an online dating service. At the same time, there are pitfalls to online dating that you need to be aware of.
First of all, people have a tendency to put there “best foot forward” on the internet. They can carefully manage their image, telling you only positive about themselves. Some will even post photos of themselves that have been retouched or don’t reflect what they truly look like in person.
If you decide to meet this woman in person, here’s what I would suggest. Schedule your initial meeting at a neutral location in one of your respective towns, such as a casual restaurant or coffee shop. Agree ahead of time to limit the amount of time you spend together at that first meeting—perhaps two hours.
Make sure there are no expectations—and agree to follow up via phone the next day. That will give each of you the option to gracefully “bow out” if the initial meeting doesn’t go as expected.
If that first date goes well, continue to develop your friendship on the phone and schedule a second trip. During this second visit, let the woman know that you’d like to meet a few of her close friends and perhaps even attend church with her. That will give you a much clearer picture of who this woman really is.
Finally, make this relationship a matter of regular prayer. Ask God for wisdom to discern if this woman has the character qualities and moral values that would make her a good match.
Thanks for writing, Chad. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.