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Online dating can sometimes feel like a virtual buffet of choices, constantly showing you new people to meet or date. The first step to connecting with people is letting them know who you are.

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Differences between offline and online dating are shrinking with every passing day. Most couples combine both aspects. They date in person offlinebut they stay in touch online. They do it over social media or messaging apps, but chatting online still counts as online dating.

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The goal of online dating is not to establish a cyber pen pal, but a real time romance.

Make sure the person you want to date is covid-safe.

Having spent a career prosecuting sex offenders and rapists I am well aware of the dangers presented by cyber predators, and in full support of adequately screening potential romantic partners online. Yet we all have friends and family members who met wonderful partners and spouses online and are living happily ever after in satisfying, wholesome relationships. Striking a balance is often a matter of timing.

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How long should you communicate with an online romantic prospect before meeting offline? Concerned friends and parents say as long as possible.

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But research indicates that meeting sooner rather than later is the best way to gauge relational suitability. Many daters prefer to build a relationship of trust online before meeting in person.

Don’t rush into it.

Others worry that prospective partners who are dragging their feet might be hiding something like their true appearance, which might barely resemble their outdated profile photo. In every case, it is always safest to build trust online and over the phone first. Yet there are only so many cues we can interpret through virtual and verbal communication. Research indicates that long periods of online communication before meeting offline might damage romantic potential by causing over interpretation of virtual social cues that adversely impact expectations at the first face-to-face meeting.

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Despite the benefits of live interaction, daters are skeptical of the motives of someone who wants to move offline too quickly. Yet some manipulative criminals posing as romantic interests do not want to move the relationship offline. Be aware of the two extremes: virtual partners who want to move offline immediately, or not at all. The Scammers Persuasive Technique Model describes the process through which criminals groom their victims before requesting money.

Chemistry and compatibility are better judged in person sooner rather than later

Other financial scammers do everything they can to avoid offline screening by keeping the relationship in the cloud. They claim to live abroad, thus creating more time to cultivate a closer relationship of trust online.

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Congratulations, your virtual relationship has graduated to arranging to meet face to face. The first offline meeting is a much-anticipated event that serves as a moment of truth for many online daters. Yet because there will always be a small percentage of dangerous people hiding in the otherwise wholesome mix of online candidates, the first date should be safely preplanned, and public.

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The first date should be in a centrally located, popular area, not a deserted hole-in-the-wall off the beaten track. And it certainly should not be in private. I have prosecuted cases where couples moved directly from the chat room to the bedroom to the criminal courtroom after a sexual assault.

Wendy Patrick, JD, PhD, is a career prosecutor, author, and behavioral expert who spent years prosecuting sex offenders.

1. "we have the same favorite food! want to meet up for a take-out picnic?"

She lectures around the world on sexual assault prevention, safe cyber security, and threat assessment, and is an Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Certified Threat Manager. The opinions expressed in this column are her own. Finkel, Paul W. Eastwick, Benjamin R. Karney, Harry T. Wendy L. Patrick, J. Worry is driven by mood, not logic. Anxiety holds your deepest yearnings.

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And you can subdue it for good. Three experts turn everything you know about anxiety inside out. Why Bad Looks Good.

About the author

Chemistry and compatibility are better judged in person sooner rather than later Posted May 27, Share. Live Ambition: When to Move Offline. About the Author. Online: wendypatrickphd. Read Next. Back Psychology Today.

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Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Personality Passive Aggression Personality Shyness. Family Life Child Development Parenting.

2. "i'm tired of sitting inside. want to go for a walk?"

View Help Index. Do I Need Help? Back Magazine. September A Sigh of Relief Worry is driven by mood, not logic. Back Today.

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