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When should you hide your profile?

When should you hide your profile?

By Maryann Hammers

So you met someone online. You're having a lot of fun together and definitely moving toward the land of happy coupledom. But here's the catch: Your partner still has his online profile posted.

Jeanine, an executive assistant in Boston, says it happened to her. "After about one month — when it looked like we were going to be seeing each other for a while — I took my profile down, but he left his up."

April, a Los Angeles nurse, has encountered that distressing situation several times. "One guy claimed he didn't know how to hide his profile — what a lame excuse. I find it disrespectful and insulting," she says.

We consulted with relationship experts and online daters who have dealt with the dilemma. Here's what they told us:

1. DON'T RUSH IT
Kate Wachs, a Chicago clinical psychologist and author of Relationships for Dummies, believes you shouldn't broach the subject for several months. "It's like saying 'where is this relationship going?' — which presupposes that you have a relationship in the first place," she says.

So when can you say something? "I would insist she take down her profile after she starts bringing pajamas to my place," says Ron, a Thousand Oaks, California, project manager for a dot.com.

But Wachs believes it's best to avoid intimacy if the other has a personal profile posted. "It's a mistake to have sex with someone who has a profile up — unless you are positive the person is not seeing someone else," she says. "Someone who is sleeping with two people won't be getting closer to either of you. That's not good for you emotionally — nor is it a good idea health-wise."

2. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
"A person who has an profile is still 'surfing' — and, therefore, considers himself available," says Fredda Gill, a Washington, DC, marriage and family therapist who specializes in couples who've met or courted online. "Your best approach is to gently cool your expectations about the other person's commitment to the relationship."

That means you should leave your profile up, too. "You should be seeing other people to keep the balance of power even," Wachs says.

3. POP THE QUESTION
But if you really want to talk about that pesky personal, just ask outright: "Do you still have your profile up?" Or you can massage the question a bit. Here's what Jeanine said: "I went online the other day to make sure my profile was cleared off so no one else would contact me. I couldn't help but notice that your profile is still up."

Ron says he would casually ask if he could read some of the replies to her profile. "This would force her to acknowledge that her profile was still posted," he explains.

4. KEEP CHECKING
And if the profile stays up? "If I didn't trust her, I'd reply under a different identity and see if she responds," Ron says.

Jeanine tried that tactic. "I used to send him email under new profiles that he didn't know about. He did email me back [to my assumed profiles] and never said that he was seeing anyone — which let me know he would have made a date if someone caught his interest."

But don't try that kind of trickery unless you are prepared to break it off with him, cautions Gill. "A relationship must be built on total openness and honesty," she says. "Otherwise you doom it."

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