Online Romances - Do's And Don't

Think you've found true love on the Internet? Check out this list of Do's and Don'ts of online romances before you book that plane ticket to Paradise!

So you think you've found the true love of your life; your soulmate; the perfect match?

Might be... I found my husband five years ago online and haven't regretted a day.

But in an era where every second day you hear about online romances going wrong or ending up in court, there's a few do's and don'ts that have to be applied to your newfound love - and here's my advice to anyone thinking of or in a romance built on the Internet. Please note that none of these are set in stone, so caveat emptor.

Don't - Be Surprised If You Get What You Give. If you portray yourself as a sex kitten in a hot singles chat room, don't be surprised when you get jumped online by men who don't want much more than your body. After all, that's what you asked for, isn't it? Where you are determines your audience and your potential suitors. If you're into classical music, go hang out in those chat rooms and make friends there. Use your hobbies and your preferences to find people that are deeper than the usual chat areas. Check out your hobbies online and join message boards. Just keep in mind that what you write where you write will determine who comes a'calling.

Do - Be Honest. While it's fun to pretend that you're actually slim and an athlete while you're not; eventually the truth will come out. And it's easier to be honest at the beginning of a relationship than to explain how you put on fifty pounds and gave up the deep sea fishing in the two hours you spent traveling to get together.

Don't - Rush Into Things. Hey, the hot and heavy fun of the online world has many hearts (and other things!) a-thumping; the truth is that you don't really know this person until you meet them. And while he/she might be the same in person, there's always a chance that things might be a bit different - give your relationship time to flourish and to grow over weeks and months before you decide that this is what you want.

Do - Insist on talking over the phone before you meet. Online chats and erotic e-mails are fine, but the truth is that anyone can be writing those words. You have to give and get phone numbers and do that verbal thing before you meet to decide if you do want to continue this relationship beyond just the written word. Too many times people have fallen in love with the writer and discover to their dismay that he is really a she or that two years is actually twenty. To say nothing of the possibility that one of you is married. A phone call is necessary to break the ice even further and to really get to know the person before you spend your life savings going to meet them in an airport. Make that many phone calls, with both parties participating. Not only is it wise to share the finances, it's a way of checking on your new love - he can say that he's divorced and all, but if a woman answers the phone and announces that she's his wife, you might want to sell those plane tickets fast.

Don't - Meet In A Private Place. While it's romantic to say that you'll meet at her/his house or at their boat; it's downright dangerous. Your first meeting should be in a public place so that if you feel pressured in any way, you have an escape route. Have an alternative way home if you can and an alternative place to stay if you are in a strange city. Don't put yourself in the position of being trapped in a situation you're uncomfortable with because you don't know where to go. Have enough cash on hand that if the cozy rendezvous doesn't work out, you're not sleeping in the airport until your flight out in three days. Play it safe and be prepared for all eventualities, especially in this age of increased violence.

Do - Tell People Where You Are. Tell your best friend, your workmates, even your mother if you feel secure enough - but tell someone where you're going; where you're staying and when you'll be back. It's a good idea as well to promise to call at least once during your trip to reassure whoever your contact is that you're fine and happy at this point in your trip. While it might be embarrassing to admit to a friend that you're going to fly to a strange city or go to a strange bar to meet an online friend, he/she will feel much worse if they have to identify your body in a hospital morgue if something happens to you. Be smart and leave a trail behind you and let your online person know that you are expected to check in and if you don't, people will be looking for you. If you're staying at a hotel, give the information to your friend as well and have THEM call YOU to check if you fail to make your call. Don't be afraid to ask the hotel management to keep your name private and for them to help you if the situation turns bad and you just want to be left alone for the duration of the trip.

Don't - Be Disappointed. If you find that the person of your dreams turns out to be just a good pal or just someone you want to write to occasionally, that's okay. Despite the stories in the media, there are plenty of online romances that work out just fine - but they never get the spotlight.

Going into an online relationship takes a certain amount of brutal honesty on both sides - lying and deceiving won't work when you step off the plane or the bus and he/she sees the real person and discovers that you weren't exactly telling the entire truth. Be truthful and you're more likely to find the right person online than not.

And if you're not interested in a permanent relationship, still consider the tips above - playing it safe never got anyone killed, now did it?

For me, it worked out fine. After five years we're happily married and laugh when we tell people where we met. And it can work for you too, as long as you think about the medium AND the message.

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