In light of the tragic news about Ingrid Lyne, I’d like to share my guidelines and tips on staying safe while dating. How you meet someone, whether online, in a bar or at a coffee shop, shouldn’t affect the dating process. When you’re meeting a stranger in a dating situation, always approach it with a high level of diligence.
Most people know the basic safety rules of dating: Don’t share any identifying details: your full name, number, address, employer’s name, anything about your kids (such as where they go to school), or even where you went to school.
In this article, I’ll cover things to look out for in online dating profiles that could be red flags. Also, if you decide to meet him in person, the early warning signs to be aware of.
ONLINE DATING COMMUNICATION
Keep your email anonymous. Create a new email account (separate from your usual personal email) that does not include your name.
If you use a smart phone, make sure the app associated with the dating site is set up so you remain anonymous. If you want to keep a number specifically for dating, consider setting up a free Google voice number that’s linked to your phone. Or you can also purchase a second cell phone—one with a per-use fee or with prepaid minutes.
Use online anonymity to your advantage. Keep in mind that you remain anonymous, except for your photos. Use this to your advantage in terms of gathering information about the men on the site. This is the time to be critical, ask the right questions and trust your instincts.
SCREENING HIS ONLINE PROFILE
If he’s inconsistent in his profile, be skeptical. If he’s saying something in his profile that doesn’t match what you want, then call it out to him. For example, if you have kids and he is “unsure about wanting kids,” then ask him about it. If he says he “only wants to be friends” and you’re looking for more than that, move on. If he says he wants to do something like a baseball game or comedy club, but also says he avoids crowds and likes quiet, these are inconsistencies.
Notice if his profile actually makes sense or seems off. Consider what he’s written and note any inconsistencies or things that don’t make sense. Share his profile with friends and get their feedback. Sometimes it’s hard to see clues yourself, so share his profile with someone you trust and who will be completely honest.
If you feel uncomfortable in any way, simply “block” his access and cease communication. You can also report excessively bad behavior to the administrator on the site. Bottom line: if you get freaked out by a man, block him and move on.
WHAT TO DO ON THE FIRST SEVERAL DATES
If he passes your screening via the online portal and you decide to meet him for a date, there are some key dos and donts in terms of screening for safety. It’s important to tell a friend who you’re meeting, plus when and where.Keep the first three to four dates at a public location and meet only during daylight hours. My recommendations:
- Set up the first date using the online dating system or your newly created anonymous email. Don’t share your personal information until you can trust him.
- A coffee date, albeit somewhat boring, is the appropriate first date.
- Limit these first dates to one hour, more or less.
- Meet at the predetermined locations you agreed to. Politely decline if he offers to pick you up at your home or workplace.
- For the second and third dates, you can try something a little more exciting than coffee, but keep it to something that gives you more time to talk.
- Have a friend meet you at the coffee shop so that when he arrives, you can briefly introduce them and have a little small talk. Your friend may pick up on things about him that you can’t see. Listen to your friend.
Also consider just being honest and tell him you will only feel comfortable doing a background check on him. If he has a problem and refuses, then let him know that it’s a deal breaker.
WHAT NOT TO DO
I don’t recommend dinner dates, evening dates or long involved dates early in the relationship. Here are the reasons:
- Evening dates can involve spending large sums of money which can create expectations and complications, especially if he drives you home.
- They take too much time, usually two or three hours or more, which is too long to spend with him at this early stage.
- They typically involve alcohol and that impairs judgement, yours and his.
EARLY WARNING SIGNS
Relax and have fun, of course, but don’t ignore warning signs. Here are things to reflect upon before, during and after each date.
- You have burning or nagging questions you want to ask, but feel hesitant because you don’t want to offend him.
- He’s super-charming and shows over-the-top interest in you. If he seems too good to be true, you’re likely not seeing the whole of this man.
- He talks in a way that suggests past abuse or neglect but makes light of it or isn’t willing to talk about it.
- He overshares, telling you early on about things that would take months for a professional therapist to get out of him.
- He isn’t sharing anything personal.
- He blames others for his problems.
- He is inconsistent in what he says and does.
- He has mood swings and keeps you feeling like you’re on eggshells.
- He is rude to you or others; seems impatient, critical and even bullying.
If you experience any of these warning signs, set boundaries around the behavior. If he doesn’t change or doesn’t respect your boundary, seriously consider ending the relationship. If you aren’t sure, set up a date that involves your friends to get their perspective.
Trust your gut and what you’re feeling in your body when you interact with him. If you feel off, your belly flips in a weird way, you feel on guard suddenly, don’t ignore what your body is telling you.
Be skeptical when dating strangers. Ask lots of questions. Slow down the dating process even if you’re excited about finally going out on a date.
You can learn more about dating at DateWise.