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The do's and don'ts of online dating and relationships

Updated on March 5, 2013

Actually liked Catfish the TV series for awhile. It's a show about people who meet online and carry on a relationship.

And, I'm a romantic at heart, so I'm always hoping things will work out for people in impossible situations.

The show is kind of like that movie "You've got mail!" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Except that movie was actually funny. The show is more about fake scripted Facebook drama.

I was really into this show for awhile but now the show is really starting to suck bad. To be honest, I think Catfish was always this bad. But the novelty of the show made me want to watch; just the sheer shock value. The novelty and humor of the show is starting to wear thin; now it seems more scripted.

Inevitably at the end of every Catfish show, there is the gutting scene where one person has to admit to all the lies they made up and things they hid over the years. And, it seems to me as if maybe the producers of the show get together with both parties and ask them to ham it up and make the scene filled with as much fake Facebook drama as possible.

Basically that whole kiss and cry portion of the show comes across like one of those Maury episodes where the girl finds out her boyfriend has been intimate with her sister and they all have a big barn yard brawl right there on the stage. (If you have seen Maury it's a reality talk show that focuses on the trashiness of human nature.)

What I don't understand about Catfish the TV show, is how someone can carry on a 'relationship' with another person they've never seen or maybe even spoken to. Have these people never heard of Skype?

Seriously? It's one tiny thing. Just get someone on Skype and maybe half of what they are hiding is revealed. Of course, that is assuming you are shallow enough that looks actually count for anything in a relationship.

From there on out, you still have to find out the real hidden secrets; those inside personal things that people don't just share with strangers.

But, i think maybe Catfish is a lesson to us all. Don't take online love and relationships too seriously. Just like real life, it's easy enough to say/text "I love you" or <3 and not really mean it. Just take all this online stuff for fun and don't plan a future with someone you don't really know, at least until you've had a chance to meet them and hang out in person for a good long while. Then see where your relationship will go.

If you find yourself in a situation where you've met someone and really want to pursue it to see if there could be real love involved, then take it slow and try out these ideas before you take the plunge.

Tips for a successful online relationship

If you meet someone that you really like and want to get to know them better, you shouldn't let miles stand in your way. Just accept the fact that you may never meet this person, in real life. If both of you are alright with that, then go forward.

From the first you need to be truthful about little details like your age, job status, parental status, life goals, etc. Though some of these details may lessen the other person's interest, at least they are able to make an informed decision on their relationship status and you won't ever be accused of 'tricking' them into a relationship based on false information.

Understand the limitations of online dating.

It's easy to get wrapped up in an emotional whirlwind, especially when your online partner says all the right things. Just remember that it's easy enough for someone to text 'I love you!' even when they don't mean it.

Be wary of someone who pushes you too fast to start a relationship and then hints at intimacy. Chances are, that's their primary reason for wanting the 'relationship' anyway.

Take it easy. Go on virtual dates with your partner. Watch online movies together. Talk on Skype video chat. Exchange real life photos.

Just enjoy each other's company and let the relationship develop naturally. Over time, you may experience stronger feelings for your online partner. If that happens, talk about it with him or her to see if they are feeling the same. If not, don't push it, as every person moves at their own pace in a relationship.

Eventually you will want to move into the sweet parts enjoyed by real world lovers, such as calling each other by nicknames or pet names such as honey or baby. Pick names that you can both feel good about. Don't force a name on your partner that he or she won't like.

Don't take your online partner for granted. If you say you'll message the next morning, don't flake out and forget as they are probably counting on hearing from you.

Try to be as open as possible with the other person so they'll understand your schedule and time limitations so they can understand when you're not talking with them, it's not because of something they've done but due to the fact you can't be online or on the phone. This goes both ways.

Warning signs of a bad online relationship

Here are some warning signs the other person may not be good for you.

  • Be wary of a stranger who asks you to divulge too many personal details about your life, i.e. credit card information, mother's maiden name etc. All this information can be used to hack into your personal accounts.
  • Keep your personal life to yourself. Don't involve your children or other relatives in your 'relationship. There are many predators online, prowling. And, if someone seems more interested in Skyping you when your child is in the room, unfriend them as soon as possible and report.
  • Insist on honesty from your online partner. But, don't expect a full confessional up front. Every person reveals intimate details about themselves at their own pace.
  • Beware the man or woman who pushes you too quickly for intimacy, especially if you've just met them. Maybe they are looking for a physical type relationship while you want something more emotional. Just go with your gut on this one as only you can know what you are ready for.

The first real life meeting

At some point, you will want to meet your online lover. It's best to arrange an open meeting, such as around family in your home where you can feel safe and comfortable surrounded by those you love. Don't pressure the other person to feel comfortable or forthcoming in the new situation.

Just let them warm up to you and your family gradually. Maybe stretch it out over a long weekend of small dates and encounters.

How to break up with your online lover

If your online relationship goes bad, you won't want to stay ,not even to spare your partner's feelings. Unlike real life, where your boyfriend or girlfriend can simply come and knock on your door, your online lover is easily cut out of your life. But, think twice before you simply unfriend your lover on Skype/Facebook or friendslist. If you feel the need to break up with your lover, do so in a humane way, stressing the good times you had and how you just need some space and time alone to consider your life without them. Don't make false promises that would give hope, but don't shut the door either. You never know if you might change your mind later. Be sensitive to the other person's feelings out of respect for the times you shared together.

If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a break up, try to understand it from the other person's point of view. Sometimes, an online relationship is not enough for a person and they crave real physical contact, which can't be achieved with an online relationship. If that is the situation and they want to move on to a real life relationship offline, then respect their choice. It's alright to grieve for the person who left, but just understand that you will meet someone else who can just as equally fulfil your needs. Maybe that will happen with another online relationship or a real world relationship where all your physical and emotional needs will be met.

Have you ever engaged in an online relationship or online dating?

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