Dating is one of life’s great joys. That ‘butterfly in the stomach’ feeling when you’re meeting someone new, the excitement of not knowing where that connection will take you and whether sparks might actually fly. Will they become your future partner, someone to enjoy some spontaneous fun with or a close friend? Whatever path it takes, dating should always be fun and safe.
Below are some steps to consider when dating, both to keep yourself safe, but also being aware of the impact your behaviour may have on others.
Dating Guide Part 1: Dating Apps
1. You, you, you!
Before creating an online dating profile or account, take a step back and think about yourself. What’s important to you? Get to know yourself better. Consider your boundaries, your values etc. This can all help to build confidence as you ‘put yourself out there’.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. It’s well documented that people are more attracted to authenticity. But that doesn’t mean that you need to share EVERYTHING. Just like in real life, be cautious of what you share digitally. For example, do people really need to know the street you live in? As with any digital profile, you can put yourself out there without putting ALL of yourself out there.
When you do create that profile, be honest about your age and use authentic photos. You’ll be quickly found out if you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, unlikely to lead to success, as well as potentially getting you banned from the dating app.
2. Respect Starts From the First Match
Be interested to be interesting. The questions you ask, the way you ask them and when you ask them can be important. Be upfront but be mindful not to ask intrusive or uncomfortable questions.
Everyone’s boundaries are different, yet we can all agree that there are lines we should not cross. Don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the track.
Whether said as jokes or pick up lines, messages that use racist, sexist, homophobic, or able-ist language will always fall flat. What’s more, apps such as Tinder go further and have built-in tech features such as ‘Are You Sure’ that will detect any language in messages that you’re about to send that might be deemed as inappropriate. Pause and think about how the other person will receive your question/message. If you have any doubts— don’t send it.
Equally, don’t feel responsible for how someone else reacts to the boundary you’ve set. If you’ve received an inappropriate message or experienced bad behaviour, don’t be afraid to report it. Aside from all the built-in safety features, dating apps are online communities and rely on their members reporting to create a better experience for all.
Don’t be afraid to take a break. Don’t put pressure on yourself. If you’re not feeling it, take a break from dating and concentrate on yourself, doing something that makes you happy.
3. Let’s Talk About Sex…. But When?
Many daters find talking about sex too early can turn them off— don’t get caught out by asking too soon or too much. Let your match guide the conversation too and you’ll find that happy balance. And let’s be honest, some matches might not even get to the sex talk stage. For some joining a dating app may be their first step into their own sexual discovery. You might find you are spending more of your time talking about your favorite Netflix show— which is totally fine. The end goal isn’t always to get between the sheets!
Talking about sex and intimacy is all part of healthy communication with a partner— just hold off until you’ve established trust and feel comfortable with them. And most importantly, just hold off until you’ve established trust, feel comfortable with them and feel it’s right for you and your match.
Healthy, happy chatting starts and end with respecting boundaries; whether that’s the topic of conversation, the pace of getting to know each other, the frequency of messaging, sexual preferences or knowing when to say goodbye.
4. Practice Reading ‘Red Flags’
Practice reading a profile for potential ‘red flags’ including lack of information, unclear photos, and profile text that indicates sexism, racism, and other undesirable qualities. The majority of people on dating apps will be looking for a new connection however, there are people that may create profiles with bad intent.
A very obvious red flag is if anyone mentions money in their profile or anyone you match with starts discussing money and the fact that they need some (urgently). Regardless of how much of a ‘Romeo’ or ‘Juliet’ they are, always err on the side of caution: where money features as a topic of conversation.
To help you, many dating apps now have photo verification tools to ensure that the photo actually marries to the person. On Tinder, verified photos are shown with a little blue tick and this is worth keeping in mind when looking for potential suitors! There’s even a function on Tinder where you can choose to only view profiles that have been verified.
Try and stay on the app. Many apps have reviewing tools to keep their members safe, but if the conversations move onto other social platforms, it makes it harder for dating apps to help to keep you safe.
And ultimately, whether a connection starts on a dating app or IRL, the rules are the same. Look after number one, which is YOU!
5. Know When to Say Goodbye (and Say it Well…)
So you’ve matched, you had a chat, perhaps even a video call, but it’s just not happening for you. How is the point that you need to let your match know- eeek!
A few points:
Do it in an appropriate and respectful way, give direct feedback, but above all, be kind. And remember, no one likes a ghost!
However, there are times when a swift goodbye is best. If you feel uncomfortable or are unhappy with your match’s behaviour, trust your gut and know that some situations merit an immediate unmatch or block and report.
And if you’re on the receiving end of a ‘goodbye’, especially if it’s an unexpected one— take a step back. Everyone, and we mean everyone, will get rejected at some point in their life— it’s part of the dating journey. But as hard and emotionally upsetting as it is, leave the insults out, don’t try to change their mind and remember that they don’t owe you anything.
6. You’ve got this!
Fundamentally dating is all about you. Regardless of whether it’s via a dating app, or IRL.
Safety is always key.
If you wouldn’t do it IRL, don’t do it digitally.
