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How to Stay Safe While Dating

Follow these tips to stay safe during your first few encounters with someone new

4. Call for backup, Part 1. If a coffee date shows up with a bad attitude, a bad temper or a foul mouth, head for the door. Do likewise if he talks about becoming sexual after 15 minutes, or attempts to corral you into a relationship. If you feel truly threatened, explain the situation to the cafe manager and ask him or her to walk you to your car.

5. Call for backup, Part 2. I was enjoying a second date at a restaurant when my companion took a call during dinner. I was pretty sure I knew what was going on.

"I'm just fine," she told the caller, then stowed the phone with an apologetic smile.

"What would your friend have done if you hadn't picked up?" I asked her.

"She had instructions to call the police," she replied.

Good tip. Smart woman.

6. Ask the right questions. Certain queries can reveal a lot of info in a short amount of time about a person you've just met. You might ask, for example, if your date has close friends: A "yes" indicates he or she is capable of connecting with others; a "no" suggests a lack of intimacy skills.

7. Be safe at home. As I learned the hard way with my would-be Glenn Close, it's unwise to welcome anyone into your abode unless you know them well. If you're unsure, consider asking another couple to join you.

My current girlfriend (whom I met online, by the way) invited me into her home after only our second date. I accepted, thanking her for her trust, but later mentioned that she could have been putting herself at risk.

We all want to believe the best about people, but a date you don't really know deserves only a modicum of trust. So rather than rolling the dice when it comes to your personal safety, try following the steps above. Who knows? They might even be a shortcut to finding the right person out there.

Note: Dating services' official rules for dating online are located under their websites' terms of use. They suggest appropriate behavior, but screening is minimal — so I strongly urge you to use the tips above to create your own safety zone. Keep in mind that you can block any other member if you ever start to feel that safety is an issue.

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