My wife (whom I met on CatholicMatch) occasionally reminds me that the man she married is not at all like the first impression I gave in my profile. The image she had of me is almost completely opposite to the “me” I had put together with my picture and introductory paragraph.
When I look at that profile I can see that I was clearly forging a no-nonsense character who was cut and dried, down and dirty, and not interested in frivolity. There are times when I am like that, but as my wife will testify, 90% of the time I am a goof.
So why did I create that character? That just happened to be how I felt that week. I had “had it up to here” with the responses I was getting, so in a fit of pique I dashed off a new profile. I created the profile of a man that had a hard outer shell because I didn’t like who I was attracting. That profile kept my future wife from initiating contact with me for one whole year.
Even when talking on the phone, we essentially create a character. In person, when a sensitive topic is broached, there are a host of visual cues and tells that further round out the picture of who we are and how we live. We are much more vulnerable, but that can be good. Not only does it keep us honest, but it allows us to see how others react when the unexpected happens.
Only when we see someone in the real world can we get a sense of how they conduct themselves. How do they treat others? How do they handle those minor hiccups in planning and the frequent messiness of the average day? How do they respond to the questions that are important to you? What signals do they give and what seems to be important to them?
Our profiles are still important. They are not expected to capture the essence of who you are so completely that you could be recreated in a lab, but you should be somewhat recognizable. Hit your strong points and describe yourself in brief. Be clear about what your expectations are and how you view the role of the faith in your life. Be clear about who you are looking to meet, and what you DON’T want.
When you’ve established that someone might be a good match, and you’ve emailed and talked on the phone enough to know that you should meet, make a date. You need to meet and stand in front of a live person. When suggesting a live meeting, do what you need to do to make the other person comfortable, but do not be strung along. If someone keeps canceling dates or seems reluctant to meet in person, kindly suggest that you put things on hold until they are comfortable with a physical meeting.
It’s natural to be averse to rejection, but rejection won’t kill you. Believe me, I was rejected plenty of times. It was never fun, but it was a heck of a lot easier the more it happened. And I had practice rejecting, as well. Most people take no joy in hurting someone else’s feelings, but if we alter who we are or pretend to be someone we aren’t just to avoid conflict, we are headed for trouble. The point will inevitably arrive when that house of cards collapses.
In the end there simply is no substitute for live interaction. We are physical creatures and we are meant to share physical space with each other. The real task of getting to know each other is found in the time you spend together, the conversations you have upfront (faith, children, life goals), and how you react in each other’s presence when there is no script and no editing.