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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

This Week:
What to be Aware of Before Meeting Someone Offline
Developing a Personality Online
What to do When I Lied Online

What should I know about someone before having an offline meeting?


I don’t mean to come across brazen here, but simply put the answer is “as much as you possibly can.” To expound on my answer a little bit, here’s a checklist of bare essentials that you might go through to see if you’re ready to meet someone offline:

1. Does he/she share my goals for using an online dating site?
If you don’t know this, then meeting him or her might be a huge waste of your time, energy and money. Closely related to this issue is the next point…

2. Have we discussed our deal breakers and deal makers for a relationship?

3. Do I feel any apprehension whatsoever about my safety should I plan to meet this person in a public place?
If the answer is “yes,” then trust your intuition and postpone an offline meeting.

4. Do I feel any pressure whatsoever in meeting this person offline?
If meeting someone is something you feel obligated to do, rather than something you are excited about doing, then postpone an offline meeting.

5. Has this person been consistently truthful and respectful to me?
This is self-explanatory!

6. Finally, do I know anything about his/her private life – what do they do for a living, their lifestyle, have they been married before, etc.?
I’m not saying people need to be an open book, but I feel sharing some details is crucial to establishing trust, openness, and a solid bond of friendship. Of course, it’s up to the couple to decide what is the proper amount of disclosure between them to feel comfortable with an offline meeting.

This checklist will get you reasonably far, but use it just as a guide. Remember… in matters of the heart always use your head!

How can I get my personality to really shine through even online?

In some ways, it can be easier to showcase your personality online rather than offline. For example, be creative in your online profile by choosing a font type, size, and color that parallels your personal style and “voice.” The same holds true for your use of emoticons, how you time the sending of your IMs, winks, or emails. And let’s now forget that your profile photos can speak volumes about who you are and what you’re like. Photos really can convey many different sides of a person and the moods they want to convey to romantic prospects. Take time to frequently update and rotate your photos!

Those are just a few ideas that don’t always involve actual interactions. Think of them as advertisements for your personality. You can easily showcase your personality by using the tools of online dating that allow real interactions – emails and IMs are great, but these pale in comparison to videochats and audio chats where you can advertise yourself the best since the person actually gets to experience your personality firsthand.

Most of all, please avoid clichés. Online dating is competitive, so you need to stand out. Be yourself and be an original. Tell people in word and deed what you want and why… as opposed to what you don’t want in a relationship. Remember, always be positive in advertising yourself to others and wording what you’re looking for —never use words or symbols that have negative overtones.

How do I tell the truth if I lied about my weight and now he/she wants to meet?

I’d love to hear your suggestions on this situation! Email me your thoughts and past experiences related to this, and I will post a selection of them in an upcoming installment.

My answer is this: honesty is the best policy. If you make a mistake or have told a white lie, then admit it, sincerely apologize for it, and don’t do it again. Then, postpone the meeting so the person doesn’t have to keep an awkward appointment. Instead, let the other person know you’ll understand if he or she doesn’t want to meet in the future. This way, you reduce embarrassment for the other person, while simultaneously keeping the door open for continued contact if the other person is willing.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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