Are You Researching Your Date – Or Snooping?

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There are some risks in online dating. For one thing, you don't have mutual friends who can vouch for one of your matches. So you have to rely on a person's profile, your communication over email or phone, and let's face it - a little online background checking - before you agree to meet in person.

Let's say you start with the basics and Google or Facebook his name. This can provide a lot of telling information - including whether or not he's been honest in his profile about his relationship status. (A girlfriend of mine found out via Google one of her online matches was actually engaged to someone else - pictures of him with his bride-to-be were posted on their wedding website.)

If a person chooses to reveal information over social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other sites, then it's only fair that they expect their potential dates will do a little snooping. But what if you approach all of your dates fearing you'll discover they are dishonest or that they will somehow take advantage of you? After all, you've been hurt in the past. It's entirely possible it could happen again, so you want to find out who you're dealing with.

But sometimes snooping can go too far. What if you feel compelled to scroll through the text messages on their phones while they are in the restroom, or search through their emails? When does some harmless background check cross the line into unhealthy relationship behavior?

If you prefer to do a little snooping to make sure your dates are being forthcoming, you may want to consider the following:

What are your intentions? If you've been hurt before, it's possible that you're trying to protect yourself from being hurt again. Know yourself well enough to acknowledge the unease you may be feeling and where it comes from. If you can have an honest conversation with your date instead of sneaking around trying to catch him being untrustworthy, you will have better success at building a relationship based in trust.

What are your own boundaries? If your date turned the table on you and started checking your text messages or emails, would you be upset? Would you be able to trust her, or feel secure in a new relationship? It's important to know where your own boundaries are and what you're willing to share - and not assume the other person will be ok with a little too much snooping.

Have that difficult conversation. Maybe you're afraid to confront your date about the suspicions nagging you, so you sneak around trying to collect information. Would you feel comfortable going forward with a relationship under these circumstances? Likely not. So the best course of action is to be direct and ask the uncomfortable questions, so that you can have a real conversation about what's bothering you. Being open and honest about how you feel is the only way to build a good relationship.