It’s been a few years since I threw my hat into the online dating ring. The process of looking, meeting, and dating alls feels natural to me now. But it wasn’t always this way. A recent conversation with a friend reminded me how freaked out I was by the whole process in the beginning.
Some people dive right into the online dating pool, but for most it’s a little scary and takes a little trial and error to feel comfortable. Online dating is a great way to meet polyamory partners, so don’t let a few bumps and bruises along the way keep you from trying.
Safety tips to help protect yourself physically and emotionally:
Use On-Site Messaging System
Most online dating sites have their own internal messaging service that allows individuals to communicate back-and-forth without sharing private information such as emails and phone numbers. I still use this until I’ve met someone in person and know that I want to see them again after a first date.
Keep Expectations Low
Most conversations online don’t turn into dates, and most dates don’t turn into long-lasting relationships. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s the truth, and knowing this will just help you prepare for the reality of online dating. Of course, you may meet that special someone or perfect someone-for-right-now. You may even meet a few friends.
An online dating bonus is that sites allow you to search profiles of other hopefuls that live within your area. A long-distance relationship with someone from a foreign land may seem fantastical and romantic but realistically – what will happen? You may hit it off online, even fall for this person, and then possibly travel many miles for probable disappointment. Chemistry felt through online communication can fall flat in person. Don’t wait too long to meet mr. or mrs. awesome.
Okay, so I know I just said not to wait too long to meet a potential poly partner. But what I’m referring to is to not building a fantasy life with “x” before you meet them, only to be disappointed (not necessarily because they’re not great but because they don’t fit the fantasy you’ve created.) Send and receive as many messages or emails as it takes for you to feel comfortable enough to meet in person. This really is an individual thing and it may change as you gain more confidence and experience with online dating.
Don’t Feel Obligated to Meet
You’re going to find a lot of interesting and interested people. Don’t feel you need to respond to every message you get. If the message grabs your attention (in a good way) then check out their profile and go from there. It might be fantastic, so you respond or you may find a deal breaker in their bio. If you do begin a dialogue with a potential date, again, take your time before setting up a meeting spot, but never feel like you can’t just break off the conversation with finality. If a person gets weird or you just realize they’re not a good match you can either politely tell them you’re not interested or block them from contacting you. Remember, you’re in control.
Meet in Public
Again, this goes back to not giving out personal information. Never give out your address or invite a first date to your house – this person is still a stranger. And do not go to their place either. A public meeting place is best, like a restaurant, because it’s safe and allows you to see how your date interacts with others. I always tell a friend about a new date and carry my cell phone to communicate everything is going well.
Remember and Listen
I’m really particular about profiles before I even respond to a message or send a first one. I read through every little bit of information because, one, I don’t want to waste my time getting to know someone if there’s something we have polarizing views on, and two, I want to know as much about a person beforehand as this helps with conversation.
If you’ve read and memorized a profile, you can ask questions you want to know more about, and they will be impressed with your attention to detail. On the safety side of things, you may also discover things that don’t match up from profile to person. Even little lies or exaggerations can be tellings signs of future behavior.
Follow Your Instincts
When you’re on a first date it’s wise to trust and follow your instincts. Feeling nervous and anxious when you meet someone for the first time is normal. But as you settle in and conversation moves along, you should begin to relax a little. If you don’t feel comfortable because of a person’s behavior or what they’re saying, it’s okay to leave – at any time. You may not even know exactly what’s making you uncomfortable, you just know that something isn’t right, that’s your instinct talking.
Protect Yourself Sexually
Most people don’t want to talk or ask about a potential partner’s sexuality or history on a first date. But if you think that you’re going to engage in a sexual relationship with your date, then ya, of course, you can ask questions when this becomes obvious. Never expect a date to be packing protection. Take responsibility and be prepared.
It may take a few dates to get into the swing of online dating and learn not to take rejections personally, but I promise, it does get easier and can be a lot of fun – no matter what you’re looking for.