How close is too close before you meet someone IRL?
August 8, 2008 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Online dating issues. How close is too close *before* you meet someone in real life?

So there's this guy, right. We met online, and we're definitely hitting it off on IM and on the phone. We intend to meet in person once he moves significantly closer to me, which he has been planning to do all along (before he met me). As soon as he locks down a job and a place to live he'll be moving, and to the best of our knowledge this will be by the end of the month, two tops. Until then, we're stuck with great IM and phone chemistry, and pictures of each other we drool over, and little else.

My fear is not that he's going to end up never moving - he just finished college and has been planning on doing so since he graduated. I certainly feel close enough to him already to trust him on this matter. Moreover, I worry about pouring so much of my time and energy into someone I still haven't met, even though we've been consistently hitting it off and I have yet to see or hear a single red flag. We talk online or on the phone usually for at least an hour or two every day and have been doing so for about a month now. We're both quite confident that even if we don't have physical chemistry, we'll still be friends. Yet I still worry, and more than he does.

Are my fears of possible rejection or time-wasting justified, or do I need to just unclench and enjoy the amazing connection we're already having?

Is our closeness unhealthy?

Any insight would be appreciated. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll respond via MeFi mail if you'd like. I'm posting anonymously in the hopes he won't see this. Gulp.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How long exactly had he planned to move? If he's been planning it for a very long time and still hasn't moved, then something doesn't seem right.

How big a distance is currently between you two? If it's not too far, say a 3-hour drive, then why not meet somewhere halfway between you two's residences for coffee or lunch, and see if you two will really hit it off? If sparks are flying, and he does move closer, then that's great. If not, he totally isn't the man you dream about, etc., then be thankful that you won't be waiting around in the future for him to move just so you can meet him and get your hopes dashed.

If a preliminary meeting per above is impossible, then I would suggest lessening the chemistry, and save the best stuff for the actual physical connection.
posted by curagea at 8:54 PM on August 8, 2008

Are you still looking around to date someone else? The two of you have that weird quasi-relationship that sometimes happens with online dating (and has happened to me), but you aren't officially exclusive. Maybe just the knowledge that you *can* keep looking around will be reassuring.

However, I think that the energy you're pouring into this relationship is just as well-spent as the energy you could be devoting to any other relationship. No relationship comes with a guarantee that it'll work, and at least with this relationship you have that amazing chemistry to enjoy.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:55 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

My thinking would be that if you're seeking to obviate possible future feelings of disappointment or rejection from someone or directed by you at someone that may possibly move closer to you that you might someday meet you should probably put a little effort into some kind of timely resolution because concrete is good.
posted by breakfast_yeti at 9:16 PM on August 8, 2008

There's nothing wrong with hedging your bets in this situation. I had an online/long distance fling with a guy from England, but since we hadn't actually met, I still went out, partied, slept with people, etc. Although I was crazy about him, I had been burned not long before and didn't want to risk being exclusive with someone that might not come through for me.

Sure enough, I was crushed when he "lost" my email address just weeks before he was supposed to visit me for Thanksgiving. But that is not to say that I did not derive some consolation from knowing that I didn't let my need to meet the British man of my dreams keep from my very important need for nooky. Two months later, I met my fiance. YMMV, but I recommend that you keep your options open.
posted by mynameismandab at 9:27 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do meet, as soon as possible.

Even though you have great intellectual chemistry, even if you had phone sex, it's possible that you're not physically attracted to each other. Please don't underestimate that - see this study titled underestimation of the role of physical attractiveness in dating preferences: ignorance or taboo?, or this one:

Rethinking What We Want in a Partner (full PDF):

"But in reality men and women were equally inspired by physical attraction and equally inspired by earning power or ambition." "The discrepancy between what people did and said in this dating situation fits with other research that shows that people often do a poor job explaining why they do things, often referring to accepted cultural theories to explain their own behavior."
posted by harwons at 9:32 PM on August 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

Forgot to mention that I've personally suffered from this - I had a phone and online relationship for three months, and it was very positive, high energy, intimate, and devoid of red flags. However, when we met, it turned out that she was not attracted to me. She was nice and didn't tell me that, and tried to make things work, but in the end, it didn't work out, and she finally told me that I wasn't her sexual type.

posted by harwons at 9:36 PM on August 8, 2008

I'd say unclench. People tend to fuck things up by overthinking them. If you're gonna meet face to face soon, then the closeness ain't unhealthy - it's fucking beautiful. Don't wreck it by picking it to pieces.

