By Fran Sherman, LCSW
My years as a divorced woman navigating the dating scene — and nearly 26 years as a therapist counseling people looking for love — have taught me how difficult it is to open ourselves up for fear of being lied to.
How do you trust that the man you’ve just met online really is who he says he is, that his photo isn’t 20 years old or, even worse, that the picture isn’t of someone else? (That actually happened to me!)
The truth is, we don’t know. When we meet someone in a bar or club or at a social event, we know what he looks like, but just like seeing his profile online, we only know what he tells us. Is it the truth, or is he just trying to impress?
My clients, as well as visitors to my AskTherapistFran online chats, frequently say they dislike meeting people online because they often misrepresent themselves. That’s sometimes true, but it’s no different from meeting someone in person, unless you’ve been introduced by a common friend. Even then, people often are very different on a date than in their daily lives.
How do you learn to trust others and know that they are what they say? There are two important components: time and, of course, trusting your own instincts.
Let’s say you meet a great guy on a dating website. His photo is terrific and his profile reveals just what you’re looking for. You e-mail several times, then decide to speak on the phone (using your “throw-away” phone, of course, to help yourself feel safe).
After several conversations, you decide to meet. You pick the restaurant, choose what to wear and you’re getting very excited. There he is, and he looks even better in person. “OMG,” you say to yourself. “I feel so lucky.” Conversation flows. Dinner is great and the evening gets even better.
Then, over dessert, he looks into your eyes: “I think I found the person of my dreams and I’m going to marry you!”
You’re flattered and even excited, but what does your gut say? Can you really know someone after several phone calls and three hours across the dinner table?
We all want the fairy tale, but it rarely comes around. It takes time to know someone. Trust yourself. Be cautious but not too guarded, since that puts up a wall and doesn’t let anyone near. Stay optimistic and hopeful, because when you lose that, you close yourself off to any good possibilities.
There are people who are honest and trustworthy, whether you meet them online or in the grocery store. Take your time. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s usually not. If something feels good, then it generally is.
Once you’re honest with yourself and trust your feelings, you’ll find it easier to be discriminating and to trust others.