I'm single. To be more precise, I'm divorced from my second wife (I hate saying that) for nearly two years. Almost immediately after we separated I signed up for two internet dating services and pony'd up the money for six months of each. You could tell I wasn't optimistic about these services being obsolete quickly, the pain of the divorce was still fresh despite having made my peace with the circumstances that brought it on.
Everyone it seemed had an opinion about online dating, especially those who were still gloriously married and by all appearances happy. Their advice ranged from proclaiming trust in God and go to church to find a good girl, to, well as long as you look locally you are probably ok. Many well meaning friends advised on being extremely cautious to the point you should not trust anything you hear or see coming from the internet.
Although I'd investigated starting an online dating site a few years before (and even launched it at one point) I had never really done any online dating, I was happily married at the time. No surprise here, the world had changed once again from the last time I was gripped with singularity.
I turned to online dating for a few reasons, the first and foremost is "I don't do the bar scene." Another reason is a belief that somewhere in the vast sea of 6 billion people my ideal match is waiting to be found. It's a modern day romantic vision of being an explorer and finding love on some distant shore.
The rules for developing a relationship online are much different from the 'real world' rules.
In the real world for example you don't expect to see someone each and every day for awhile. Online, you do expect to chat or email daily.
In the real world you expect to be able to go out on dates, dining or movies, picnics and hikes all come to mind too. Online, you expect to chat or email daily...and exchange recent photos.
In the real world you expect to get a kiss at the end of the night, a warm hug, even some snuggling on a sofa can figure into the evening. Online, you expect to chat or email daily, exchange recent photos, and if you are lucky score a few XO's while saying good night.
Online dating is like being in a dating simulator. You get to know how someone thinks by their writing, covering endless subjects that might otherwise go unexplored if burdened with being in their presence, distracted by mannerisms (both endearing or annoying) and time constraints that don't exist in cyberspace. After enough of this, you look forward to the day you can see and touch this other person in the flesh. If the chemistry is apparent then the lesson's and knowledge learned during 'simulation' become as real and valuable as if you'd been dating this person all along....suddenly you have 'history' with them.
I've slowly been piecing together a 'Next Century' approach to online relationship building. This works.
Online dating assumes on thing, you are ONLINE and can chat. Email exchanges are not the same, you must be able to chat. There is an immediacy to chatting that doesn't exist in the mere exchange of well thought out letters (which btw, are nice to have too).
Next, a good calling strategy is mandatory. At some point you will want to hear the voice on the other end, being prepared with a cost effective calling strategy will save you money and countless hours of frustration if you find talking to them is enjoyable. I have both cell phone and online calling available to me. I have even been talking to someone far away and taken them grocery shopping or to other stores just by keeping them on the phone while I did those things. When I was married I recall many occasions in which I talked to my wife while out and about, why not someone you are courting online?
A webcam will answer many of the 'intangible' questions because you can see your muse on the screen. A person can't really hide how they look on camera, and you can see how they flip their hair or turn their head while talking. If you don't want to be seen, a webcam is still very handy for taking pictures to send or post. It has the added advantage of being fully in your control and if you don't like the photo, delete it!
Here are a couple ideas that will make the distance is tolerable until you can be with them in person.
Go on a webcam date. If you both have laptops and webcams, find a cafÃ© or restaurant that has WiFi available, set your laptop up on the other end of the table and enjoy a meal together. Guys, if you are clever enough you can even arrange to pay for the date by some simple advance calling to the restaurant your date will be in to make payment arrangements.
Watch a movie together. This assumes you have a phone calling plan in place where being on a continuous call is not a financial burden. You could both rent the same video and start it at the same time, watching and commenting on things like you would in person. If you have television schedules that are in sync, you can watch programs together in the same way. I have a device called a Slingbox, it allows me to view my home television on my laptop from anywhere I can get on the internet. I could send the viewing software to someone I want to watch shows with so they could see what I'm watching and could even get annoyed at my channel surfing. (A Slingbox is not a service you subscribe too, once you own it there is no more expense to using it)
In the end, nothing will replace real world contact. Until then you may discover a rhythm to your long distance relationship that you never expected by using some of these ideas.
C'mon, we're going to the hardware store!
Thanks for reading this far. XOXO