Finding a Serious Relationship on the Internet – 2003

Fran Miller, Ph.D. ©

If you are looking for a more serious or longer term relationship through the internet, matching sites can provide an opportunity to find a person who does truly match with your personality and interests. With the proliferation of casual sexual relationships and the easy access to hookups, there are still reasons to go about getting to know someone in a more traditional way. Many people have realized the disadvantages of hookups. Good matches require careful pairing of similarities, and, I can’t emphasize this enough, very careful perception of possible problems. Most people are comfortable communicating and meeting new people online, but if you are new to online dating, here are some guidelines that might be helpful. What you don’t want is to have something happen that is very negative. Here are some guidelines that might be helpful in finding positive and successful experiences.

Research in social psychology tells us that the more significant categories that two people match on, the more likelihood there is for a stable, long term relationship. A good match requires looking for similarities in factors related to personality, lifestyle preferences, accomplishments, and interests. It is a good idea to give careful consideration to the information you are receiving in the first few communications. I have found that most people who divorce state that they observed the problem areas very early in their relationship. The following suggestions will help you to evaluate new relationships for both negative and positive indicators.

With regard to negative indicators:

Writing – Look over the information you can glean from writing style, skill, and content. If the writing is not grammatically correct, does not follow a logical order, appears irrational, has a negative focus, or has an over focus on sex, these are all causes for concern.

History – One’s family, education and friendships are all important aspects of their history. Especially in early communications, consider information regarding family background, past relationships, and past experiences. If information is presented that indicates differences, areas of concern, or questions, you may want further information, or that may be enough to terminate the communication.

Red Flags – Red flag issues relate to alcohol, drugs, criminal history, types of sexual interests, previous relationships, lifestyle differences, and value differences and can be cause for serious concern. If you receive information that causes serious question or concern, you should seriously consider taking the option to stop communicating.

Over focus on sexuality – If the person communicating with you focuses on areas related to sex to the exclusion of other topics, even though that may be considered standard today, it is an indicator that the person’s interest in you is limited. Such an over focus on sex at the beginning of communication, especially if the content is uncomfortable, is a clear negative sign. Focus on sex precludes the possibility of getting to know each other more extensively, and indicates a lack of interest in a healthy long term relationship.

Subtle cues – Be aware of subtle cues of problem areas. If you have or sense any question at all, pay attention to your reservations.

Intuition, question or uncomfortable feeling – In short, if you have any inkling of intuition, any question, or any uncomfortable feeling, either address the area of concern in your communications, ask questions, or take your option not to respond. Pay attention to your own best judgment.

With regard to positive indicators:

Writing – Look for writing skill, creativity, originality, and humor. Most people who are functioning in a professional capacity in their work possess good writing skills. A friend or a partner that is skillful in his or her writing ability may be an important consideration for you, and is a sign of educational level, awareness, and experience.

History – It is important to look for shared experiences in lifestyle, family, skills and interests. This will contribute to the ability to bond and to know that you share in many ways. A vastly different history is very interesting, but it might not be as likely to provide a good match. There are exceptions to this obviously, so definitely keep an open mind with regard to history.

Red Flags – As I said above, red flags are indicators of potential serious problems for a relationship. Past red flags may not be problems if the person expresses what has been learned from the experiences, and how their life has changed.

Sexuality – Online dating has changed in recent years with the prevalence of casual sex and hookups. Even though this has become standard, there are many reasons to avoid casual sexual encounters. I’ll quote from a male, who is a previous client of mine, who met and dated people online for many years. He told me, “Tell all your clients if they are looking for a longterm relationship, not to have sex for 4-6 weeks. Also,” he said, “don’t date anyone after you realize they are not a candidate for a long term relationship.” It may sound old fashioned, but it is still true that if you are looking for a serious relationship, it is better for many reasons not to have sex right away. Having patience and waiting gives you both an opportunity to learn about each other – your histories, your families, your previous relationships – and to enjoy the process of beginning a relationship.

Subtle cues – If the subtle cues that you have noticed are positive signs, then you can feel more at ease and optimistic in exploring the relationship further.

Intuition, questions, and feelings – If your intuition is positive, you have taken these factors into consideration, and you are feeling excited or eager to get to know this potential friend and partner, then you can feel good about continuing the process, and of meeting. I wish you well in making a serious and careful evaluation. Enjoy this special time of your life.