How to Start and Maintain a Healthy Online Relationship - Friendship Lamps

How to Start and Maintain a Healthy Online Relationship

How to Start an Online Relationship

Unless you plan on asking out someone from your existing social media circle, it's safe to assume that you will need to sign up for an online dating site. We're not advocating any because different users prefer different platforms based on their previous experience, personal preferences, and other factors. Nevertheless, the common thread running through it all is that you'll need to create your online dating profile as a first step. In order to do that, you need certain basic elements to be part of your online profile, especially for virtual dating:
  • Head and body shots: Sadly, the online dating world is the one place where every book is first judged by its cover. Take care of that part so you won't have to worry about 'swipe lefts' right off the bat. Online daters are looking for well-groomed dates, and taking care of yourself means you care about yourself - a sign of healthy levels of self-respect.
  • Bring in the funny: A little humor can go a long way but be tasteful. Off-color humor isn't for everyone; at least, not if you want to make a good first impression on a potential dating candidate. A funny headline or some humor in your profile is good if you can avoid going overboard.
  • Weed out the definite no's: Putting some up-front conditions or deal-breakers can help pave the way for a smoother experience. Besides, a guy or girl who knows their mind is often more respected in virtual circles. "Anyone will do" doesn't send the right message unless you're looking to gamble on your dating life.
  • Refine it further: Deal-breakers are one way to start the filtering process, but a more effective approach is to complement that with specific likes and preferences. That greatly increases your chance of finding the right dating partner and eventually having that relationship mature into something more.
  • Use chat to evaluate: Be careful when playing message tag because not all of them work out. If you can't get at least a little serious while chatting, you won't be able to evaluate the kind of person you might end up going out with. The goal here is not to be picky but to pick up on cues that indicate a potentially positive relationship as opposed to something more tepid.

That First Date

In the age of the pandemic, you might want to have a safe first date and do it over Zoom. That's perfectly okay. People have formed some lasting relationships in 2020 with virtual dating as their only option. Besides, virtual dating has its benefits - no worrying about BO, for example! The first date is where you really connect and get to know each other. This is the first real opportunity to evaluate what it's going to be like if you continue the relationship with this person. You might not catch all the subtle behavioral nuances during the first date, so don't worry about that. Just focus on what's being said and what's being revealed. At the very least, it will help you decide whether you want to go on a second date with that person. If you've decided to physically meet, then be ready to go through the preparatory rituals for a first date. You may want to get a little gift - nothing expensive and nothing too personal but something that is congruent with what little you know of that person; for instance, a book you think he might enjoy reading or a bouquet of flowers that you know she likes. Most importantly, relax on your first date and don't have too many expectations. What's she going to look like? Will this work out? What if I can't put my best foot forward? Will he like me? These are not positive questions because they're based on fear. Instead, focus on getting to know the other person by asking them questions and listening intently to what they have to say. Good listeners are rare, and they'll appreciate that more than anything else. Besides, it will help take your focus off yourself and your own inadequacies - real or assumed.

