You’ve been matched with someone via online dating and you hit it off with that match! You’ve been exchanging emails and phone calls and texts. Now you’re ready to meet in person, to go on that first date.
But meeting a new person can be overwhelming and sometimes even scary. This is what happened when my husband and I met through a Catholic dating site!
Here are seven tips for meeting your match in person in a physically and emotionally safe way that I wish I would’ve listened to.
1. Meet in a public place
Maybe you meet in a coffee shop or at a bowling alley. Someplace where there will be plenty of other people around.
Physically, this gives you the security of lots of eyes on the situation, even just passively, in case anything starts to take a turn for the worse. It also gives you an easy out if the date or person doesn’t quite go how you’d like it to.
Emotionally, this protects you from your emotions compounding on themselves due to close proximity and isolation. You’re able to think through things much more clearly when the pressure’s off!
A good first date will be low-key to give each of you the space to process well while getting to know each other.
This is how my first date with my husband started– in a coffee shop. Beyond that, though, we didn’t have any plans and ended up driving around in his car for hours and talking.
It turned out just fine but obviously each of us could’ve been putting ourselves in unnecessary danger. Not to mention that our emotions did run higher because of our relative isolation.
On my drive home I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”
We should have stayed at the coffee shop or planned another aspect of our first date.
2. Set a time limit and stick to it!
While this will help you stay physically safe, this tip is really more about personal self-control and responsibility. Giving yourself a “curfew” allows you an out so that things don’t go beyond where you’re willing to take them the first time, whether that’s because the situation has become uncomfortable and you need an excuse or you need something to help you halt your own passions.
This one is really about personal responsibility.
Let me tell you how awkward it is to sleep in your car in a Starbucks parking lot because it suddenly became too late to make the hours drive home that evening.
Or how awkward it is that your date is also sleeping in his car in the same parking lot because it was also too late for him to drive home.
That drive home? Also awkward.
Don’t back yourself into a corner like this. Make good choices. Doing so from the beginning will help you exercise discretion and responsibility throughout the relationship.
3. Tell someone where you’re going and what you’re doing
For physical safety, this ensures you have someone looking out for you.
It’s all well and good to text your friend in another city or state what’s going on but that person will have very little power to help you if something goes awry. Tell a friend in your city, parish, school, or a roommate! Someone who encounters you in day-to-day life will be much more able to spot signs of distress, get you out of the situation, or call for help than someone who doesn’t.
This has the added benefit of giving you someone to be accountable to about the date. If you know there’s someone who’s expecting you, you’ll be much more apt to moderate your actions and decisions.
Like the friend I called on my drive home from my date the next morning who dubbed my drive home “the drive of shame”.
Did my date and I cross any physical lines?
No, but we were definitely treading on emotional thin water and being accountable to a friend helped me regain my balance personally and in the relationship.
4. Do not go to an unknown place
I did say above that my husband and I went on our first date in a town neither of us had ever been to before. We decided on that spot because we lived hours away from each other and wanted to meet halfway.
That sounds really nice and like a great compromise except that being in a new town meant neither of us knew the lay of the land, we didn’t know what there was to do there, and we had no plan.
All red flags! Plan your dates!
If you do want to go to a place you’ve never been before (that’s not an amusement park or similar), research the place before you go and make sure you do know it well enough to get around.
This has obvious implications for your physical safety.
5. Pick a place or activity that allows for conversation
Go to a museum and talk about the art.
Go to a park and play frisbee or go on a nature hike.
An interactive first date not only gives you something to talk about and to help conversation flow, it also gives you a chance to see the other person in action.
Is she a sore loser? Is he attentive? Does he complain frequently? Does she cut you off while talking?
These will be great indicators of your date’s personality and how he or she is in everyday life. These are all things you want to know!
Talking in a car is great, but it doesn’t allow the kinetic energy of everyday life to illuminate you.
Ahem, speaking from experience.
6. Continue themes of your online conversation into in person conversation
Did she seem really easy-going in emails but in person is much more demanding?
Did he seem very understanding and charitable over text but in person is colder and more rigid?
You can find the answers to these questions if you make sure to incorporate topics you’ve touched on before into in person conversations.
We can only convey so much of ourselves over digital screens. Unfortunately, it’s easy to obscure ourselves behind those screens. We should be going deeper into subjects in each conversation we have as we find out more about a person.
So find out. Find out before you get in too deep and have to haul yourself out or do damage control.
7. Take note of overly or under affection language, both spoken and body
Everyone’s tolerance level for affection is different but take note of how your date’s level of affection makes you feel and his or her response to your feelings.
Do you feel uncomfortable or smothered or pressured? Red flag.
Do you feel untouchable or neglected? Red flag.
These are not necessarily deal breakers but should lead to more conversation on the subject. Unless the affectionate language or touching completely crosses all your boundaries. If that’s the case, get out and never look back!
Be especially cautious of overly sugary or affectionate language as this could be a sign that your date doesn’t know how to form healthy attachments, gets invested too quickly, or is abusive.
Appropriate affection for a first date is generally holding hands, a few compliments on looks and likes, and maybe kissing.
Anymore on a first date probably means that you should slow down a bit. It can feel like getting swept up in the emotion is fun and fine and exciting but there will always be time for more of that.
Always. I know, I married the man I matched with.
First dates are exciting! But it’s important to keep a level head and stay healthy. This will only benefit you personally and the relationship, as a whole.
Can things turn out just fine if you don’t follow these rules? Sure! It did for me!
But the time my now husband and I had to spend going back and correcting behaviors or getting to know each other better in ways we initially overlooked (to our detriment) would’ve been better spent elsewhere.
Why take a longer, more complicated route when you don’t have to? Follow these tips and you’ll have an illuminating first date that will hopefully turn into more dates!