Online dating can be a dream come true when it comes to finding your perfect mate, but it's also ripe with risks: At some point you will decide to take things offline, and you may find yourself booking a one-way flight to visit a complete stranger, one you really know nothing about.
But you don't want to risk finding yourself in a disappointing a situation — or a downright nightmarish one, like the guy who recently flew across the world, and then waited 10 days in an airport for a date who stood him up. So common sense and experts alike dictate you should not travel to meet someone until you have thoroughly pre-qualified them.
"I am not just talking about substantive email and phone conversations, plus your nonstop texting. Have video Skype conversations in order to truly see that the person who you think you are talking with is actually the person you are talking with," says dating expert Laurel House, of E!'s Famously Single. "Google image search their photos, look at their Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages. It might seem like you are doing a lot of leg work, but believe me, you do not want to show up only to be stood up, deceived, or put in a bad position. Ask the hard questions, and be ready to share the hard answers. It's scary, but you must be vulnerable."
And that's not all she means by getting vulnerable. "Talk about sex. What's the expectation? Yes, talk about it!" House says. "If you are ready to go out to visit someone, you should be able to talk about the expectations." And of course talking about expectations means more than just discussing sexual ones. "Talk about the expectations of the trip — what are you guys going to be doing, what's the sleeping arrangement, where are you staying?" House says. "And more than the trip logistics, make sure that you are on the same page in terms of what it is that you are both looking for in a relationship. Open your mouth to communicate before you open your legs."
Andrea Syrtash, a dating and relationship expert and author of He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing), also emphasizes the importance of mitigating risk. "While it's great to take a risks for love, you don't want to incur too many expenses for what is essentially a blind date unless you're sure that the person has accurately represented him or herself!" she says.
These days, we all have access to video on our phones and computers. So, "It's worth chatting on Skype or FaceTime before spending money and time to travel to meet. You may think that's unromantic; but trust me, it's way less romantic to show up and realize you've been catfished." she says.
Let's break down how to do this right:
1. Be Open with Needs and Mange Expectations
Start by being honest with your partner about your needs to keep the relationship growing. "If a telephone call every day is a must, make sure that a time is set and the call happens. Speak with your partner to be sure that commitment levels align while establishing individual needs early on in the courtship," says Anita Covic, an online dating expert with international online dating sites AnastasiaDate.com and AsianDate.com.
2. Be Respectful of Time Zones
When participating in online dating, relationships might cross multiple time zones. "Make sure to be cognitive of the time difference. If there is something urgent to discuss, pick up the phone and don’t send an email, which might be overlooked until the next morning," says Covic.
3. Upgraded Webcam and Mobile Device
Today’s advancements in technology make it easier than ever to stay connected, which is a plus for long-distance communications. "Make sure to purchase a smart phone that is compatible with a messaging application in order to stay connected anywhere and at any time. Video calling makes the getting-to-know-you and remaining-in-contact [phases] a bonus. Always be sure to have a clear picture of the other person, so that the conversation is realistic and personable," says Covic.
4. Schedule Virtual “Dates”
Since video connection via computer or smart phone is second nature, keep the romance alive by scheduling virtual dates. "Watch a movie together. Chat over a meal. Create video when at a park or at the mall. Work hard to share experiences via video to make the distance appear shorter," Covic says.
5. But Be Careful
Be prepared, not paranoid. "You should say yes to meeting if it truly feels right, but expect to have an invisible Sherlock Holmes hat on," says Bill Stanton, a safety and security expert. “When someone is traveling a very long distance for a date, sometimes them staying can be implied. Do not let them into your home and do not have them in your home alone. If they are in it for the long haul, they should offer to stay at a hotel. They might not be a virtual stranger, but they are a stranger nonetheless!”
6. Arrange In-Person Visits
The advantage of international online dating is meeting your significant other in his or her country. "Take turns with the in-person visit. Experience another culture and share your home culture. Make it a priority to set aside a period of time devoted to seeing and visiting the other person to strengthen the bonds and create lasting memories," Covic says.
7. Stay Positive
Relationships in general are a challenge and adding a few time zones to the mix is an added test of patience and trust. "However, if it’s worth it to both parties involved, work hard to make it work and keep that positive attitude throughout," Covic says.
Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.