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{Single Saints} E-mail Dating: An Impossible Proposition?

There have been several times in my life where I’ve been set up over email. Always it is because the guy lived in another state (or country). I call this email dating. Email dating (in my experience) is never a good idea. Let me explain.

The first email dating experience I had was with a millionaire who lived abroad–and that is exactly how he was described to me. We wrote back and forth, really long and engaging emails every couple days for about 6 weeks. He was coming to my city for a visit and we were to finally meet then. The anticipation was pretty high for this date—I assumed our natural email rapport would translate in person. Short story: it didn’t. No matter, this was only my first experience with email dating and I assumed like all dating, the success rate is pretty low so I didn’t think too much about it.

About a year or so later I was set up with a new guy. This guy also lived abroad and this time the emails were even better. We wrote . . . a lot. Daily long emails were exchanged detailing our likes, dislikes, stories from our pasts, hopes, dreams, and little details about our day. I liked him (a lot), and he liked me back.  

We took the intermediate step of talking on the phone before we met. The first time we talked it was a little jarring. We didn’t have the same flow our emails enjoyed and I didn’t love it. (I am sure this experience raised alarms in my mind but I just pushed them away as I was unwilling to question my feelings.) I was relieved the next day when I had a new email waiting for me and my “boyfriend” was back. We debated exchanging pictures and decided against it–we thought it would be better that way. (I know.) About 2 months into our virtual courtship we met. We even decided to meet on the street, it was all very romantic. We met and…nothing. He was perfectly nice and all but still…nothing. We both felt it right away. What I realized was the guy I thought I knew and really liked was part imaginary. In a way, he was me.

I vowed to never again invest myself in email dating. I am not going to say I refused to get set up with men over email after that, I still dabble. But always with a wary and rationally minded head.  You see, on email you can edit yourself–most people put their best selves forward in writing. When you read the emails of your “date” you read the email in your head, using your voice and inflections. You fill in the gaps of what you don’t know about the person based on your own experience and past history. What it comes down to is this, whatever connection you are making, there is nothing that can replace the connection you establish in person.  

So for what it is worth, here are my simple guidelines to successful email dating:

• Use email for a general introduction and only ask light-hearted get to know you questions. 

• Stay away from detailing your life’s history, flirtatious admissions of interest, or sharing personal details you would normally confess only to close friends.

• Remind yourself at all times: I don’t actually know this person. 

• Exchange photos. Having an image in your head of what the person actually looks like helps keep your reality meter in check. 

• Meet. That is all, just meet—even if it means flying to see him/her. My rule of thumb is: if they live locally, meet within 3 email exchanges. If you are out of state or country, do your best to meet within a month. 

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