If your both feel secure, you can get to know each other without distractions (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Before a first date, you’re likely worrying about what to wear and hoping there’s chemistry.
For women who date men, these jitters are tinged with something darker; the fear that the person you’re meeting up with may be pushy, aggressive, or even violent.
These fears aren’t unfounded. British backpacker Grace Millane was murdered in New Zealand by a Tinder date. Usha Patel was beaten to death in her home by a man she met online, all while her child slept upstairs. Teacher Katie Locke was subjected to a ‘forceful and prolonged’ attack before being killed by her PlentyOfFish date.
Granted, there are thousands of meet-ups that pass without incident, and far more men who would never dream of committing such acts. From a woman’s perspective, however, the risk of things turning nasty are never zero.
Even if you’re the most placid guy around, it shouldn’t be up to your date to try and decode your behaviour. As a respectful person, you should always prioritise a partner’s safety – and as a man, that means acknowledging why they may feel vulnerable.
But stopping short of actively saying you aren’t dangerous (ruining the vibe and sounding very much like you are) what can men actually do to ensure the women they’re dating feel comfortable?
Elaine Parker, founder of Safer Date, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘With all of the horror stories out there, it’s important to strike the right balance and to make your date feel comfortable and safe, while still having fun.’
She’s shared her top tips for men to bridge that gap, so you can get to know each other while showing that you respect their boundaries.
Planning a date
When it comes to choosing a first date spot, the best place is somewhere that’s public and easily accessible for both of you.
Elaine says: ‘Try meeting halfway so that both you and your date can get there and back again safely without being stranded.
‘You might feel pressure choosing a venue yourself, so why not collaborate on where to go? Being conscious of your date’s preferences will help you choose somewhere you’re both comfortable with.’
Go for a public place when you first meet, and choose something casual so you’re not restricted by time (Picture: Getty)
Big romantic gestures can be lovely, but may come across as ‘love bombing’ in the early stages of a relationship.
Similarly, surprise locations or events where your date can’t easily leave if things don’t go to plan (like private dinners) should be kept until you know each other better.
The obvious answer is to go for a drink, but there are plenty of options if you’d prefer to keep things alcohol-free, from go-karting and rock-climbing to a coffee and a stroll around the park.
The date itself
The first thing Elaine suggests when it comes to meeting up is to be on time – mainly because it’s common courtesy to do so.
She also argues against the trope that men should bring a gift to a first date, saying: ‘As endearing as you think it might seem, avoid taking flowers or a gift with you, since it may be seen as an instant red flag.’
TV and films have sold us the idea that men in heterosexual couples should woo the women they’re seeing with grand displays of affection, despite such peacocking coming across as arrogant or formulaic in reality.
Allaying fears that you’re reading from a pickup artistry playbook – and avoiding awkward lulls in conversation – is as simple as listening and asking.
Listening to – and being curious about – your date shows you’re serious about them (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Elaine says: ‘Keep it cool to help calm both of your nerves by asking interesting questions. After all, you need to test the water to see if they’re the right person for you.
‘Are they family orientated? Any hobbies outside of work? Maybe you have similar music taste, what’s their favourite album?
‘The most important part of all of this is to listen. Chances are you’ll pick up on other things that you’d like to know more about, resulting in great conversation.’
At the end of the date
It’s the well-worn question that’s eluded daters across the globe; should a man automatically pick up the bill for a date?
Elaine says: ’21st century dating has moved far away from traditional methods where the male would pay for the bill.
‘Although it can be incredibly flattering to pay for the date, make a judgement call. If your date offers to half the bill, don’t be offended. It’s not that big of a deal.’
Some women may merely want to pay their share, but others see going Dutch as a way to restore the power imbalance. Even though we know no one is ‘owed’ anything for covering the tab, not every dater shares the same viewpoint.
It’s also worth broaching the topic of a potential second date while on the first. Whether you’re feeling it or not, Elaine advises being ‘open and honest’ and never ghosting.
Here's how men can make women feel safe and comfortable on dates
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‘It could be as simple as a considerate message or an open conversation about how you’re feeling,’ she says. ‘Whether online or offline, nobody likes being left in the dark wondering what happened.’
Elaine continues: ‘Finally, make sure your date gets home safely. Depending on where you are this could be offering to walk them to a taxi rank or waiting for their bus or taxi to arrive.’
Follow up with a message asking if they got home safe and if they’d like to meet up again. Not only does this leave the door open for the woman to make the next move, it shows you’re interested in your date and their wellbeing.
Even if love doesn’t end up blossoming, showing consideration and practicing good communication will stand you in good stead in all areas of life.
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