First date jitters can be electrifying. When you’re about to go have dinner or drinks with someone new, you might experience a range of emotions — excitement, nerves, and maybe even a bit of apprehension. But if you have a feeling in your gut that something isn’t right, it could mean something more concerning is going on. Unfortunately, some people exhibit suspicious dating behaviors, which is why safety is of utmost importance when you’re meeting and dating new people.
For the most part, you should feel free to date without anxiety or stress about your wellbeing. But at the same time, it’s a sad truth that not everyone has good intentions — so it’s important to be prepared in case you need to remove yourself from a situation. “Dating safety is so important,” says online dating expert Julie Spira. I talked to Spira to learn about some of the most common ways people exhibit sketchy behaviors on dating apps and IRL. You know, the actions that aren’t necessarily dangerous, but could lead to an unsafe situation down the road if left unaddressed. And thankfully, Spira has some super useful tips to help protect yourself.
As you’re swiping through apps and setting up dates, look out for these concerning red flags.
1. Your date is overly aggressive or negative.
This doesn’t just apply to physically aggressive behavior — people can be just as hostile with their words. “When you're on a date or [chatting] with someone who criticizes you, or seems to have a negative or harsh tone, politely end the conversation,” Spira suggests. This could happen if someone is firing questions at you without sharing anything about themselves, or if they accuse you of not looking like your online photos.
“They could potentially have anger-management issues, and if so, I say run,” Spira says. You don’t want to associate yourself with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable or bad about yourself in any way.
2. The conversation gets sexual too fast.
Everyone has a different pace at which they’re comfortable introducing sexual undertones into an early relationship. If you’re messaging with someone, and they insist that you sext them before you’re ready to (after you've told them that), this is concerning. “If someone sends you messages that you're sexy [or] hot, and asks you questions about anything to do with sex,” Spira explains that you should never feel obligated to answer. “[If] they're looking for a hookup, and that's not your dating goal, take a pass, swipe left, and move on to someone else who will respect you.”
Boundaries are crucial in any relationship, and they look different for each person. You want a partner who can talk through boundaries with you and show respect for your wishes and desires — so if someone can’t do that, they’re not worth your time.
3. Your date drinks excessively the first few times you meet.
First of all, Spira says, you should never get in a car with someone who’s had too much to drink. To avoid getting into a potentially risky scenario, she suggests being your own ride to the date. “I recommend taking your own vehicle [and] limiting alcoholic beverages to only one,” Spira explains. Drinking in excess can also lead to situations where sexual consent can’t be given, so if you plan on potentially hooking up later, you definitely want to be mindful of how much you've each had to drink.
4. Your date is getting really serious about you… and you haven’t even met yet.
It’s natural to be excited about someone. But if the person you’re talking says they’re head-over-heels for you, and they barely know anything about you, that’s not normal. “If someone tries to rush the relationship, especially before you've even met, and they say they've never felt this way before, it's a sign that they could jump in and out of relationships fast,” Spira explains. It’s also a sign they could be possessive, which is a sign of potentially toxic behavior.
5. Your date asks you too many personal questions.
There’s no reason you need to divulge everything about your life on a first date. “I believe in honesty, but rationing your information flow,” Spira says. “You don't need to provide your last name, where you live, and exactly where you work on a first date. There are so many one-and-done dates, so if the date goes south, the last thing you'd want is to have a bad date show up at your door.”
If you’re with someone who insists on learning everything about you, it’s perfectly OK to tell them you’re not ready to share your whole life right away. If they’re rational and respectful, they’ll understand and allow you to maintain your privacy.
6. Your date orders your drinks and brings them to you.
This one may not seem super obvious, but I think it’s important to mention. If you’re out for drinks, and your date orders them at the bar in a spot you can’t see clearly, there’s a chance they could slip something in your drink without you noticing. To protect yourself, always get your own drinks, or at least walk to the bar with your date so you can grab your drink directly from the bartender.
7. Your date doesn’t want to meet in a public place.
There’s a time and place to hang out privately. A first date is not that time and place. “Remember to meet in a public place, and have a BFF as your off-site wing girl or wing guy,” Spira advises. “Send them a text to give a thumbs up or thumbs down about your date.” It’s always smart to tell a friend where you’re going and who you’ll be with.
If a date is ever making you feel uncomfortable or scared, you have every right to leave the situation as soon as possible. “Trust your intuition,” Spira says. “There's a reason your gut feels there's something wrong. If you're feeling unsafe, either cancel the date or leave early.” Call a ride share, text your friend to come get you — whatever you need to do to remove yourself from an unsafe scenario.
You owe no one an explanation for why you choose to stop talking to them after things get questionable. In the case of harassment, Spira says you can always block the person’s profile and report them to the app. “Know that all of us in the dating industry take dating safety seriously,” she explains. You deserve to feel safe, respected, and in control of your own experience, no matter what kind of relationship you’re looking for.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.