Relationships are almost universally difficult, but online relationships and other forms of long distance relationships can add an extra layer of stress on top. The physical element is an important one for communication and affection. How can an online relationship succeed when it’s missing a huge chunk of the process?
Fortunately, there are plenty of examples to show that Happily Ever After is attainable for online and long distance relationships. Here are some of the best tips and advice to keep you on the right path.
Your Profile Is Your Resumé
One unfortunate byproduct of online dating’s growing prevalence is that it has become normal to judge people by their profiles. These kneejerk judgments aren’t a new phenomenon — they happen all of the time on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn — but it’s particularly sad to see it happen in the context of dating.
Ultimately, the online dating process is similar to seeking employment: profiles are used to screen applicants to see which ones are “interesting enough” for an interview. The result is that your dating profile must be perfect if you want to maximize your exposure to potential partners.
It’s not ideal, but with the online dating pool consisting of millions of users, this kind of screening process is a necessary evil.
How should you handle your online dating profile?
- Be yourself. Here’s the funny thing: lying about yourself will cause those who would’ve been interested in you to pass over you. Portraying a counterfeit version of yourself might attract more initial interest, but will they stick with you over the long run when the truth comes out? Probably not. It’s self-sabotage.
- Be unique. You have to stick out in a sea of millions. Spice up your profile with funny or creative phrases. Include niche activities and hobbies. If your profile isn’t bland and generic, then you’re ahead of the game.
- Be meticulous. Have somebody proofread your profile — not just for spelling and grammar mistakes (which are important) but to help you spot details that might not be relevant or interesting. Cut anything that’s unnecessary.
But Resumés Aren’t Everything
There’s a bit of irony when it comes to online dating: even though we ought to spend a lot of time and effort perfecting our profiles, we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on profile details when browsing through potential partners. Put another way: you can’t have impossibly high expectations.
For example, passing over people just because they like or dislike a certain movie, band, food dish, or whatever else is a bad idea. Forget the specifics and focus on the broad details: lifestyle, worldview, personality, habits, life plans and goals.
In addition, analyze the profile writing for signs of negativity: anger, bitterness, snark, hubris, insecurity, self-entitlement, etc. Unless, of course, you want those things.
Also, don’t trust online dating profiles at face value. Like resumes, not every applicant will be honest with what they portray. But more importantly, stay on the lookout for “catfishing”, which is when someone’s online identity is mostly or entirely fabricated.
Here are potential signs that someone may be a catfish:
- They refuse to show real-time photos or videos of themselves.
- They avoid giving out specific answers to direct questions.
- They have no public records or Internet presence.
Smart Communication Is Key
Regular communication is important in any relationship and online couples are not exempt. In fact, one might argue that proper communication is more important in an online context to make up for the lack of physical affection.
In this context, the problem usually isn’t the lack of communication — after all, most online relationships begin with and subsist on some kind of chat-based medium — but the lack of depth in communication. It’s surprisingly easy to chat for hours on the Internet without saying anything meaningful.
After two different long distance relationships, one successful and one not, I have a piece of advice I’d like to share: TALK.
[Healthy communication] means allowing both parties to calmly express their thoughts without being judged or put down. It means having an open mind and trying to understand what the other person is feeling. Sometimes, communication means accepting humility. As obvious as my advice seems, it is my most frequently shared piece of advice regarding any relationship problem.
One reason for this lack of depth is that online conversations can feel distant. Text always carries an impersonal quality to it (whether by instant message, email, or SMS), which is where technology comes to the rescue in the form of video chat software. For this, you’ll need a webcam.
Many laptops have built-in webcams available, but if not, you can easily get a good one for less than $30. There are some really cool uses for webcams other than video chatting, but remember to keep your webcam secure. And if you decide to use your webcam for activities of an intimate nature, stay safe and be aware of the risks associated with revenge porn.
Don’t have a webcam? Can’t use Skype? Here are some alternatives to explore:
When my boyfriend and I first started we didn’t use Skype. We emailed, sent texts, and made calls. Not actually seeing the person face to face for a year doesn’t sound like fun but it is definitely doable!
Besides, now you guys can be really old fashioned and send letters, care packages, etc. Buy her some disposable cameras so she can take pictures and send them to you so you can see everything she sees and you can do the same here!
Quality Time, Quality Fun
For some, the hardest aspect of an online relationship is that most traditional date ideas aren’t feasible. You can talk day in and day out, but after a while the spark can fizzle out if there aren’t any activities for the both of you to enjoy together.
I mean, it’s hard enough to find overlapping interests to begin with. Once you throw in distance as a limitation, the search for shared interests can become rip-your-hair-out frustrating. But you cannot give up. Quality time is simply too important to sacrifice.
The simplest solution is to find a game that both of you enjoy playing. This is easy if you met your partner through a video game (not an uncommon occurrence when playing well-known titles like EverQuest and World of Warcraft), but with a bit of open communication, the search shouldn’t be too difficult.
Casual MMORPGs are great because of the provided virtual space. Arena-based PvP games can be fun for competitive couples, especially if it’s a team game that builds cooperation and teamwork (but be careful that you don’t get angry with each other). When all else fails, social mobile games are always an option: Pictionary, Scrabble, Minecraft, etc.
If that still isn’t enough, or if you want some non-game ideas, you may want to check out this list of online activities for long distance couples courtesy of Reddit.
Where To Learn More
Relationship advice is available all over the Internet but it’s hard to distinguish good advice from bad, which is doubly true for people who are in a place where they actually need that advice. Where can you look for further information?
Udemy is a wonderful platform for online courses, similar to other online course websites like Khan Academy and Coursera. They have a course titled “Success In Online Dating” which is available for $30 (or less if you wait around for regular discounts). It’s not perfect but there are some good tidbits there.
As mentioned before, Reddit can be a useful place for advice in general. Your first stops ought to be /r/longdistance, /r/relationships, /r/relationship_advice, /r/dating, and /r/dating_advice, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. You can also check out /r/okcupid for a subreddit dedicated to online dating.
And that’s just scratching the surface!
What about you? Where do you go for online relationship advice? What are some of the best tips you’ve received? Share your wisdom with us in the comments below!