Transitioning from internet dating to real dating.

I created a profile on OKcupid two months ago and I’ve had a decent number of contacts and phone conversations. However, I get the impression that there’s some system of unwritten rules that most people are aware of, but which I know nothing about. So I was wondering if anyone could give pointers on these questions.

  1. How many phone calls should there be before asking for a date in real life?

  2. Is it acceptable to ask for a date on short notice, i.e. calling today about a date tomorrow? Or is a longer time frame generally expected?

  1. There’s no number. Bring up the possibility as soon as you’re sure you want to meet in person and see how she reacts. If she seems skittish, wait a while before asking directly. One way to broach it is to ask her how long it takes for her to be comfortable meeting someone face to face. You might discover that her time frame is way too long for you.

  2. Sure, if you keep it light. In fact, in many ways it’s preferable, because a quick spontaneous drink or something is less of a big deal than a full-fledged “date.” Of course she may not be available, but this will give you a chance to gauge her level of interest–does she suggest an alternative time? And if she’s offended by a short-notice thing, that gives your valuable information as well.

Jeez, I’m like the self-appointed online dating maven of the SDMB these days!

Do people join online dating services to just chat and e-mail online? I thought the whole purpose was to actually meet people in real life.

Ask to meet her for coffee, etc. right off the bat. Even for tomorrow, if she’s available.

In my experience, many (perhaps most) women join such services merely to bolster their self-esteem with little or no intention of every meeting up. I suspect that a not insignificant number are married or are in committed relationships but aren’t getting sufficient attention. (I did have one meetup with a woman who was exceptionally cagey, far beyond normal security concerns. I did a b.g. on her and found out that she was married.) I’ve been strung on enough that my rule is now meet after no more than three e-mails and whatever phone conversation it takes to manage logistics. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, there just doesn’t seem to be any point in drawing it out further, and in fact, every single woman from a dating site who I’ve had an protracted e-mail exchange with has either declined to meet, has been a no-show, or has otherwise completely flaked.


Number of phone calls doesn’t matter. The fact that you have a phone number and are talking on the phone is already a good sign that she liked you enough to risk giving you her number.

Be careful about asking for weekend plans the day before. Even if she doesn’t have plans, she may not want you to think she has no social life, so she might say she’s busy even if she’s not. But, if you’re just asking her for coffee or lunch, I think it’s fine to suggest the next day. I also agree with Green Bean, suggest tomorrow and if she says no, she may suggest another time instead.

As a side note, I would not recommend asking her via text. For some women this seems to be a huge deal breaker.

You know, not all of us are attention-starved harpies bent on teasing you until our egos are thoroughly stroked.

I could also generalize and say that many (or most) men join such services just so they can get laid.

No, but I would say, based on my own experiences and those of other guys I know, that the majority of women are either uninterested in actually meeting or are just ruthlessly picky. To be fair, the women I know who have used online dating have been besieged with invitations, and often by offensively clueless men, and so they seem to get burnt out quickly, or treat it as a catalog and wait for the ideal match to come up on clearance. As a man, unless you are in the top percentile or have a really good line of self-marketing bullshit, you’ll get one or two responses for every fifty messages sent out.

Which would be pretty much true. What else would you expect?


Surely I am not the only one who just wants to get the whole damn thing over with. Internet dating is all fine and good, except you can’t tell the one thing that actually matters, whether or not and how well you get on with someone, online. So send a few messages, and if the person doesn’t seem boring or creepy, go eat and/or drink something together. Not rocket surgery.

Agree 100%. I think you should make plans to meet as soon as the two of your have determined there is any possibility of a connection. In many cases that is after one phone call.

Yes, I have gotten into several debates with my male friends who are on dating sites about whether or not it is ‘easier’ for women. I still maintain that it is not ‘easier’ for us, just different.

It is definitely easy to get burnt out pretty quickly when most messages consist of “how r u?” or “hey, why is a cutie like u single?”… I mean, really? I tend to get better results when I take the time to message guys, versus waiting for them to message me. However, even I get messages ignored by people. Why take it personally?

And I am certainly not on a dating site to boost my ego or string guys along. My self-esteem is intact, I am intelligent (or at least I like to think so), and I’m probably of average attractiveness. But I am definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and it would be silly of me to think that every message sent will get a reply, or that every meet up would result in a good time.

And honestly, after just a few messages back and forth, I’m not sure I would be comfortable meeting up with someone. Yes, this is online dating, and yes, we do need to figure out whether or not we get along in person, but there should be some getting-to-know-you basics gotten out of the way before meeting in person is brought up.

I expect that there are exceptions to the rule out there and that I am smart enough to tell the difference before I end up in some stranger’s bed.

I’ve only dated one person from a dating service. We met up less then 24 hours after our first mutual email (that is, I sent her one, and we met less then 24 hours after she replied). What happened is that we ended up emailing back and forth for a few hours, and settled on meeting that weekend (I think it was Tuesday at the time) because that was the earliest opportunity for me, the next day I texted her and told her that my night suddenly cleared up (my STBXW decided she was gonna take the kid that night) and does she want to meet me at the bar at 7pm, and that was that. We met up and went from there.
So I’d say there isn’t any rule (and I hate that stuff about not making the date too soon because you’ll seem desperate, IMHO that’s part of “playing games”). Just figure out when you can meet the soonest and go for it. If it happens to be tomorrow night, so be it.

