The natural next step is to meet each other IRL (in real life!) if you’ve been messaging online and the interest is there If you connect offline, and see. Figuring out the appropriate timing can present a variety of challenges, especially if you and your potential date have differing expectations, comfort levels, and preferences regarding pace and timing.

When evaluating the right time to meet, it is equally important to determine if you actually want to meet the person in the first place. Tuning into how someone treats you online aids you in making smart decisions about meeting or screening out a potential date.

Here are four strategies to guide you in determining if and when you should meet someone in person:

1. When planning first dates, put your safety first by being aware of red flags and being smart.

Check in with yourself about how online communication with a potential date feels. Meet in a public place for the first time (instead of being picked up or having a first date in your home). Regardless of how tempting it may be to meet in a private place or take your date back to your home, it’s worth it to pace yourself and move slow as you get to know each other.

2. If you need to), Use online encounters as information about a potential partner (and screen out.

Overly sexual comments often suggest that your potential date is looking for a casual hook-up, expects sex early on, or has boundary issues. Give yourself permission to decline a first date while also reminding yourself to stay open and give people chances (this can be a tricky line to navigate).

3. Make sure you are comfortable, but meet as soon as possible.
The goal is to figure out what makes you feel the most comfortable while making meeting a priority if you are potentially interested. I am not a fan of rigid dating rules regarding timing and I believe it is most important to assess your own comfort level and make decisions from an empowered, open place. Know that waiting too long to schedule a first meeting can result in disappointment and wasted time, so it’s better to meet sooner than later.

4. Don’t allow yourself to be strung along (and don’t string along others either).

Online dating etiquette can feel complicated, but do your best to follow your gut, make mindful decisions (and not impulsive, anxious ones), and screen out potential matches exhibiting red flags. Be engaging in your messages and follow through with dating planning to ensure you are not only getting dates, but are creating opportunities to meet people with similar values and relationship goals. Above all, be smart and know your worth!

It’s one thing to take your time getting to know each other by messaging back and forth prior to date planning, but it’s a bad sign if going on a date is brought up but no action is taken and plans to meet aren’t materializing. If you vaguely invite someone on a date with you for Saturday night in a message that Tuesday, but then your potential date doesn’t hear from you until Saturday morning to firm up plans, you may not get the date. If you do end up getting the date, this person may have spent Tuesday through Saturday wondering what your deal was, assuming you weren’t serious about dating, or feeling anxious.

It’s one thing to take your time getting to know each other by messaging back and forth prior to date planning, but it’s a bad sign if going on a date is brought up but no action is taken and plans to meet aren’t materializing. Be courteous, respectful and responsible by not leaving potential dates wondering and hanging if you are ever going to actually meet. If you vaguely invite someone on a date with you for Saturday night in a message that Tuesday, but then your potential date doesn’t hear from you until Saturday morning to firm up plans, you may not get the date. If you do end up getting the date, this person may have spent Tuesday through Saturday wondering what your deal was, assuming you weren’t serious about dating, or feeling anxious. Be engaging in your messages and follow through with dating planning to ensure you are not only getting dates, but are creating opportunities to meet people with similar values and relationship goals.

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