How to Maintain a Healthy Online Relationship or Take it Offline

Many couples decide to continue dating online even after they've initially met, either because the commute is too long or they simply need to get on with their own lives. In some cases, it might continue as a long-distance relationship. Whatever the case may be, if you're going the virtual route, there are certain things you need to be aware of.
  1. An online relationship is not different from one where there's physical proximity. That means everything that goes into building a healthy relationship applies to this situation - building trust, gradually revealing the real you, etc.
  2. Respect - give it, get it - One of the core foundations of a healthy relationship is respect for each other. It goes deeper than merely showing signs of respect; it must involve respecting the person's individuality, their aspirations, their talents, and their personal traits. It means never taking the person for granted because you assume you know them. It means giving them the benefit of the doubt because of their unique experience and knowledge about something. In other words, it involves putting your own ego on equal terms with theirs, neither one being better than the other. This is one of the cornerstones of a long and healthy relationship.
  3. Trust and Loyalty - These two terms are closely related to each other because, when it comes to relationships, one cannot exist in the absence of the other. Loyalty is earned, while trust is built over time. When you have built a high level of trust in each other, loyalty will automatically become an integral part of the relationship. So learn to build trust one brick at a time. Keep your word, fulfill your promises, and do what you say you're going to do. Remember, one brick at a time.
  4. Security - Being safe in the presence of another is the end result of building trust and nurturing loyalty. The feeling of security might come early on but that's based more on an intuitive assessment of the situation. The true feeling of security will be borne out by factual evidence - do you have each other's backs, can she trust that you will keep her safe, physically, and so on.
  5. Future-facing - Every healthy relationship is based on shared aspirations or desires for the future. A couple that's constantly looking to the future for a better life for themselves is one that's happy and fulfilled. The mere presence of a shared future has a calming yet invigorating effect. They don't have to be grand plans, either. Just the simple idea that both of you are working toward the same future goals is more than enough.
Until now, we've talked about how to start online dating and how to take it to the next level. What about after that? What about the period where your relationship has bonded into a strong and lasting one? What are the important things to keep in mind after that? Well, the not-so-surprising part is that everything that went into creating a healthy and respectful relationship transitions into new behavior patterns for both of you. That means the same building blocks of a new relationship can be used to strengthen it even further.

What are these building blocks of a mature relationship?

The first is ongoing respect. Many couples make the mistake of taking each other for granted after they've been together a while. They start making little assumptions that eventually become bigger and broader. This doesn't refer to things like personal interests and stuff you know they like or dislike. This is about respecting their opinion and allowing them to express that individuality. The more you do that, the more things you'll discover about them that you never knew before. The truth is that this leads to a gradual erosion of the respect you fought so hard to build for each other. Never take your significant other for granted no matter how long you've been together. The second is the ability to think like each other. This might seem counterintuitive on the surface; after all, isn't maintaining your individuality what a relationship is all about? While that may be true in the early days of your relationship, once you reach a more mature stage, you become a single psychological unit, compensating for each other and balancing each other out. You become two halves of a whole; the yin and the yang inextricably joined together, melding into each other until the one is the other, and vice versa. It's important to remember that at this level of the relationship, your individual preferences are actually heightened rather than diminished. You don't become one person; you become a well-oiled team. Your individuality is a fuller one, complemented and completed by another individual that is your equal. The third building block is gaining a deeper understanding of each other as you mature in the relationship. We never really know the person we're with even if they've been around us for years. Make an active effort to learn everything you can about this person you have chosen as your soulmate because this is a job for life. Couples in a truly healthy and growing relationship will keep discovering amazing things about each other. Yes, we're that deep!

You Can't Keep it Online Forever

The truth about an online relationship is that, at some point, it will have to transition into a physically close one. You can't keep an online relationship going on indefinitely. Admittedly, couples have known to be in a long-distance relationship for several years, but no relationship can be complete without the ultimate union of two individuals... and that simply cannot happen online no matter how great you think your virtual relationship might be going right now. The reason for this is obvious: at some point, you'll feel the gaping hole created by the physical distance between you. Yes, famous people from history have maintained relationships merely through letter-writing alone. They have died without setting eyes on each other. That might have worked in the past when they didn't have a choice to travel freely and be with each other physically but, in today's world, it simply won't work. Traveling is far too convenient and affordable for any couple to go on having an online relationship without meeting at some point. Of course, you can choose to keep it online if you live in different countries and there's no option for either of you to migrate, but the relationship cannot evolve beyond a certain point.

Final Thoughts

That being said, in the end, the strength of a relationship goes far beyond physical proximity. Couples who've been together for decades often don't reach the pinnacle of their relationship because they took things for granted or simply assumed that living together or being married was the end of the road. On the contrary, once you have committed to an exclusive relationship, it is just the beginning. We all know at least one couple that's been together for ages but still acts as though they were teenagers in love, don't we? That's the goal all of us should strive for. We weren't created (or didn't evolve, whichever you believe) to be alone on this planet. Mankind was built for relationships and socializing. We're social creatures. And one of our goals in this life is to find the person who best complements us and makes us whole. Have you found your soulmate yet?
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