Women is...: Proceed with Caution

Proceed with Caution

"The major danger of the online world, as it is in the real world, is that you will be seduced by words and not by character," observes Dr. Appell. For this reason he urges people to go back to the earliest email messages received in an exchange and read between the lines. He believes that all of the themes in the relationship's development are present in the initial communication.

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One deception rampant in the electronic world is marital status. "You must ask the pertinent questions, such as age and marital status, early in the course of an exchange," stresses Dr. Appell. "Scammers fudge on them. If there's any equivocation, hit the delete button. It's a way to eliminate the married or the 'players.'"

Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci, professor of psychology at Indiana University, points out that relationships normally progress by way of a reasonably paced flow of self-disclosure that is reciprocal in nature. A disclosure process that moves too quickly � anonymity removes the stigma of getting sexually explicit � doesn't just destroy courtship; it may be a sign of maladjustment. Be wary of people who reveal a great deal of information about themselves too quickly.

What you want is what Dr. Appell calls "communicative matching." He urges honesty to self, moving at a rhythm and pace that feels natural to you. It's also important to keep the rhythm and pace of emailing steady. Because email lacks expressive tones, any changes in the rhythm of messaging may be read as changes in feelings.

One good indicator of a relationship's potential is a correspondent's interest in his or her children, whether small or grown. People who are attached to their children are likely to be capable of emotional involvement and know something about commitment.