Transitioning from an intimate online relationship to real life?
April 19, 2006 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I've been talking with a wonderful person online, and we're meeting up soon. But I'm at a loss as to what we should converse about, and it's not because we don't have anything in common! Please suggest areas of conversation!

The two of us 'clicked' extremely well, and thanks to the disarming nature of the internet, we summarily skipped the normal "so, what kind of cuisine do you like?" fluff and went for the "serious stuff" that people looking for long-term relationships want to know. Over the course of a rather short duration (on the order of weeks), we've talked a lot.

Consequently, in a very short period of time, the two of us have candidly gone over a lot of potential "deal-breaker" type stuff -- reasonble summaries of sordid (or not) pasts, expectations about financies, the role of family, the importance of careers vs. family for both, the role of in-laws, religion(s), pet(s), children (how many, when, who takes care of them), how much contact we would expect for any long-distance issues, where to ultimately live and how that's decided, politics, and many other "important issues" besides.

Suffice it to say, while we're not mental clones of each other, we're not all that far off either. Both of us are pleased as punch at the similiarity as well as how easily we communicate. Of course, we've hit a lot of the 'fluff' on our sojourns to the land of "philosophy of relationships" and so on. But now, what do we talk about?

Do we move on to a serious discussion of some of our interests? Start sharing funny anecdotes and other lighter stuff? Rant in unison about our perceived deficiencies in the state of politics and governance?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I say talk about things that interest you, because otherwise you'll be bored.
posted by aubilenon at 5:49 PM on April 19, 2006

When you meet this person face-to-face for the first time, both of you will have to quickly process all of the new information you've just received about each other's appearance, sound of each other's voices, mannerisms, and so on. You'll also be preoccupied with the unusual sensation of "meeting" a person you already know well, and overcoming all the assumptions you've already made about them (appearance, mannerisms, voices, and so on.)

In short: you'll both have a lot to talk about in the "wow, I didn't think you'd sound like that" department -- but that might be odd, so make sure you meet somewhere that has things you can talk about that aren't about you. Go to a movie so you can discuss it afterwards, or an unusual restaurant neither of you has ever been to (with lots of hip, happening things going on) -- so that you can default to conversations about that stuff while your mind is still adjusting.

After that, it'll either come naturally or it won't. Don't worry about it.
posted by davejay at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2006

"So, how was the traffic?"

Seriously, I'm a big believer in the quotidian as social lubricant, and you can't possibly have talked much about traffic online, right?
posted by scratch at 5:56 PM on April 19, 2006

Jesus, you've talked about the heavy stuff, so enjoy the light stuff when you meet. Go to a bar, talk about favourite drinks, compliment him/her on her clothes, compliment him/her on her nice eyes/smile/whatever, say how great it is to meet up in the flesh at last, talk about what sort of cuisine you like and ...well, where shall we go for dinner? Are you both Mefites? Talk about how godlike Mayor Curley is, how desperately ParisParamus needs a good, hard shag and how you could absolutely have that tkchrist in a scrap. Laugh. Make stupid jokes. Drink too much. Have fun, damn it. It's not hard. The trick is to relax and think "I like this person and s/he likes me, so we're golden. Bring it on."
posted by Decani at 5:59 PM on April 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

By the way, this happened to me, too. I met my current partner online and we discussed all sorts of things before we met. When we did meet, we just kept it light to start with, and the rest just flowed. If it's meant to be, it will. You won't even have to think about it.
posted by Decani at 6:05 PM on April 19, 2006

Seriously, you're freaking out over nothing (the pre-date freakout- I have one everything. single. time- and it's always the fear that we won't know what to talk about!) Go in, say, "Hi! It's great to finally meet you!" Go from there.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:11 PM on April 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I would really want to keep it light and fun -- see if you click over a goofy anecdote about your day at work... about the waiter who keeps bringing you the wrong side dish... or about a movie you just saw or a book you just read. See if you click while engaging in a shared activity -- could be going to an art gallery, could be rollerblading (could be rollerblading at an art gallery). A relationship -- obviously, as you know -- isn't just built on the heavy stuff like priorities about finances and similar childrearing philosophies; it's also about the simple (but sometimes elusive) ability simply to enjoy each other's company in the moment, whether or not it's about sharing something deep.

Also, per this description:

in a very short period of time, the two of us have candidly gone over a lot of potential "deal-breaker" type stuff -- reasonble summaries of sordid (or not) pasts, expectations about financies, the role of family, the importance of careers vs. family for both, the role of in-laws, religion(s), pet(s), children (how many, when, who takes care of them), how much contact we would expect for any long-distance issues, where to ultimately live and how that's decided, politics, and many other "important issues" besides.

It's great that you guys appear to be in sync on a lot of these issues. One (gentle) word of caution, though: I would recommend you resist the urge to extrapolate from this level of similarity over the "important issues" that you guys are immediately ready to plunge headfirst into a serious relationship. (I'm not saying you are necessarily feeling/expecting this -- just want to put it out there, just in case.) Again, it's terrific to be on the same page when it comes to a lot of the dealbreakers, but try not to worry just yet about there being any deal to break -- simply find out if you click in person, and take it one step at a time from there. (It is possible that I am speaking from experience.)

