I received this email just this morning from a client of mine:
“(She and I) have been communicating via phone and text several times a day since Thursday or Friday. We have some common friends, so she got comfortable with me after talking to them Friday evening. I really like what I have learned from our phone and text conversations, but I have not met her yet. We have a date set up for Saturday. She seems to be a very special woman, and we are both super excited about meeting.
She is a part-time real estate agent. When she was married, they had a nanny and traveled a lot, but she decided to let the nanny go to save money after her divorce. I will know a lot more about her after Saturday evening. She has sole custody of her young daughter and recognizes the challenges that she faces finding a long-term relationship. As sweet as her daughter is, I have big questions about developing a long-term relationship, but I need to meet her a few times before I make that call. We have a lot in common. I know I have broken all of your communication rules.”
I had to read his message twice before replying because I wanted to make sure to give the best advice I could, and there were two things in particular that made me pause:
1. The sheer amount of pre-date communication they are having
Different people will tell you different things, but my advice is to keep the communication directly on the online dating site until you meet, meaning that you should not switch to the phone or text before a date. While this may seem extreme, I advise it for several reasons:
- You build a false sense of intimacy before meeting in person. If that person does not live up to the hype, then it’s an automatic disappointment.
- You share, and receive, too much personal information about someone before it’s relevant.
- You spend a lot of precious time and energy investing in someone you don’t know yet.
- There is a higher chance of the date falling through the cracks the more you talk before you meet because there are more data points, and with more data points come more opportunities for someone to say something the other does not like or agree with.
2. The future planning without having met yet
I’ve talked previously about dating NATO, or “not attached to outcome.” While my client wants a long-term relationship, he is now trying to fit this woman who he has not yet met into his ideal vision of that before seeing if they even have rapport. I wrote in response to his message:
“Appreciate the update. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you determine the long-term viability, you have to see if you even like each other in person! So, I look forward to hearing how Saturday goes. And yes, you have broken all the rules! I hope it works in your favor.”
In all, remember that a date is just that — a date. It’s not a commitment, it’s not an interview, and it’s not a chance to learn or share life stories. It’s simply a chance to see if there’s a connection. Then we can worry about nannies and custody! Before that, get to know the person sitting with you on the date in the present, not as a combination of past experiences.
And don’t put the cart before the horse.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.