For all dating apps, get familiar with their community rules and lean into safety tools (such as Tinder’s block contacts or its safety centre). And remember this is all about you. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!
Dating Guide Part 2: Dating IRL
1. Get Digital Before You Get Physical
Whether you met via a dating app, were introduced by a friend of a friend or bumped into each other at a bar, consider taking advantage of using ‘tech’ to get to know each other better before going on a date. It could be a video chat, or a chat over social. Thanks to the past few years we’ve now all become masters of digital meetings. Use this new found skill for your dating life too to get to know your potential IRL date. Also, from the pandemic we’ve seen the introduction of ‘slow dating’ so don’t be under any pressure to date IRL until you’re ready to.
2. It’s a Date That More Than Two Have in Their Diary
The conversations have been had, and now it’s time to meet IRL (#excitingtimes). Although this might be a date for two, that should never stop you from sharing details of your date with your friends or family. Let them know where you’re going and who you’re meeting. That doesn’t mean that you need to broadcast it across all socials (unless you really want to), but tell your trusted wingmate at least. That wingmate that you can always turn to for honest advice and someone that would never redirect you to voicemail.
As emails and texts overflow out of our smartphones, share your date details straight to their electronic calendar, so you know that they’ve got it. NEVER be afraid to do that cheeky toilet call/text while on your date to let them know how the date is going. And importantly, should details about your date change whether that be location time or something else, keep your wingmate updated. There’s no such thing as over-communication.
3. Having Your IRL Date in a Public Place
This is your date as much as it is theirs. Always do what is comfortable for you. And if it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right.
For a date venue, select a public place. The date doesn’t have to be dinner and it also avoids the awkward ‘who’s paying moment’. The most successful dates are often opportunities where you can really talk and get to know each other better to see if there are really sparks. With the cost of living going up and up and freetime going down and down, perhaps suggest a lunchtime walk or even a coffee? If they’re genuinely interested, they’ll want to meet you and won’t care that it’s not a fancy three course meal. For the first date, select somewhere that’s populated and that you know, which will also help you to relax.
4. It’s Not a Job Interview; It’s a Date, Keep it Authentic!
The butterflies are kicking in, and suddenly thoughts turn to what do I wear, hair, make up etc etc etc. Chill. Remember, this is a first date, it’s not a job interview. There’s a reason why you’ve both agreed to an IRL date— you both like each other and you’re keen to know more.
More and more we’re seeing insights that show that ‘be the real you’ is becoming more important. Filters on social are being challenged, just take Sasha Pallari’s #filterdrop campaign. While, Tinder’s Future of Dating Report (March 2020) showed that 48% of 18- 25 year olds admitted they are looking for a partner that is honest, authentic and truly themselves.
5. You’re in Control (At All Times!)
Just like matching via a dating app, remind yourself of your own values— what’s important to you. Never feel the pressure to do or be someone you’re not. For example, if you don’t want to drink, don’t. Also, don’t feel obligated to share your personal details whilst you’re still getting to know each other.
As charming and brilliant as they may appear to be, take your time. There’s no rush to jump into anything you’re not ready for. Make it clear from the beginning and be transparent. There’s nothing wrong in outlining your intentions from the outset and ensuring you’re on the same page.
And if you need help, there are programmes running in certain bars in the UK, such as ‘Ask for Angela‘ that has been launched by the Met Police and other regional forces. This enables anyone to discreetly remove themselves or ask for help from an unwanted situation.
Consider not just the beginning of the date, but the end too. Maintain your independence (and the freedom to flee), consider using public transport, a lift from your mum or treat yourself to a taxi. And continue to keep people updated with your whereabouts.
6. Knowing What ‘Yes’ Actually Is
A key element of dating is physical attraction. If the dates have been doing well you might be heading towards getting to know each other physically. It’s never a race and both parties need to feel comfortable. Communications is key.
It’s crucial for everyone to understand what consent actually is in order to have healthy respectful relationships with themselves and others.
At NO MORE we feel strongly that you must be comfortable and that all parties have actively consented for any sexual activity to happen. Consent is fundamentally about getting permission for any intimate activity. If at any point you’re unclear, ask. Always ask, never assume. Consent is based on mutual respect. You have a responsibility to respect their boundaries, and they must respect yours.
7. Quit the Pressure of a Great Date!
The first date is in the bag! Congrats! There’s no set rule on when to contact them again or how to ‘play it cool’. But if it wasn’t for you, let them know. It doesn’t need to be rude, but clear and kind. Treat your date how you want to be treated. However, if at any point you felt unsafe or uncomfortable, know that you can say goodbye. You owe them nothing. You made no commitment.
Healthy relationships start with healthy dating. Respecting boundaries, listening and being able to laugh together help build the foundation for a rewarding and fulfilling relationship, whether this is a friendship or a long term partnership.
Dating is a two way thing and needs to work for both parties. Don’t force it. And take the pressure off yourself. We’ve moved on from the position that the ultimate goal in life is getting married and having 2.5 children. Today relationships take many different forms. And you need to find what works for you.