When getting to know someone new, we are, on some level, attempting to decipher whether they’re a ‘safe’ person. Are they trustworthy? Do we have common ground? The more interactions we have with someone over a relatively short period, even though they might be brief, online or over text, the more we feel we trust and know them.

It can be tempting to spend a lot of time texting, DMing, emailing, etc., with a stranger before going on a date, but be careful. Spending too much time in the preamble stage of relationships—what I call stage 0–can lead to using inaccurate perceptions of a prospective partner to build sandcastles in the sky. Next thing, we’re disappointed when reality doesn’t match the picture we’ve painted in our minds.

We also have a pesky habit of reading texts and online communications with our tone and intent, not the other party’s. This assumption can be incredibly misleading if we associate the intensity of communication with someone who’s really interested in us or wants a relationship.

Sometimes, we also use information gleaned from texts to determine compatibility. We assume we share core values and have a strong connection based on ‘common ground’. But this isn’t information that we can determine at this stage. Knowing how much we have in common regarding shared values takes time and experience. While you can gain concrete signs of incompatibility in the early stages of relationships (0-2), you’ll need to grow beyond these (stages 2+) to establish genuine compatibility.

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