But do meet face to face as soon as possible. If his move falls through, then work out a visit immediately. Be sure that you two aren't just ascribing fantasies to each other. Don't make him any promises that you don't intend to keep.
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:01 PM on August 8, 2008

When online dating, if you hit it off with someone, arrange to meet them as soon as possible. Take all the usual precautions - telling a friend where you'll be, etc - but don't hold back on meeting in real life. There are so many variables about a person that you cannot gauge until you're there in the room with them.

Also I'd recommend that you do whatever you can to play the field in the meantime. Don't close down all your options just yet. It might actually be hard to keep searching through other peoples' profiles if you feel strongly attracted to this one guy. But it would be unwise for you to focus all your energies on one person until you've been out with them in person a few times.
posted by skylar at 11:40 PM on August 8, 2008

Is our closeness unhealthy?

YMMV but maybe only as much as eating a whole block of chocolate is unhealthy....

I developed an online friendship-whatever with a guy in another country because I planned to move to his country in 6 weeks from when I contacted him. We would email and call almost every day and talked for hours and hours. But 6 weeks turned into 4 months.... and still we talked and emailed constantly. He even said he was falling in love with me.

So, finally we met and because we'd already developed a system of honesty, our friendship/relationship/whatever grew and grew. I had to go home after 9 months, then he came to visit me, I returned to visit him, we talked of marriage and immigration.... however finally distance and personal issues caused the end of our romantic relationship.

But you know what? That man is still one of my dearest, closest and most wonderful friends and I would move heaven and earth to help him if he ever needed me. We are friends for life! And that would not have come about if either of us had worried that our original intensity was unhealthy and pulled back.

Think of it as surfing a big wave - at the moment you are on the ride and sure, you may get a dumping in the sand later, or you may not - the wave may carry you onwards and onwards. Big rewards have big risks - concentrate most of your energies on the former. Or as my motorcycle teacher told me - look where you want to go.
posted by Kerasia at 12:06 AM on August 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

I absolutely agree with what every body said about physical attraction but as long as you are happy to be close on a friendly basis...there's nothing wrong with being close to people you never see. I have very few friends in close geographic proximity. The fact that you haven't met as yet doesn't impact on that aspect - unless you know you don't want this person as just a friend...
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:10 AM on August 9, 2008

When online dating, if you hit it off with someone, arrange to meet them as soon as possible. Take all the usual precautions - telling a friend where you'll be, etc - but don't hold back on meeting in real life. There are so many variables about a person that you cannot gauge until you're there in the room with them.

Absolutely agree with this. The longer the relationship exists only in the online world, the worse the chances are in real life. We are, despite our best efforts, different people online. And we also tend to see others in a more binary way when they are not sitting right in front of us- this person is teh awesome, or the worst person in the world. The longer we are exposed to these "false" personalities, the harder it is to shift gears when we meet the real person.

I had a long distance relationship with someone for a while- we met in person at a wedding, drunkenly hit it off and then went home to our different locales. We talked on the phone constantly and really, really clicked. But when we met in person, the stress of travel, the knowledge that the other was leaving on Sunday, the different dynamics, etc., made it weird. It was fun, but not destined for success.

Similarly, I've met people online and hit it off. Then had a couple of terrible phone conversations. Just awkward as all hell. But we liked each other enough to give meeting in person a try, and it worked out great.

Online dating is great, but unfortunately, you have to treat it like a numbers game. You have the opportunity to meet more people than you would encounter in real life. Not all of them will turn out to be successful dates. I've learned that you have to be a little dispassionate until the real life meeting happens. Because until then, they are just an online buddy.

