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Looking for love online

Alice,

I recently (about one month ago) met a guy on-line and we have been BF, GF for about three weeks now. Every one is worried about what will happen when we finally see each other for the first time. I just want to meet him. I feel as if I have known him for all my life. We talk all the time and he always tells me that he loves me. How can I be sure that what he says is what he really means?

Please answer me...

Lost in LOVE

Dear Lost in LOVE,

It seems like online dating services are here for the long haul, as these platforms continue to attract and facilitate connections between more and more people every day. In fact, according to RAINN, over 40 million Americans are using online dating services or apps to meet new people. It sounds like you've made a connection with a person you like, and you're interested in exploring that connection further, which is great! However, the online dating process isn't without its risks. By taking some precautions, you can meet your online boyfriend and start to get a better idea of how he really feels about you, and just as vital, how you feel about him.

One factor to consider is that, although you've communicated online and over the phone with your boyfriend, he's still, in many respects, a stranger. Unfortunately, people do sometimes lie about themselves online. As you decide whether or not to meet him in-person, you may want to consider how you would handle the situation if he hasn't been truthful about his age, job, background, relationship status, or other key aspects of his life. While people using dating apps and websites commonly meet in person, you may still choose to take precautions as you do so in order to keep you both safe. 

If you decide to move forward with meeting him in person, some suggestions that you can use to help keep safe when meeting any online friend in person include:

  • Taking your time. You don't have to meet right away. Getting to know someone through email, messaging, and the phone will help you understand who they are and how interested you are in meeting.
  • Meeting in a public place and bring a friend along, if you can. For example, you could meet at a shopping center and have your friend nearby. Not only can your friend help get you out of any sticky situations, they can also debrief with you later about what you think of your new friend.
  • Avoid meeting someone in private. If they insist on meeting alone, that can be a warning sign. Someone who is truly interested in you will be happy to meet in public.
  • Telling others where you're going and why. Consider giving what contact information you have for this person to a trusted friend. Some people also ask a friend to call them with an "emergency," so they will have an excuse to leave if the meeting isn't going well.
  • Continuing to meet in public for awhile. Get to know this person well before you decide to go home with them. This can include knowing some of their friends and having some of your friends and family meet them. This can also be learning about their living situation and speaking about what you are or aren't comfortable with. 

By sharing who you'll be with, when you'll be meeting them, and where, you'll be able to reduce your risk of any untoward situations. Additionally, telling a friend or family member has the added benefit of creating a supportive network of people who will be able to discuss your feelings with you before and after you meet your online acquaintance.

Furthermore, with regards to your question about whether or not your online boyfriend "really means" it when he says he loves you, the only people that can determine this are you and him. To start, it may help to ask yourself some questions about your feelings for him and on your relationship. Some of these questions may include:

  • How do I feel about him telling me he loves me so often? Do I really think that it's possible for him to know he loves me so soon, without meeting in person?
  • How do I feel about him, based on our conversations so far? Am I interested in knowing him better?
  • You mention that your friends and family are concerned. Why is that? Are they concerned for your safety? Are they afraid you will be disappointed when you meet your boyfriend? Are they concerned that you've met him online? 

If you do meet him, a few different results are possible: you may find out you have been deceived and feel disappointed, sad, confused or upset; you may find out he was truthful, but also realize that you're not really interested in having a romantic relationship with him; or you may meet him and continue to be interested in dating him. Even after meeting him (if you decide to), it may still take some time to understand his true feelings; this is simply the nature of getting to know someone whether in person or online — it takes time.

All in all, it's clear from your question that you have made a connection with someone you feel understands you. These types of connections are essential to have, and can turn into friendships or romantic relationships. However, remind yourself as often as you need to that there is no need to rush things, as taking your time when getting to know someone is the best way to figure out your true feelings, as well as theirs.

Best of luck and be safe,

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Last updated Jun 30, 2022
Originally published May 16, 1997

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