Dating and Relationship Advice

Ding. You have a new dating app match. After messaging back and forth, you realize how much you like them — and you want more. It can be difficult to know when you should meet your match in real life.

Should you do it on the first date? At what point, exactly, is it a good (and safe) idea to meet your match in real life? How do you decide when the time is right to take the leap from virtual connection to IRL connections?

Signs you’re ready to meet up

If taking the next step feels natural, that’s a good sign. “You’ve been comfortable enough communicating virtually that you feel like it’s time to take it up a notch and test your compatibility in person,” said Chris Pleines, a dating expert from

You want to be in a place where you trust them and are curious about a potential relationship. “Dating safety is a priority when connecting with singles online, so investing time and trust in a match means that a special relationship has formed between you two,” Pleines said. “This relationship is new and needs to be explored, and meeting up is one way to see where it might be heading.”

You don’t have to feel completely comfortable, though; it’s understandable you may feel a bit nervous. “[That’s] far different from the ‘I need to be on guard’ feeling that comes when red flags are lurking,” explained Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and the author of "Date Smart."

Uh oh… let’s talk about the warning signs

So what are red flags?

Before meeting in person, be mindful of what they say. Listen to your gut feelings.

If they ask you for money, say “I love you” before meeting you, talk about their exes incessantly, or won’t send you pictures of themselves, an in-person date may not be a good idea, Pleines said. It could be unsatisfying at best — and, unfortunately, dangerous at worst.

These signs could signal they aren’t who they say they are, are using you, or aren’t ready for a relationship.

The way they treat you before the date is an important piece to pay attention to, as well.

“It’s a serious red flag if a potential date exerts pressure and ignores your personal boundaries,” Manly said.

Another red flag she mentioned is disrespect. “If someone doesn’t have sufficient EQ [emotional intelligence] to show respect while you’re in the ‘getting to know each other’ phase, it’s likely that the level of disrespect will actually worsen over time,” Manly explained.

Additionally, look out for dishonest and jealous behavior. If inconsistencies arise, or they seem controlling early on, take notice. “Transparency helps build safe connection, so if a potential date isn’t willing to be honest and open about basic issues, it’s likely that trust or secrecy issues are at work,” Manly said.

When ‘should’ this happen?

You may wonder what length of time before meeting someone is “normal.” But remember, what’s most important is comfort level — something that differs in each person.

“Never jeopardize your safety in any given situation,” Pleines urged. “Always remember that relationships are not instant.”

Manly recommended paying attention to your intentions, too. “Sometimes, a resistance to meeting in person is simply a result of being cautious,” she said. “However, if you sense that you’re resistant to meeting for other reasons — whether you [have] unresolved issues from a past relationship or you simply don’t think you’re interested in someone — take the time to explore what’s going on inside.”

When you listen to and respect your needs, you can help ensure you and your match have the best date possible — and when you're ready.

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