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7 Ways to Stay Safe while Dating After 50

Copyright © 2014 AARP. All rights reserved.

The safety rules for men and women are different, but they're not as different as you may assume. Both sexes have exposure to risk. Both men and women can meet someone whom they no longer want to interact with but who may have trouble taking no for an answer.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that safety advice is only relevant for online dating. In fact, because online dating has an unjustly bad reputation, people forget that any kind of date with someone you haven't known for a long time has an element of risk. Even dating someone you know well but have never dated may reveal some unpleasant surprises.

Do your due diligence on potential dates

Some problems are avoidable if you do some research on anyone you're interested in before you flirt with him, and certainly before you go out with him. Thanks to the Internet, you have many easy ways to look up someone's background, and sometimes reading between the lines can teach you a lot.

If you find a person's résumé, for example, a string of jobs that lasted only for a short time could indicate instability. Public court records can tell you whether the person was ever convicted of a crime or a DWI. Doing a little junior private-eye work saves you some grief or, better yet, shows that the person is everything he says he is and is worth investing emotion and trust in.

If you're dating someone from outside of the country, it's much harder to do due diligence. Consider hiring a professional to find out more about your date's background.

Know your dating comfort zone

Your gut feelings are important. If someone doesn't feel safe, listen to your instincts and honor them. Yes, you may be wrong, but it's far better not to trust an innocent person than to trust the wrong person and get in a terrible situation. You may not know why you're feeling threatened or cautious, but your instincts are picking up something subtle that your conscious thought pattern hasn't figured out yet.

Even if you aren't getting signals, here are a few wise precautions to take:

  • Don't give your date your home address until you've done your due diligence and feel very reassured. (Jump back to the section “Doing your due diligence” earlier in this chapter for advice on researching your date.)

  • Don't go away on a weekend trip together until you know your date quite well and have all the information you need to feel safe and secure.

  • Don't get in a car with someone — either as a passenger or driver — until you know him or her very well and have a more established relationship.

Sometimes a date will try and talk you out of your decision. For example, he may say, “Hey, I'm just going to drive us to the movie. Don't you trust me even that much?” Your natural reaction may be to give in and get in the car because you don't want any hurt feelings.

But don't do it. A good person will understand that you don't know him well yet and will respect your feelings.

Refuse to be isolated

The world has a few sociopaths, and you don't want to meet them. And if you do, you don't want to be alone with them. What does “alone” constitute?

  • Taking a walk in a secluded park

  • Visiting your place or his place

  • Going on a car ride with just the two of you

  • Walking to your car in an empty or busy parking lot

  • Meeting out in the country

You get the idea — avoid any place that people can't hear you or wouldn't know you were in trouble. There's no need to be paranoid — most people want the best for you — but these guidelines cover the ones who don't as well.

Refrain from ever giving anyone money

Your date should never ask you for money. You may feel that such an attitude is hardhearted, but the fact is that 99.9 percent of money requests, heart-rending as they may be, are scams that were always the point of the relationship for that person.

There are thousands and thousands of scammers — so many, in fact, that the U.S. Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management has been going to meetings to warn Americans about various ways people prey on others. You need to be savvy because many of these scammers specifically target older men and women.

Protect against the dangers of alcohol

People shouldn't consume alcohol when they're planning to drive, but traffic accidents aren't all you have to worry about when it comes to alcohol. Drinking lowers inhibitions and makes it hard to make wise choices.

Even a little bit of drinking loosens your natural instinct for editing what you say. You lose oversight of the situation, and you add that lack of objectivity to nerves and the result can fatally undermine a chance of a second get-together.

Drinking too much makes at least two things more likely: more disclosure and more sex. Neither is safe, and far too many promising beginnings have been compromised early on by getting in too deep too quickly.

Depending on your weight, even one drink can cause some impairment in judgment. So any alcohol at all may change you enough to make a difference in how the date works out.

Watch out for mood swings

Sometimes, people with mood swings (or, in a more extreme example, bipolar disorder) are among the most attractive people on earth. In their manic or most happy and energetic states, they're fun, funny, full of life, and captivating.

But this condition usually has another side — either extreme lows or depressive cycles that are a lot less fun to be around. Some people can control this with medication, but if they don't medicate or work on this problem in therapy, they can be a handful.

Look for patterns in a person's more manic periods. Is his intense energy commensurate with what's happening around him? For example, if he's doing a happy dance at midnight for no good reason, chances are this kind of energy is manic rather than the result of anything happening between the two of you.

Worry about jealousy and possessiveness

Jealousy and possessiveness are a serious red flag for both men and women. You've heard the stories, but perhaps you don't think such a bad situation could happen to you. After all, you're loyal and straightforward, and when you commit to someone, the person has nothing to worry about. Right?

But that's rational thinking, and pathologically jealous people aren't rational. If they like you and you encourage them, their insecure ego will start bothering them almost immediately. They'll become suspicious every time you're unavailable or you go out with friends, or even when you spend time with your children or grandchildren!

Real stalking or telephoning multiple times a day to check up on you is rare but not unheard of. You have to nip it in the bud or it can flower into a man-eating plant.

Men may not take a woman's jealousy seriously, which is a mistake. A woman who won't let go, is extremely jealous, and pursues you is no laughing matter. She could be dangerous or disrupt other dates and scare off someone you're interested in. A jealous person, male or female, is to be avoided.

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