I used to work for a big internet dating company, and I came in here to say pretty much what the other posters have already said so well. The whole idea that you, OP, need to follow some mysterious set of unwritten rules is a load of hooey. I know it’s a total cliche and all, but you really, really, really need to simply be yourself.

That’s right. Be yourself.

I know it sounds like useless advice, but it honestly isn’t. The goal of dating isn’t to win at some unfathomable game with unwritten rules. It’s to find a companion whose company you enjoy. (Or to get laid. Or to get married. :slight_smile: Both of which also require finding a companion whose company you enjoy, at least for the night, so it’s still the main object anyway!) Therefore you want to find someone who likes you, who likes your timeline, who likes that you call and ask if they wanna meet for coffee in an hour, or whatever.

Let me try this from a different angle. If you’re looking for a high-drama girlfriend who is always playing some weird guessing game with you - mysterious unwritten rules and all - then you ask someone out in a high-drama sort of a way, complete with mysterious unwritten rules that you yourself have created. (“I can’t call her before X number of emails have been exchanged, no more, no less.”) If you’re looking for a laid-back sort of girlfriend who hangs out with you because she genuinely enjoys your company, then you ask someone out in a low-key kind of a way, making it clear that you’re asking them out because you enjoy their company and would prefer to drink your coffee with them, rather than alone.

You’re overthinking it if you’re trying to create specific, elaborate etiquette rules. Just be polite, be sincere, treat the people you meet online the way you hope they’ll treat you. Try to brush off the jerks, the married people trolling for side nookie, the people who blow you off, and don’t dwell on them, because they don’t deserve to get to take up any of your mental energy.

Nope. My guideline when internet dating was a couple of emails (to establish the gentleman could actually string a coherent thought together), a phone call or two, and then a meet-and-greet. Online, on the phone, and in person are three different methods of getting to know someone, and you need all three to get a good picture of who you’re actually talking to.

I did another thread on my experiences with online dating and chemistry. I think that, once you’ve exchanged enough emails to be comfortable giving out your phone number, after the first phone call, if you’re still interested in meeting, then go for it. One of you should suggest that during the call. At least meet for coffee or a drink to find out if you have chemistry, it seems pointless to go on emailing for weeks on end. You can always email each other AFTER you’ve met and you still want to get to know them.

I have a busy schedule and it’s hard sometimes to find the time for that meeting, so keeping it short helps. I would not be think it was odd if a guy suggested meeting the next day for coffee; if I’m available, I’m going to meet him to find out if it’s worth continuing to communicate. Why waste time?

Would you want a woman who was NOT choosy about who she went out with? Would you want a woman who was NOT careful about who she met?

To me, the whole idea of internet dating is to widen the search field beyond people you might initially meet in person in your normal life. Once you’ve made some sort of connection online, that part’s done, and you should meet as soon as possible. You need to find out whether you like each other in person.

It would be horrible to establish a connection online and then discover that you just can’t stand each others’ body odours, for example.

My rule of thumb is to get to the real date as soon as possible, keeping in mind that you want to be comfortable/reasonably sure the other person isn’t a psycho. A long trail of emails, IMs, chats, and calls can lead to a build-up of false images/ideas about the other person. The quickest turn-arounds have always worked out the best for me, and the absolute quickest is leading to a marriage this fall.

As for asking for a date for the next day, I’d agree with the folks who suggest that may be okay for a coffee or lunch, but less so for a more involved date or a weekend dinner/event.

I agree with people saying you should try to meet up within a short period of time, if only to gauge real interest. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong for using a dating site just to hang out, I don’t like that there are people who won’t tell you they are doing that. But for them, it ruins the fantasy if they have to tell you.

My own $0.02? Meet in a public place. Sometimes it takes until you meet in person to get that creepy vibe, and, if you do, you want to be in a safe place. Maybe even have some friends around

Keep it light. No matter how long you’ve talked online, treat it like a first meeting with someone you happen to know a little bit about. Don’t move any faster than you would have otherwise–at least, at first.

Remember that a lot of people who use these services are kinda shy. Just because they are really talkative online doesn’t mean they won’t be nervous in real life. Try not to judge them until they’ve had a chance to get over those nerves a bit. When they are comfortable, they’ll be more like the person you met online.

When I was on okcupid I never talked to anyone on the phone before we met up. After a few emails the guy would be like, hey, let’s meet for coffee/dinner/drinks/whatever and I’d be like okay, cool.

Usually it was pretty short notice, but it was all through email. That might be because I hate talking on the phone, but the guys didn’t seem to mind. We exchanged numbers before we met in case one of us got lost, but that was about it.

One observation I will make, though on a difference with Internet dating:
While “internetting”, I have found that we tend to communicate via email a lot. Then, once you’ve transitioned to “real-time” dating, that email communication continues. I like talking on the phone; I like it when a guy asks me out WITH HIS VOICE, rather than a text or email. I like it when a guy calls me, it lets me know he’s thinking about me, not that he was thinking about me four hours ago when he sent the email.

It seems that, once you get stuck in the electronic form of communication, it’s tough to change over to more conventional types. Call me old-fashioned, but I think there’s something impersonal about email.