Online dating is so common these days, regular dating is called "offline dating." But is it safe to meet up with random prospects? A recent study by dating sites JDate and ChristianMingle found that most people think it's safer to meet online than at a bar. We asked marriage and family therapist Rachel Sussman, who contributed to the study, for her tips on dating safety—no matter where you met a guy.
Talk on the Phone First
Although you can gather a lot of info about someone via text and email, there's nothing like hearing a guy's voice and engaging in some back and forth banter to feel him out. Have a decent sense of who he is before agreeing to meet him: At the very least, make sure you have his full name and what he does for a living.
Don't Ignore Red Flags
Watch out for anything he says or does that makes you think twice—i.e. inappropriate comments off the bat, acting overly familiar too quickly, anything that sets off your instincts. Doing some preliminary homework can save you major aggravation in the end.
No need to hire a private investigator, but it's definetly a good idea to Google the guy's full name, as well as check his Facebook and LinkedIn pages. There's a good chance that you might find six degrees of separation, and that is generally a good thing—mutual friends can likely vouch for him.
Meet in a Public Place
If your phone conversations go well, and you feel like you know enough about the guy to go out on a date, be sure to meet in a neutral, public place. (As in, not one of your apartments.) This just adds an additional layer of security.
Have a Friend On Hand
Consider signing on a girlfriend to back you up in the safety department. First and foremost: Let her know whenever you're going on the date and where you're going. You could also check in with her a few hours into the date to let her know you're a-okay.
Don't Stay if Things Get Weird
Trust your instincts. If you feel early on like something is off, excuse yourself and text a friend to come meet you. If you sense danger, keep your wits about you and safely exit as quickly as possible. If you feel more comfortable having an "out," in case the date goes awry, you can always start off your date on the early side, or tell your date that you to leave to meet your friends afterward.
Focus on the Present
The most important way to date safely and smartly is to not get ahead of yourself. Don't get too caught up in fantasizing about the end result of your relationship with a new guy. Just focus on getting to know him as much as you can during the first date. Dating is a lot of fun and it's a great way to meet new people, expand your world, and work on your social skills. However, dating always works best when you're a bit cautious and use good judgment.