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15 Tips to Keep You Safe and Sane While Online Dating

I spent my 30s looking for love on internet dating sites. It was interesting, to say the least. I wish someone had given me some advice.

Tips for staying safe and sane while online dating.

Tips for staying safe and sane while online dating.

How to Date Online

Like anything in life that you navigate on your own, there is a learning curve to online dating. I spent the entirety of my 30s using online dating to meet that special someone. I went on more ridiculously terrible dates than any one person should be subjected to. After each shockingly awful experience, I left saying, "Well, time to make a rule, so I don’t experience that again!" Despite the fact I gathered a lot of good stories to share with my friends, it was rough, and I’m here to help you by providing some of the things I came up with while on my search for love.

Make sure you're looking for the same thing as your matches.

Make sure you're looking for the same thing as your matches.

1. Determine That You’re Looking for the Same Thing

You might want to find your forever, and they’re celebrating the newfound freedom that comes after finally getting out of a relationship that’s not working. Some guys will be direct and honest, but the sneaky ones who tell you what you want to hear to get you into bed are harder to catch, especially for the hopeless romantic. Also, consider what apps you’re using if you have something specific in mind. Tinder is considered to be more for the hook-up culture, and on the other end of the spectrum, you have eHarmony, which advertises itself as for people looking for love. I found my love on Match, which gives you the option of free. I felt I would get more out of it by paying, and I didn’t feel it was overly expensive.

2. How Long Ago Was Their Last Relationship?

I found that if they are recently single, often they’re not ready for a relationship, even if they think they are. In general, I recommend taking time to heal and redevelop yourself as an individual, particularly if it was a long relationship or involved an engagement. This does not apply to 100% of situations, but after being told, ‘I’m not ready for this' when he was the one who talked about all the future stuff, I decided it was something to take into consideration.

3. If They Have Kids, How Does the Co-Parenting Work?

Make sure they have a relationship with their ex that you’re comfortable with. Is it stressful and emotional? Or perhaps their ex is still in love and sees you as a threat. I loathe other people’s drama in my life, so if it’s a tumultuous situation, I’d bow out. One of the many I didn’t meet had four young kids with three different women, and that just sounded exhausting and complicated.

4. Discuss Life Goals

If you’re on the up and up of your life, career, and future, they should also be. If only one of you is growing, you’ll grow apart over time.

Some people on dating apps aren't actually single. Watch out for the red flags.

Some people on dating apps aren't actually single. Watch out for the red flags.

5. Pay Attention to the Signs They Might Already be in a Relationship.

All the red flags I dismissed were painfully obvious in retrospect. If they’re only texting or calling at specific times, they’re in a relationship. If their place is not somewhere you can go, it’s not a good sign either. If they don’t want you to post pictures of the two of you together on social media, it’s also another good indicator you’re the side piece.

6. Make Sure They’re Putting in Effort Too

If you feel like you’re always the one to initiate conversations and dates, it not only gets tiring, but it could easily mean they’re just not that interested and are only around because you’re making it easy for them to not have to participate other than showing up. I was feeling this after dating someone for a few months when it dawned on me that I always reached out first. I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t initiate a conversation and we never spoke again.

7. Discuss Enjoyable Activities

It’s healthy to find someone who might introduce you to new things and places, but if you’re just not on the same page about what you find fun or interesting, I just don’t see it working.

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Be honest in your profile; you want people to like the real you!

Be honest in your profile; you want people to like the real you!

8. Be Honest About Yourself

Don’t paint a picture of something you’re not. If you find yourself doing this, maybe you need to work on yourself before seeking a real relationship. If you’re doing things to better yourself and have goals you’d like to achieve, that’s wonderful, and you should be open about that while avoiding self-deprecation.

9. Include Recent Information in Your Profile

If you trained hard to run a marathon 10 years ago, congratulations! That was super difficult, and I’m proud of you! But if you did it just to achieve it and didn’t embrace the runner’s lifestyle and no longer even run for fun…reread rule #8

10. Ask for a Recent Picture

I would specifically ask for a picture that wasn’t on their profile so that I could use it as a contact photo in my phone. After meeting one guy who admitted all his pictures were 3 years old (and a hundred pounds lighter), I felt I needed to make sure that didn’t happen again. Having the person who shows up looking nothing like they advertised is such a letdown, and they will often try to make you out to be the villain because you’re no longer interested in dating them.

11. Make Sure They Have a Picture Smiling With Teeth

I’m including this one with the risk of sounding shallow and superficial, but after having dates show up with missing teeth or worse, it became necessary.

12. Try to Arrange a Call or Video Chat Beforehand

Even though it felt like I went on a billion bad dates, it could have been more! After a phone call, you can get a better sense of someone’s personality and how a conversation might go in person. This is not a steadfast rule, some people just don’t like talking on the phone, but there were a myriad of instances where they’d discuss a topic or recount a story that made me know I didn’t want to meet them. I’ve also had them arrange for the call and then be distracted by their environment, and it was a red flag that they couldn’t focus for 10 entire minutes to speak with me.

Choose a first date activity that's short, like grabbing a coffee, so you don't feel stuck with the person if you don't like them.

Choose a first date activity that's short, like grabbing a coffee, so you don't feel stuck with the person if you don't like them.

13. Keep the First Date Short

I sat through many painful dinners before I learned to schedule something that could end quickly, like coffee or drinks. If I suspected the date would go really well, I liked doing something that could then lead to something else if you were enjoying their company. I once met for sunset on the beach, which turned into a nice walk while the stars came out, which turned into dinner, which turned into drinks elsewhere.

14. Meet in a Public Area

Don’t go to someone’s residence or have them pick you up. That just has the potential for disaster, and you don’t want to be reliant on them to get you home or have them bring you somewhere far, and you’re at their mercy.

15. If You Start to Think You’re Being Too Picky, You’re Not

Trying to overlook a negative aspect of someone’s personality just because they have other desirable traits isn’t going to work in the long run. I once had a friend tell me, “You can’t keep dating him just because he’s a good person," and it resonated with me. I, unfortunately, dated several men with serious emotional damage for longer than I should have just because I was sure he would be loyal, and it didn’t go well. Only you can decide what’s important in your partner, and it’s up to you to not settle.

Good Luck!

As my grandmother says, there’s a lid for every pot, and that statement gave me hope throughout the years that I would indeed find my match. I can happily say that for the last two years, I’ve been with my perfect match. If you have great things to offer to someone else, I assure you your person is out there. They might be stuck in a terrible relationship as you read this, or you might meet them tomorrow. I looked for my guy for a long time, and I’m happy I didn’t get stuck with some of the duds I met and were even in brief relationships with. If someone doesn’t enrich your life, don’t be afraid to let go. If it’s not right, it’s just not right!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Marybeth McKeever

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