If you’re considering dating after domestic violence, one venue for meeting a partner is a bit more 21st century than bumping into someone at the bar. It’s the same place where you’ve started managing bank accounts, reading the news, and selling your old stuff: the internet.
Some people shy away from the idea of online dating, but in today’s tech-driven world, it’s no longer as awkward as you may have thought. It can be a comfortable way to get to know someone before meeting him or her in person.
If you’re considering turning to a dating website to meet new people, it’s important to remember a few safety tips as well as red flags to look out for.
Read the warning signs
In the wake of Manti Te’o’s online girlfriend hoax, the term “catfishing” has become synonymous with someone making up an online identity to trick people into a relationship. The potential to be duped shouldn’t deter anyone from online dating — but if you’re just beginning to meet people online, trusting your instinct is important.
There are some warning signs that might indicate that the person you’re speaking with is less than genuine, has questionable intentions or is already involved/married. Some of these signs could be:
- Not posting any pictures of themselves online, or posting only a dark picture that is difficult to see
- Contacting you only irregularly/off and on
- Asking for your phone number but refusing to give you theirs
- Showing reluctance to meet up in person, even after lots of online correspondence
- Telling a lot of different stories or facts that don’t quite “add up”
Set boundaries online and date safely
If you’re suspicious of a photo, try doing a “reverse image search” on Google Images to see if these photos are coming up elsewhere on the Internet. To do a reverse image search, click and drag a photo into the search box on Google Images. Learn more on this type of search.
Create a separate e-mail account with a free service like Gmail to use just for your online dating activity. If an address is required to register for a site, consider getting a post office box instead of using your home address.
Install a free “privacy checker” on your computer and check privacy standards of the dating website that you are using.
Pay attention to your own online presence. Double check the privacy settings on social networking sites you use to see how much info about yourself is available to the public. Just as you may be looking up a potential date, it’s possible that they will be doing the same.
Be honest when filling out your profile, but avoid giving out personal information (phone number, address, full name). If you’re chatting/e-mailing with a potential date, don’t give out too much personal info in your messages — a good rule of thumb is to stay on a first name basis until the first date.
Remember that your online profile isn’t the right place to divulge personal info about your past relationships. There will be plenty of time after your first date to share more personal information.
If you have children, think about keeping them and your dating life separate for their own safety. While you may choose to list that you have children on your profile, avoid posting photos of them.
If you’re skeptical about something an online admirer is telling you, ask a friend. An outside perspective can be very helpful if something doesn’t feel right.
Consider talking on the phone before an in-person date. Give out your cell number instead of home or work phone numbers, or use a public phone.
If you do decide to meet someone “offline” and in person, there are safe dating tips to keep in mind such as meeting in a public place and having backup in the form of a friend to call.
Find a reputable site that works for you
Online dating allows you to be selective from the get-go. Many dating websites cost money to use, but this often means the people you’ll find on the site are as committed to finding a date as you are. Here are some that we know to be widely used:
HowAboutWe: It boasts over 1,000,000 users and has been transforming traditional first dates for users. To get started, just post a date idea beginning with the words “How about we…”
AARP Dating: They’ve partnered with HowAboutWe to make their own site for the older generation, which makes online dating all about getting offline. The site even offers clever first date ideas: “How about we go to a museum and take turns pretending to be a tour guide — we’ll just make it all up.”
Match: The most well known dating site, which claims that it’s responsible for more dates, relationships and marriages than any other dating site. It’s more geared toward middle-aged and older daters than sites like OkCupid. Match emphasizes safe online and offline dating.
Single Parent Match, Christian Mingle and JDate are just a few examples of the many “niche” sites geared toward people with specific interests or beliefs who are looking to date a specific type of person.
Thinking what you want in a potential partner can be a good first step when you’re beginning online dating. This will help you write your profile accordingly and look for potential “matches.” Remember to practice safe dating both on and offline, and most importantly: Have fun!