For all the ways that technology has made dating easy—winking across cyberspace is way less intimidating than striking up a conversation with a stranger—it’s also created a bunch of minefields that may cause potential romance to explode. How do you handle the trickiest situations? Here’s help navigating the war zone.
1. Premature Facebook Friend-ification. You’ve been there: She friends you on Facebook…and you’re not quite there yet. But in the early days of dating, it’s fine to ignore, says Laurie Davis, dating coach and author of Love at First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating. While some people friend everyone they’ve said hi to, others are cautious about adding a person to their network until they really know them. Another option? Put her on a restricted list, so she only sees a limited profile. “Until you’ve had the exclusivity talk, there’s no obligation to let each other into your online worlds,” says Davis. As for Twitter and Instagram, only follow back if you like her. Because these two social networks are so informal, following or not following doesn’t have any major significance.
2. The Google Bombshell. Maybe she’s been married in the past. Maybe she has a kid. Or maybe she is the enthusiastic moderator of a “millions of cats” message board. Whatever you find, don’t bring it up until she does. “Although it’s a given that everyone Googles each other, if you confront her about it, she’ll feel defensive.” Give it ‘til around date three or four—that’s when major info should be revealed. If she remains silent, try steering the conversation toward the topic—she’ll get the hint. “If she’s still tight-lipped, it’s a sign she may not see the relationship as having the same long-term potential you do,” says Davis.
3. Mixed (Text) Messages. So you sent her a text…that you meant to send to the other girl you’re dating. It’s not ideal, but mistakes happen. “The worst you can do is over-explain,” says Whitney Casey, a relationship expert for Match.com. If the text was innocuous like “see you at 8 at Corner Bar,” you can turn it into an opportunity for flirtation by saying something like, “oops, guess my phone’s thinking about you. Wrong text!” If it’s something more obvious like, “still thinking about our kiss from last night,” apologize with a joke: "My phone wants to make me look like jerk. So sorry for the misfired text" … and be prepared for a conversation about exclusivity. “In the early days of dating, both parties should assume the other is dating around until things become more serious,” reminds Davis.
4. Caught OK-Cupiding. Did she ask you why you’re still checking your online dating profile? She’s obviously trying to get a sense of how invested you are in the relationship, so don’t lead her on, warns Davis. If you feel put on the spot, explain that you had a few messages you needed to check. But if it’s been more than a few dates, then it’s time to seriously assess whether or not you’re into the possibility of a long-term relationship. Not sure? “Keep it real by letting her know you’re having a great time getting to know her, but you’re not ready for the exclusivity talk,” says Casey.
5. The Tabletop Text. Your phone—stupidly sitting out next to your beer—lights up, and her gaze flicks over. You wonder whether you should let her know who it’s from. Short answer: No. “If she asks directly, then just say something noncommittal and flirty, like 'Wouldn’t you like to know?'” But if she always seems suspicious of your texts or is always prying for information about whether you’re dating other people, it could be a red flag that the suspicion and insecurity would continue if you were to pursue a more serious relationship. (Oh, and a word of advice: keep your phone in your pocket, genius.)