Safe and Sound Online Dating
Many of the previous transaction rules I’ve mentioned apply to dating, too, but because there’s so much more at stake, I felt it was important to cover this topic separately. This section discusses what has become traditional online dating. The personals section on craigslist also has categories other than dating, some of which are high-risk.
Here are some ways to protect yourself—and your heart—when looking for love online.
Take it slow and enjoy the process. This is the best way to protect yourself. It’s easier to connect with people online than in person. Anonymous communication frees many of us of our inhibitions. However, that instant attraction can wear off as we get to know each other better. Exchange email and instant messages, and before long you’ll know whether the attraction is real or simply the thrill of possibilities.
If the interest is still there after you know more about the person, move on to phone calls. This is an important stage because it’s your first chance to communicate directly. Use this time to learn more about each other and see whether you share goals and values. Then move on to meeting in person. By pacing the process, you’ll have a stronger foundation and a greater chance of success.
Keep it private. Don’t give out your personal information too soon. Knowing a person’s first name and general location is fine to start. You can give out your cell phone number when you agree to move forward in the relationship. Because home phones can be traced to addresses, give your cell phone at first. No one needs to know where you live to reach you by email or phone. You don’t have to volunteer your contact info to prove that you trust someone or because you don’t want to appear paranoid. If the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries, it’s doubtful that he or she is right for you.
Make it public. If you decide to meet, do it in a public place. Meet for lunch at a restaurant or in the early evening for coffee. Never go to the other person’s home, invite him or her to yours, or meet at a secluded place. Remember to use this time to talk and get to know one another better. Avoid going to the movies or anywhere your time will be spent focused away from each other.
Do your homework. When you have information about the other person, do some searching online. You can find out a lot about some people by Googling email address, phone number, name and city, or job info. Although you may feel as if you’re spying, keep in mind that knowledge is power, and anything on the Internet is public record. Many employers routinely check out applicants this way, and a potential date or mate is definitely more important than a job candidate.
Enlist a wingman (or woman). In the beginning, tell someone you trust about your date before you go. Provide the time and place information, as well as details about the other person. Keep your cell phone with you at all times, and call from the washroom to update your backup on any change of plans.
Make it equal. For the first few dates, drive separately and pay your own way. If you arrive on your own, you’re free to leave whenever you want. By taking care of your share of the check, you ensure that you’re both investing the same amount in the date. You won’t owe each other anything, and you start on a level playing field.
Don’t drink. Alcohol can cloud your judgment and lessen your inhibitions; being nervous can magnify the effects. Stay clear-headed and in control. Not only is it safer, but it’s a better choice if you’re hoping to have a lasting relationship.
Read the signs. Don’t overlook or explain away red flags that tell you the two of you aren’t a match. If the other person misrepresents himself or herself, tells lies, is vague, criticizes or is disrespectful to you or others, is closed-minded, doesn’t share your values or goals, or abuses alcohol or drugs, those are big flashing billboards that read “Run away!” You’ll almost certainly be disappointed if you expect the other person to change. Dragging out the relationship isn’t going to improve your chances for happily ever after.
Walk away. If you realize that a date isn’t going well for you, end it. Don’t be rude or disrespectful, but suffering through it serves no purpose. If the connection isn’t there for you, it most likely isn’t there for the other person either. Walking away is essential if you feel frightened or threatened in any way.
Value yourself. Respect your heart and your body, and expect the other person to do the same. The value of anything is based on perception. If you don’t see your worth, the other person probably won’t, either.
Online dating is a wonderful thing. With busy lives, going out to meet quality people has become harder and harder. Use the preceding information to keep out of harm’s way and enrich your dating experience.