And above all: enjoy yourself! Hope you have a great time.
posted by scody at 6:30 PM on April 19, 2006

Don't just sit home and stare at each other. Go out and do something -- anything -- and the the conversation will come. Rent rowboats and paddle around the lake, go on a quest for the town's best french toast, just show this person your life & the rest will come naturally.
posted by mochapickle at 6:30 PM on April 19, 2006

what do you talk with your friends about when you hang out with them? Just interact normally.

I also feel inclined to offer a word of caution - it is possible to feel like you reallly click when it's all email, and then just sort of not feel that way when you meet in real life. In a way, you are filling in all the blanks about this person when you interact online. Of course it could be love at first sight, but it could also be totally 'meh', so just treat it like a normal first date.
posted by mdn at 6:43 PM on April 19, 2006

I really wouldn't start with a movie, a restaurant, or a bar. Go somewhere where there's oodles of distractions, like an amusement park, go-kart track, somewhere weird you've never been and even if you both hate it at least you've got that to share. You've put so much work into making a relationship with someone you haven't even met that you're going to be second-guessing yourself. So is the other person. You're both going to need those distractions to keep things light and carefree. Normally, you wouldn't, if you had met this person earlier. I'm not saying that there's one path to getting to know someone. But having done it this way, there's this hidden heightening of expectations, and yet you may meet this person and know within thirty seconds that you're not attracted to them. Online you can edit yourself into the most amazing person ever, even if you're not aware you're doing it. Well, back to the yacht.
posted by user92371 at 6:49 PM on April 19, 2006

Where are you from? Where did you grow up? How was the traffic? Where did you go to school? Did you like it? What is your best friend like? Any vacation plans for the summer? Do you like wine? Do you have brohters or sisters? What kind of car do you drive? Do you think this is weird, I do, a little, but what the hell. Let the other ask questions too...In my experience a conversation is like a song with two or more working together to make it fun for everybody...all the best, jamie
posted by jamie939 at 6:59 PM on April 19, 2006

All of the important things that you two have already covered are essential for making things work long-term. But when your partner comes home late from work, stressed out by a boorish boss, upset over his/her job problems and hungry as a hog, the evening's conversation will be dominated by discussion of traffic, assinine people, career issues and cuisine. - as quotidien as those topics might seem on the first few dates, they are just as important as "the big stuff" when it comes to life.
posted by saffron at 8:09 PM on April 19, 2006

I would agree with scody, on both the activity content and the perspective (oh, and from maybe speaking from experience). First, you've had lots of the disembodied conversation stuff - so why not focus on filling in the simple gaps of: what's it like to hang out, pal around, share the same space with this person? Plan some fun activities to take some of the pressure off, and then just talk about whatever is natural to talk about in those settings. Believe me, you'll feel a lot better if you start out by lowering the intensity of the interaction a few notches. You can always ratchet it back up at the appropriate time in the date if things click.

And if things don't...well, speaking from the experiences that I may or may not have had, sometimes you think you've got EVERYTHING in sync based on those fervent electronic communications, but it's amazing how chemistry can inexplicably fail at times. At those times, keeping the first meeting casual and activity-focused can help make for a softer landing on all fronts. Just sayin'.
posted by shelbaroo at 8:17 PM on April 19, 2006

start with "god damn, but you look good!" and mean it. continue with "so how was the ride here?" Ask the person how they're feeling about X or Y issue that you've talked about before and just talk about it because you're legitmately interested. the rest of it just takes care of itself, so long as you don't let yourself fall into the "god, am I saying the right things?!" self esteem trap.
posted by shmegegge at 8:30 PM on April 19, 2006

I met my girlfriend on Flickr, and after six months of talking to her on the phone every night decided to go out and see her (she lives in the US, I live in the UK). We were both worried that the intimate mental, intellectual connection we had wouldn't match up to physical attraction, but it did, and to be honest, even though I was jet-lagged and altitude sick, we never had a problem with conversation - just be open and keep it light to start with, and then it'll flow from there.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:50 AM on April 20, 2006

I always have this worry when I hang out with someone new(ish). And I have never run out of things to talk about. So don't worry. And good luck.
posted by dame at 6:07 AM on April 20, 2006

Plato said that "You learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a lifetime of conversation." I've found this to be surprisingly true and even, ironically, of good use for starting conversations. I've found that if you really want to get to know someone you should talk about trivial things ("when I was a kid I used to love to..." "I guess *** will be happening again soon. The last time I went I hated/loved it because...). Conversations are highly mutable things, and five minutes in they seldom have much to do with the subjects that began them (unless intentionally kept on track). I find that it's more important to walk together through the course of the conversation then to worry about the sights you see along the way.
posted by ducksauce at 7:06 AM on April 20, 2006

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