Online dating is scary for some people who are shy or new to the dating scene after a long time away from it. And eventually, there comes a time when communicating online isn’t enough – and the other person (or you) wants to meet offline.
You want it to go smoothly, but there are some things you can do to ensure safety, a good time, and a positive experience.
How Soon Should You Meet Offline?
Everyone will have a different comfort level when it comes to moving from online chat or email to an in-person date. And the man or woman you’re communicating with could be moving at a must faster or slower speed than you want them to.
You’ll need to be patient with this (and make sure they’re patient with you) because pressuring someone into a meeting is never a good thing. It will probably end badly.
Some people are going to find a match and immediately want to meet up for a casual, light date to talk in person and see if there’s a connection there.
Others will want to develop a deep connection before they plan to meet in person. Have you ever seen the movie, “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?
Some people (especially those new to online dating) may think that it’s impossible to develop true feelings for someone you’ve never met. But many people begin sharing things and forming a strong bond with each other just through text, and possibly phone conversations.
Do you want to just meet quickly (kind of like tearing off a band-aid), or give yourself time to see if an in-person meeting will even be worth it.
Be honest with the person you’re communicating with. Don’t ridicule them if they’re shy about meeting. At the same time, try to analyze the situation to see if perhaps you’re being played (maybe someone’s married and just messing around online with no intention of pursuing a romantic relationship).
When the time comes that you feel right about initiating in person communication, just ask casually, like this:
“Hey it would be great if we could meet up sometimes offline – are you cool with that, or do you prefer to take a little more time?”
Don’t start demanding things, like, “I MUST meet you in person by he end of the week – I can’t STAND being away from you any longer.”
This can be creepy and startling to the other person.
Safety Is Your #1 Priority – for Men and Women!
When you do decide to meet off of the site, never ever have the person come to your home to meet you.
Now you men may be reading this and laughing, but don’t discount the fact that there are women in the world who will drug your drink and steal your possessions.
So meet in a public place, like a restaurant or high traffic public park or other destination. It’s not just your address that you don’t want to give out, either. Don’t meet them at their home – even if their first date idea involves cooking for you.
Make sure someone knows where you’re going and who you’re meeting (from which online dating site). If you want to, jot a note down next to your computer so that if anything did happen, police would know where to look.
Never get intoxicated during your first date with the person you’re meeting. Keep an eye on your drink – don’t leave it to go to the bathroom. If you do, have the bartender get you a new one.
Also take your purse or wallet with you if you go anywhere so that your date can’t look up your driver’s license address or take things from you without you knowing about it.
After the date, don’t let them drive you home – even if it went well. You still don’t know this person well enough to be showing them your home address, so take a cab or drive yourself and make sure you aren’t being followed.
Some of these tips may seem a bit paranoid, but it’s better to be overly cautious than take a risk. The people on the dating site know you’re single – and you don’t want to dangle yourself out there like bait if there happens to be a savvy shark in the dating waters, do you?
The most important thing is to trust your intuition. If you feel creepy about this person, end the date right then and there. Don’t prolong it and wait to see if something might happen.
Perfect First Date Ideas
The first date is going to depend on the two of you to a big degree. There is no “one size fits all.” There are some common places you can choose for a first date, but there are also some neat special first date ideas that could suit your style even more!
If you want to meet for a quick date, then try your local coffee shop. Some people like to meet for a Frappachino and to have a little discussion over iced coffee before moving on to a date that lasts longer than 30 minutes.
You may even want to see if your local Barnes and Noble has a Starbucks in it so that you can meet to find a new book and have something to discuss on your date, too!
If you’re already determined to have a romantic date, then by all means go all out with a romantic restaurant meal. Italian restaurants often have a nice ambiance.
If you’d like to keep conversation to a minimum, try going to see a movie together! This way you’ll meet and chat for a little before it starts, and then get to chat a little when it’s over (maybe even go for ice cream afterwards if you want the conversation to continue).
If you’re both the outdoorsy type, then meet at a local outdoor activity like a public park or nature center. See if your area has a botanic garden for a beautiful setting.
If the arts are a big part of your lives, check out the museum showings. Or pick up a free magazine usually found in your grocery store entrance, to see what music activities are happening that week.
If you both have dogs, see if there’s a dog park in your area. If there’s not, just plan to take your pets to a park and meet up. Make sure you feel safe having your dog around their dog, if either happens to be an aggressive animal.
If you each have friends who know about the meeting, why not suggest a double date? Or even a platonic group setting? You don’t want too many people there who might start having fun with your situation. Just one wingman each would do the trick if anxiety levels are high.
If you’re both daredevils, see if you can schedule something amazing – like a hot air balloon ride, rock climbing, or even a jump out of an airplane!
Breaking the Ice When Conversation Stalls
Now sometimes there can be a drawback to waiting too long to meet your online dating match in person. If you keep the conversation going via chat and phone for too many weeks or months, you wind up with little to say in person when you finally do have that first date!
Some of the dates will automatically inspire conversation. For example, if you go to a museum together, you can provide your commentary on the exhibit pieces you’re seeing.
Make sure you don’t make all of the conversation about you. You show someone you care by asking about them, too. But don’t take it too personally if they don’t extend the same courtesy.
Some people are just so nervous on a first date that they blurt out things without thinking.
You can ask questions about the other person – their favorite things, for example. But don’t get too intimate and ask something embarrassing or something they may want to keep private.
This may be a time when you’re sizing up a future together, but you don’t want to interrogate them with questions like, “How many kids do you want? What kind of money do you make? Do you want to meet my parents?”
It’s okay to be nervous (and to admit that) but just try to take a deep breath and maintain that happy balance between being too shy and reserved and overly hyper and demanding.
Ending the First Date and Deciding If There Will Be a Second
Ending a first date should never be decided ahead of time. You never want to say that you have to be home by 10 because that prevents you from leaving at 9 if you want to.
Don’t have a friend text you with an emergency or tell them you’re going to the restroom, only to disappear. Be a grown up and respectful about it and just kindly say something like, “I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m feeling like maybe we ought to go ahead and say goodbye tonight because it appears we aren’t a great match.”
When you meet your online dating contacts, some will be absolutely fantastic matches, some will be nightmares, and some in between. You will have an easy time deciding about the horror stories, but if the date was just “okay,” you’ll need to decide If there should be another on the horizon.
You may want to give it one more shot if you feel there could be something there. First dates are made fun of because they’re often awkward, so a second attempt could prove more fruitful.
On the other hand, if there’s no spark and you feel like it would be pointless, don’t drag it out and make them suffer.
Online dating is a wonderful thing that connects people all over the world to like-minded individuals. Like offline dating, you have to try new things and step out of your comfort zone, but it puts in place a barrier of protection for you initially that the offline world can’t provide and allows you to analyze a prospective partner based on more than looks!