What would you say is the appropriate amount of time to correspond with someone before meeting in person? And when should a person stop corresponding if there is no initiative to meet?
Two very good questions. Unfortunately, there is nothing absolute. Every situation is different. However, a woman always has to look for “commitment moves” from men in order to continue giving them credibility in this process. “Commitment moves” are signs of moving forward or that a man is capable of moving forward. The last thing a woman should do is waste her time with a man who just wants to hang out. And since women are not in a position to initially say “Are you a guy who will take steps toward commitment?”, they have to be able to observe the signs and act accordingly.
With that said, I think there some general benchmarks that can help Catholics using online dating regarding when to meet in person and when to stop corresponding.
First, you have to be corresponding regularly to justify asking these questions. If you are only writing one exchange per week or more, you are not in a serious correspondence, and therefore do not have the first commitment move. You know you have someone you can potentially meet in person if you are writing each other many times per week.
Once you are writing a lot, it should not be more than four weeks before you should be at least “talking about” meeting in person, if not actually making plans to meet. At this point also there should be interest to talk by phone. Meeting in person should actually happen between one and two months of the initial written contact. If the man does not mention the idea of meeting in person after four weeks of regular correspondence, then you should be considering cutting things off. Again, there are no absolutes, so you have to consider the individual, but it is very rare that a man who is interested in a woman will put off the next level of pursuing after so long. If he is not asking about speaking on the phone, then it might be time to end it.
Now, by “end it”, I don’t necessarily mean cut off correspondence. What I really mean is to start seriously engaging in correspondence with other men and meeting them (which you should be doing anyway). Many times women allow themselves to believe that because they are involved in heavy written exchange with a man online that he is very interested in her, and she feels she should focus on just him. That’s a bad idea! Again, women MUST look for commitment moves from men before they start to consider stepping back from others. If a woman senses a man is serious about pursuing her, she will wait for him. Men who hold back showing any signs of commitment (even the commitment to meet) might not be serious about making the commitment to marriage. So men have to step up and take risks and ACT!! This is the sign a woman needs to stick around. Women who stick around anyway in the “hope” he will act are just setting themselves up for being hurt and wasting valuable time. Maybe he will come around eventually, but from my experience it rarely happens, and so many women have been hurt because the man never showed further interest. Then they wonder why the correspondence suddenly ended.
What if after several weeks of heavy correspondence he does not talk about speaking on the phone or meeting in person, but you really like him? This is tricky for a woman to do, but you should consider giving him a nudge by mentioning that you are open to talking by phone or meeting in person if he is. Men sometimes need just that little sign from a woman before they have confidence enough to take on a more firm leadership role. But after that first time, you should not do it again. Men are not attracted to women who continuously try to lead things along. It can be interpreted as being pushy or seeming desperate, etc. Give the man a nudge and then let it him take over.
If you don’t get any serious interest from him as a result, then you should consider saying something like, “I have enjoyed corresponding with you and would like to get to know you more, but I am not open to just writing and believe that meeting in person is the best way to get to know if something more serious is possible to develop with someone.”
A wise man will take this as a sign to step up, and a good man who doesn’t want to lose the opportunity with a good woman will do the stepping up. A weak, indecisive man will fizzle away. And then you will have wasted only a month of your time and not many months, or years, for that matter. Some men will feel rejected by this. But that would be a foolish response, because a note like that clearly indicates you are interested and want a commitment move, otherwise you can’t waste your time. I say this because I also know that many women are nervous to make this kind of statement out of concern that the man will be scared off and correspondence will stop (which is not a good feeling). But please be assured, a good man will be refreshed to hear this kind of thing from a woman and his respect level will increase.
Sometimes men do not see any rush for anything in their life, including meeting a woman in person. They can have bad reasons why they are not open to meeting women in person, even on a site like Ave Maria Singles that is meant for marriage-minded, committed Catholic singles. It could be they don’t want to spend any money on meeting someone in person (especially if it means traveling a long distance). Perhaps they like the feeling of dialoguing with women in writing but are not comfortable meeting in person. I have heard lots of reasons why men put off making the very first basic “commitment move” of meeting in person or talking on the phone. Some are flat-out afraid to meet women in person. Some don’t want to make the financial investment required to date a woman, especially if it means traveling to meet, including long distances. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that many men are not making the move to meet. I know of one of our couples who were not able to meet for six months at first. But they were talking about it almost right away. He was serious about meeting, but they had legitimate circumstances that kept it from happening. But they were talking on the phone and making plans to meet at the opportune time.
I really feel that a man should never enter into a correspondence with a woman in an online Catholic dating situation unless he is prepared to meet her in person if things go well in writing. It’s not really fair to get a woman’s hopes up only to end up saying (or not saying, but just not acting) that he can’t meet in person.
So don’t set yourself up for being hurt by allowing him to prolong your corresponding or by putting too much hope in his making a move. Women have only themselves to blame for letting it go on for so long. Men subconsciously don’t respect a woman that lets them get away with not acting on the relationship properly or taking risks in the name of finding their future spouse. If a woman will let a man do nothing serious or say anything that shows a move toward a serious relationship or marriage itself, then he might still write to her because he enjoys the attention and feeling of a woman interested in him, but he will never respect her enough to pursue her.
My opinion of the general rule of thumb for online dating is that you should be talking seriously about meeting in person after a month of writing, talking on the phone by the end of that month, and meeting in person within one to two months. Once you meet in person, if there is desire to continue the relationship, then meet in person at least every two weeks for a couple of concentrated days together (this is primarily for long-distance relationships where travel is necessary). It should take only two months of meeting every two weeks (if the time is spent wisely; namely, with a lot of talking, sharing life goals and vision, worshipping together, meeting family and friends, asking good questions, etc.) to know if you want to be exclusive with each other (courtship), which is then a time period in which you determine if there is any reason you should NOT get engaged to be married.