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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.

Online Relationships | First Meeting | Sexual History

Quick Access:
Online Relationship with Someone Overseas
Online Daters and Sexual History
Best Ideas for a First Face to Face Meeting

Is it wise to start an online relationship with someone in another country?


Cross-country and cross-oceanic relationships are perfectly fine, if they’re based largely on the tenets of friendship and fun. Distance and lack of offline contact doesn’t have to stop a genuine and fulfilling bond from forming between two people. However, developing a long-distance relationship into a serious endeavor with long-term expectations and commitment is another story. The chance for headache and heartache increases as the distance between two people increases.

All long-distance relationships must face inherent impracticalities, but attempting to have a serious relationship with someone in another country often has little chance of overcoming the greater impracticalities involved. Of course, some couples can overcome these odds and obstacles, but the three ingredients to a successful lasting relationship – Companionship, Passion-Intimacy, and Commitment – must be augmented with the resources of time and money.

Should online daters discuss their sexual histories?

Consider the five “W’s” when thinking about any type of disclosure: Who, What, When, Where and Why. In other words, questions to ask yourself include:

1) Who do you need to tell?

2) What do you want to tell them about your past sexual experiences, and what are you expecting from the person to whom you’re disclosing?

3) When should you tell them?

4) Where is the best place to have this conversation?

5) Why are you telling them?

Applying the five “W” rule is straightforward in this case. When an online dating relationship is going to be taken offline and a sexual experience is imminent or inevitable, couples absolutely should discuss their sexual histories. I would recommend that a conversation like this not happen over email or Instant Messenger – it could be extremely problematic for many reasons if there ends up being a written record of the details of each other’s sexual histories. Instead, it might be a wiser option to have the conversation during a private video chat or even an old fashioned telephone call. I personally recommend not having the discussion in person, where circumstances can tempt or pressure a couple to jump into bed before fully discussing the ramifications of doing so.

Finally, I urge everyone to check the STD Information Center at Online Dating Magazine. This is a comprehensive resource of educational and in-depth information in regards to sexually transmitted diseases. As the online dating industry grows, hundreds of thousands of people are meeting each other that would’ve never met in everyday activities. Because of this growth, it’s extremely vital that people educate themselves regularly on the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

What are the best ideas for a first meeting offline?

The standard response is something like “meet in a public place during the day.” The most popular scenario online daters tell me about is meeting at a Starbucks or other coffee house. This approach is easy, no-pressure, and let’s face it – it’s also pretty cliché by now. Still, it seems to work for many people so I won’t knock it too badly. The main problem I have with this scene is the same one I have with going to a movie – the problem is lack of ample privacy. You shouldn’t isolate yourself from a crowd for safety reasons, but most Starbucks I’ve frequented aren’t quite. Instead, places like this seem to be overly crowded. And if you can find comfortable seating for two, most likely you can’t have a really pleasant conversation else prying eyes and ears share in your private discourse. Oh, and then there’s the whole “drinking caffeinated coffee will make you even more nervous and anxious” thing.

To my way of thinking, I wouldn’t meet someone offline until I felt secure that a bond of friendship existed. With that said, I personally would opt for a special daylight meeting in a public park. But, first I’d suggest meeting in a nearby grocery store so me and my date could together pick out ingredients for a makeshift picnic lunch. This would give us an opportunity to start to get to know something about each other’s lifestyle choices – what foods does each person like, do we share the same propensity for spontaneity and fun, and can we initially work together on a common task. In this case, the task is not prone to conflict – choosing lunch. If it does lead to some serious conflict…well then already I know something very important about our compatibility!

After getting the lunch menu, then we’d head to the public park in full view of others for reasons of safety and comfort, but we’re also away from people enough that we feel we can actually talk openly and be able to truly listen to one another. I’ve always said that the purpose of a first date is to see whether you want a second date with a specific person. I’d prefer spending time doing just that, as opposed to juggling coffee and trying not to get irked at everyone listening in on my date!

Now let me hear your ideas – email me now and tell me what the best offline meeting was for you!

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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