In August 2003, 5 years ago, U.S. News and World Report reported that about 40 million people clicked on online dating sites. There are many important questions that need to be answered about this new phenomenon in dating, meeting and connecting. This article is only the tip of the iceberg in responding to these questions.
1. Is there a difference in personality, attitude, behavior, upbringing, and/or basic values, between people who date and find their partners online compared to those who choose to meet potential partners in person?
2. Is there a difference in the quality and depth of intimacy in relationship ultimately developed by people who have met initially online compared to those who have met initially in person?
3. Is there a difference in the speed with which two people become sexually involved and/or emotionally intimate depending upon whether they initially met online or in-person?
Recently, I viewed a discussion debating whether internet dating is more or less worthwhile than unintentional dating that happens spontaneously while spending time at a museum, bar, dance, or some other activity or event. As cited by several respondents, there are benefits to each type of activity.
At a museum, one might meet some nice guys who are looking to date or some people truly interested in art, who are not interested in dating. At a bar, one might meet people who are just looking for a momentary meeting or sexual encounter,k or people with a real drinking problem and few interests or hobbies. Through an internet dating site, one might meet a person who acts loving, says wonderfully loving things about you, promise to call, and then fails to call for a week or longer, going right back online to search for someone new. But through continued exchanges online, one might truly get to know the person and have a chance for a real loving encounter when you finally meet in person.
I have a friend who said he had a “girlfriend” online. She lived in Russia and was planning to come to the U.S. to visit with him and stay with him for several weeks, or months, for the purpose of developing a close relationship. In good faith and feeling excited in anticipation of meeting with this beautiful, exotic woman, he sent her a large sum of money to pay for her transportation. At that point, he never heard from her again – and he was temporarily devastated. That same person is now dating people locally and having a good time – meeting people in person, sharing activities together, and getting to know them in a real, substantial way. He is no longer jumping into the complete unknown with blinders on.
The problem, as I see it, has less to do with how you meet a new person and more to do with your personal expectations, emotional responses, and degree of patience. I believe that it takes at least 3 months (90 days) of spending time with another person to at least “begin” to have some inkling of who this person really is. Then, it actually seems to take almost 3 full years of continued relationship with someone to finally have a more in-depth knowing of this person. And even then, once people make a a commitment to live together or to actually marry, new aspects of the person are often revealed. Whatever a person appears to be like in the first few days and weeks of relationship will often change, and sometimes drastically, as we continue to spend time together and become more intimately involved.
So, it is helpful to take a “Wait and see” attitude with new people, a sense of exploration and discovery, looking at each new relationship as an adventure into an uncharted territory where danger may lurk but there might be some exciting and exhilarating moments. And maybe these moments will last longer and longer and develop into something truly intimate and enduring.
Relationships can be wonderful, fun, uplifting and life changing. Some will last a lifetime but most will only be temporary connections for some limited amount of time. We can feel like victims when relationships end before we are ready – or – we can appreciate whatever we have enjoyed and gained during our connection with this unique individual. And we can take our learning and wisdom with us into our future experiences.