If you’ve watched an episode of Catfish, then you know about the risks involved when you start a virtual relationship. Even if someone is exactly who they say they are (which, apparently, doesn’t always happen), it’s unclear whether you can ever really know someone inside and out without meeting up in person. Some people even believe you can fall in love with someone you never met, and while experts don’t disagree, they do say the situation is... complicated.
According to Diana Dorell, intuitive dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again, making a connection with someone online or long-distance is definitely possible and can be really intense in some cases. "It's possible to form a strong emotional connection and even spiritual connection to someone you've never met in real life — particularly now with things like FaceTime or Skype, it's also possible to feel a physical attraction to someone," she tells Elite Daily.
But when it comes to falling in love without meeting IRL, Dorell says that’s less likely. "Without being able to spend time with someone in person [in] real life, it could be easier to fall in lust or fall in love with an idea of who they are [versus] who they actually are,” she said. However, things may also depend on the medium of communication.
Can You Fall In Love Over A Dating App?
When you really hit it off with a new match on a dating app, it can be tempting to fall fast. As Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, tells Elite Daily, “Dating apps are creating a paradox effect: Giving off the illusion of many choices while making it harder to find viable options.” According to her, this can lead people to invest themselves emotionally in relationships that are less than ideal — including ones where you don't have real-world contact with people — and getting attached. "For many, the attachment to a person despite never meeting them is really about the desire to be loved," she adds.
Even if you’ve been communicating for a while through dating app messages, a person on a dating app is likely presenting an idealized version of themselves in order to seem like the most viable option. According to online dating coach and relationship expert Damona Hoffman, you simply “cannot know if you have a true connection or not until you meet” someone IRL. “If you wait too long to meet, you will have created an impression of the person in your mind that can never be real when you connect face-to-face," she previously told Elite Daily.
Can You Fall In Love Over Text Or Phone Call?
Texting and talking on the phone often feel more intimate than chatting over a dating app, and sometimes, that can lead to trouble. According to Hoffman, you should “keep the texting light, playful and short-lived” if you’re hoping to eventually meet up with this person IRL. Why? Because communicating solely through your phones creates a false sense of intimacy that may lead to oversharing, since “when you are getting to know someone over text, you inevitably end up sharing things that you would never say face-to-face,” as she previously explained. Same with phone calls, even though "you can tell much more about how you will interact with one another by phone when you can instantly respond,” as Hoffman previously pointed out.
Silva agrees, warning that the oversharing that often happens with texting and phone calls is not the same thing as in-person emotional intimacy. "The emotional intensity is like love, [but] it’s more about your idealized version of what you want in a partner and your desire for a partner," she says. This, she cautions, can cause people to settle for less than they want and deserve. "The idea can create illusions that you’re in a healthy relationship because it is what we choose not to see. Even though we might not be aware of it consciously, subconsciously we are compensating for the elements that are missing.”
Can You Fall In Love Over Video Chat?
From FaceTime to Skype to Zoom, there are plenty of ways to get face-to-face time with someone without actually meeting up with person. According to Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, video-chatting is a great way to get to know someone, but it can never replace the intimacy of IRL interactions. "While using video to connect with someone definitely offers more intimacy than texting, emailing, or writing, there are still limitations to the senses we need to bond with someone," he previously told Elite Daily. "Not being able to touch or smell someone limits your sense of the other person."
And according to Klapow, touch and smell both play a big role in the process of falling in love with someone. Yes, it may be possible to love someone you've never physically met, but chances are, you won't know for sure until you've spent some time together without screens. "We can love what they are saying, how they are saying, it, how they look and act while they are saying it, but the chemistry involved in touch and smell are two of the most powerful markers of connection, intimacy, and bonding,” he explained.
While the experts say falling in love with a person you’ve never met is unlikely, there is no question that you can forge a real connection with someone that way — with the potential of it becoming something more, if that’s what you want. As Dorell points out, a virtual relationship is “an idealized version of love because without meeting in real life, you also conveniently skip the everyday nuances and challenges that arise when you share a life together.”
So long as you follow the experts' advice and remain realistic about the limitations of this kind of relationship, you avoid settling for less that you really want and deserve.
Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis Method
Damona Hoffman, online dating coach and relationship expert
Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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