In your situation, nobody can read this guy's mind. The best you can do, in my opinion, is invite him out to your city so he can look for an apartment. Make sure he books a hotel room. Schedule a date. See what happens. If it's awesome, yay for you. If it doesn't work, you don't have a jerk sleeping on your couch all weekend. And if he balks at the idea, well, you probably just got your answer.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on August 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

However, I think that the energy you're pouring into this relationship is just as well-spent as the energy you could be devoting to any other relationship.

I disagree. She's pouring the energy in not because she wants an online pal but because she wants a real, physical relationship, and the energy she invests in this is not available for other potential relationships.

to the best of our knowledge this will be by the end of the month, two tops.

OK, use this as a guideline. Focus on this guy (provisionally trusting his intentions) till the end of the month. If there's still nothing concrete by then, back off a little; keep in contact with him, but start meeting other people and allowing yourself to be open to other possibilities. (And it won't hurt if he's aware of this; it may concentrate his mind.) If at the end of September it's still "I really want to do this, but blah blah blah," I'd say cut your losses and break it off: he's just not that into you. A very dear friend of mine was strung along for years by a guy who kept telling her he was going to divorce his wife and marry her; eventually he did get the divorce... and married someone else (while still trying to keep my friend on the string!). Some guys are assholes, others don't know their own mind, but from your perspective it doesn't make much difference—if he's not going to move, you need to find someone else.
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on August 9, 2008

Hmm, this is a tough one. While I'm inclined to say meet asap, past experience tells me that it might be better to hold off until he's in your area.

A couple of years ago, I met a guy online who said he was moving to my area to do his residency. We talked every day and our connection seemed too good to be true. Still, he lived across the country and I wondered if we'd have in-person chemistry. So, when I happened to be visiting some relatives in his city, and we met up. The chemistry was even better in person and I thought we really might have a chance at making things work. Of course, he DIDN'T end up getting matched with a hospital in my area and I was devastated.
posted by dagnyduquette at 7:13 AM on August 9, 2008

In the grand scheme of life, a month or two invested in a relationship that may never turn out to be a real world relationship is a pretty small drop in the bucket. Unless you're like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny and your biological clock is ticking like THIS! a couple of months shouldn't be a big deal, assuming you're only investing in this the time you might have otherwise invested seeking a mate, and not also the time you'd have otherwise invested in say, pursuing your hobbies, hanging out with your friends and being your own person.

That said, don't get too excited over the prospect of the relationship continuing on the same amazing keel once he does live in town. It may go well, it may not, I've seen both things happen in about equal numbers. You have to be prepared to move on if things go poorly once he's in town. And then don't think about this time as wasted, but as time you enjoyed at the time.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:25 AM on August 9, 2008

Joy is rare enough in life without you throwing it away. Right now, you are enjoying this. If you meet and it doesn't work, you will still have had a few weeks of joy. I'd have a different response if you were planning to wait a year, but if it only a few weeks then just relax and enjoy.

However, don't put too much stock in the lack of red flags. When you're finally together, all the little human foibles (yours and his) will become apparent. That's okay too.
posted by 26.2 at 4:39 PM on August 9, 2008

Eggs. Basket. Shop for additional basket.

It sounds like you are foregoing any other romantic pursuits to engage in this one. Don´t do that to yourself.

We're both quite confident that even if we don't have physical chemistry, we'll still be friends.

Good online and phone friends don´t always make good RL friends, and vice versa. Maybe you will be great in person, or maybe you won´t be. You can´t predict how it will go.
posted by yohko at 8:10 AM on August 10, 2008

I would say it's almost imperative you both meet before doing ANY future planning.. let alone moving!! I would never move for even a boyfriend that I've known for a few months. How would you know if you can stand each other's living habits, style, cleanliness, financial bills, etc. when you don't even know if you have physical chemistry?

Not trying to make you feel bad - it's just I've been there before and thought that I was going to meet - who seemed like an amazing connection online - to putter out in person. Of course, I could be wrong and hopefully you guys will be happy together.
posted by freshsprout at 8:51 PM on October 4, 2008

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