If you've ever watched an episode of
Catfish, you know how treacherous the texting waters can be. It’s so easy to fall into that gray area between meeting online and meeting up IRL. And once you start to build a rapport over texting, it can feel even more intimidating to meet face-to-face, because what if that person you’ve been texting with isn’t who you thought you were? While there’s no right answer for how long to text before a first date, it is important to do some texting before a meet-up, both for safety reasons and to check for deal-breakers.
When it comes to
texting before a first date, my tactic was always to move slowly and really get to know the person before moving on to setting up an actual date. Oftentimes, either the conversation would go stale or — when we did finally meet up in person — there was an inevitable letdown. I figured that was just how online dating went. Turns out, I was just doing it all wrong. I reached out to online dating experts to get the scoop on meeting someone for the first time after texting, and the timeline between digital and real-life contact is probably shorter than you think.
How Long Should You Text Before Meeting In Person?
According to dating expert and licensed marriage and family therapist
Anita Chlipala, you and a potential date should probably text for “two to three days, enough to establish safety but not enough time to know important things about them via text instead of in person.” She adds, “You want to meet in person as quickly as possible because some people can have great texting chemistry but then aren't attracted to the person.”
Online dating coach and relationship expert
Damona Hoffman agrees. When it comes to moving from texting to the first date, the sooner the better. “You want to keep the texting light, playful and short-lived before the first date,” Hoffman tells Elite Daily. Why? Because texting 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.”
What Should You Text About Before Meeting In Person?
If the timeline for texting is a week or less, how much should you actually try to learn about that person before the date? Online dating expert
Julie Spira says to keep it light in the pre-date text conversations and suggests limiting it to shared interests and passions. “Knowing their favorite band, what they studied in school, or where they’ve traveled to are light and easy subjects for a chat," says Spira. "Asking how their day is going shows you care."
Spira warns things should get too intimate via text before that first IRL meet-up. “You can’t get to know someone solely and in a meaningful way over texting,” she says. So, instead of trying to learn the person's life story, she advises, “Keep the texting as a flirting tool to send a good morning or good night text, but not in place of meeting on a date, where the physical chemistry and conversation can allow the heart to open up to the possibilities of forming a relationship.”
For Hoffman, it’s even simpler. “All you need to know before a first date is that the person is interesting enough to spend an hour with — that's it. One hour,” she says. Her advice is to save the major filtering and getting to know each other for the first date. She adds that no matter how much you get to know that person over text, "you cannot know if you have a true connection or not until you meet." After all, you don’t want to waste your time getting to know someone only to have no chemistry in person.
When Do You Know You’re Ready To Meet Up In Person?
Ultimately, the most important factor in deciding when to move from texting to meeting in real life is feeling comfortable. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right, since that feeling of nervousness may actually be your subconscious mind throwing up red flags your conscious mind is missing. However, if you're just worried you're rushing things, the experts say not to worry about that — the sooner the better. “Just do it,” says Chlipala, who warns that the longer you wait, the more the odds stack against you. “You don't want to know too much about them before you meet because you risk making assumptions and blowing things out of proportion."
According to Hoffman, “You are ready to meet them if you are curious how you would connect in person and if they seem to have your top three desired qualities and none of your top three deal-breakers.” And she agrees that waiting too long to meet in person will make it harder for them to live up to your expectations. “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 adds. "Better to move offline quickly and see if you're dealing with the real thing or just an endless flow of cheeky texts.”
Should You Talk On The Phone Or FaceTime Before Meeting In Person?
Since texting is a limited tool to get to know someone before meeting, should you consider other forms of conversation prior to the date? The experts are split on this. Chlipala says no — head straight into meeting in person, safely. “In person is the best way to gauge chemistry," she says. "If you're worried about your safety, have an afternoon date and have a friend check in with you or tell them where you will be and that you'll text them when you're home."
Hoffman, on the other hand, does encourage reaching out by phone prior to meeting. “I’m a big fan of the brief pre-date phone call," she says. "You can tell much more about how you will interact with one another by phone when you can instantly respond and banter with one another than over text in which the words are often more carefully chosen and an image is being cultivated. Also, once you have spoken to one another, you become more real than just a face on an app or a name on a phone, and you are less likely to be stood up on the first date or ghosted early on.”
How Do You Ask To Meet Up In Person?
Having that convo about meeting up IRL can be a little intimidating, especially since there’s no hard-and-fast rule about
how long you should talk to someone before dating. But there’s a chill way to ask out someone you’re texting that doesn’t put too much pressure on either of you. Simply saying, “I’d love to get to know you better. Would you like to have dinner/drinks/coffee?” is probably the chillest, best way to tell someone you’re looking to have a real-life meet-up.
Spira puts it best when she says, “If you feel online chemistry, why wait? Schedule the date to see how you feel when you meet. If you don't, maybe someone else will, and life is too short to be filled with regrets.” So go ahead and make a date — you can’t just text with your crush forever.
Sources: Anita Chlipala , dating expert and licensed marriage and family therapist Julie Spira , online dating expert Damona Hoffman , online dating coach and relationship expert Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.