First date at their house: Red flag or the new normal?

You swipe, you match, and before you know it, your match wants to meet IRL. But there’s a catch: they want you to come to their house. So, is this an automatic red flag, or are there some circumstances where it’s OK?

First, let’s take a look at the current state of play in the dating world. Recent research revealed that seven in 10 single U.S. adults looking for a relationship say dating is harder after COVID. It makes sense: the list of questions for how to date, always lengthy, has become endless over the enduring pandemic. For instance: How do you seem interesting on a first date when you’ve basically been stuck in your house for two years? Are we still doing video dates? In the middle of the cost of living crisis, how do you plan an affordable and considerate date? And after two years of taking dates for a walk around a park during lockdown, what do we now consider “normal” date location? So, when a date suggests their house as a first-date location, is that OK? Is it the new normal?

This has been a popular question in discussion threads in Reddit in recent months as people talk about their anxiety in this new stage of COVID and how it has led to them feeling more comfortable in their homes than the typical first-date location. (Many of us did stay in them for almost two years, after all.) But just because one person feels comfortable in their home doesn’t make it a suitable first-date location for both parties. Like many things that have to do with dating, it’s complicated.

Know your boundaries

A first date requires a conscious effort on both sides to discover each others likes, dislikes and boundaries, which often means there may be unintentional mistakes made along the way as you get to know each other. 

Your own safety on a date should be your number one priority. So, when your date offers their home as a first date location, dating experts advise against doing this. Jessica Alderson, relationship expert and co-founder of SO SYNCD, a personality type dating app, tells Mashable: “More often than not, there isn’t any malicious intent behind the offer,” she explains, but she advises against doing it.

“You just shouldn’t take that risk in terms of safety. It’s completely acceptable to say that you would prefer to meet at a public place such as a bar or restaurant.”

“You just shouldn’t take that risk in terms of safety. It’s completely acceptable to say that you would prefer to meet at a public place such as a bar or restaurant.” She adds: “When it comes to relationships, it’s much better to be clear about your boundaries from the very beginning. If you don’t, it can have negative impacts on your mental health and self-esteem.”

While she advises that in most cases you say no to a date in the home of the person you’re meeting for the first time, there can be exceptions (more about that below). Either way, the question and its answer are valuable as a way to get to know your date. If they respond negatively to you setting your boundaries, that’s a clear red flag and you should end communications. But, stating what you want or need — even when it might not be what your potential date wants — is a way to set the foundation for a good relationship.

“Sharing what you are comfortable with early on when dating helps minimise the risk of resentment building up. It goes without saying that it works both ways, and when you are on the receiving end of someone setting boundaries, it can actually be comforting to have such clarity from a date or a partner,” Alderson explains.

So, what do you do instead?

If you feel uncomfortable but still want to explore your connection with your date, it doesn’t hurt to think of some options for a first date that do make you feel comfortable, like dinner in a restaurant, a picnic, or meeting up in a bar. That way, you can be empowered about determining what you do want to do, and see how your date responds.

Crystal Cansdale, dating expert at global dating app Inner Circle, tells Mashable that for a first date, she’d recommend meeting on neutral ground, such as meeting up for a coffee or a walk in the park to create an atmosphere of safety. She’d also question them on why having a date at their house is so important as a “first date is going to leave a lasting impression — and that shouldn’t be feeling unsafe or as though they can’t be bothered.”

What if there’s an exception to the rule?

Of course, there could be a genuine reason behind a “first date at home” offer, such as anxiety about being out in public or lack of money. We are in a cost of living crisis and according to dating app Bumble, the cost of living crisis has made people consider low-key dating, and for us to be more open about our financial situations early on in the relationship. So perhaps a “first date at home” doesn’t always automatically come from a place of bad intentions.

“Dates at my house were a little weird and came with some level of presumption, but I had safeguards in place.”

This was the case for Tilly, who requested only her first name be used, who had to have dates at her house during university because she was a broke student and having dates at home was much cheaper. “Dates at my house were a little weird and came with some level of presumption, but I had safeguards in place,” she said. “Like my four housemates who were [each in couples] would be in their rooms, and if I needed them, I’d just text them and they’d suddenly join us in the living room and ruin it.”

Having first dates at home is still something she does now because it’s convenient — her job as a journalist means she has a lot of her own commitments and it’s sometimes hard to fit dates in — and it saves money. While some people may find it odd, it has worked for her and she’s had some nice dates this way, minus the Batman-obsessed guy who was covered in Batman tattoos and made her listen to the Batman movie soundtrack one by one to “understand the themes.” Some dates have presumed that they’re going to get lucky but that’s why she emphasises the importance of safeguards. 

Like Tilly, Sharon — who wanted to remain anonymous — also had a date at her home, almost three years ago. “I invited my now partner to stay at my home overnight. We had met online and talked on Zoom but never met. So we slept in separate rooms.” Because she felt a level of safety with him and felt a deep level of trust so she invited him over to her home. The fact they were both musicians and could relate to a love of music and also create music together (no pun intended) factored massively to her feeling safe with him. Sharon added, “A home-cooked meal is a lovely date, and not every man will assume an invite to your home means you’re instantly available for sex.”

Trust is a must-have

There’s nothing wrong with going on a date just to hook up at the end, but if you feel uncomfortable about going to someone’s home, you should consider alternatives. Opting for a hotel gives you the option of making an easy getaway, should you need to —  know where the exits are, and you can call down to the front desk. However, again this comes with a level of trust with the person you are hooking up with as you’ll still be in a hotel room alone with them. 

But, also, a first date doesn’t necessarily mean the person is a stranger. It could be someone you’ve been friends with for years, with whom you’re now wanting to explore a relationship. That, Alderson agreed, would be an exception to her rule of not going to a date’s house on the first date.

Two women I spoke to explained that they had met their now-partners for a first date at their homes, but they had mutual connections and had talked beforehand, so they felt safe. “I had met him once through mutual friends, who knew where he lived and that I was going there,” Mary said. 

Callisto Adams, a certified dating and relationship expert, says to consider both sides of the offer, the reason why your date may be asking as well as why you may accept or why you may not accept as it “can lead to a bonding experience due to the privateness of the space which allows you to feel freer when it comes to expressing yourselves.”

A date suggesting their house on a first date is not automatically a warning sign or a red flag. There can be genuine reasoning behind their decision, and there are times in which it might be the right thing to do. But it’s crucial when dating to consider your safety, to know your boundaries, and to be strict with yourself about what is stretching them too far. After all, the purpose of a first date is to see who this person is. If you feel that they don’t respect you and your boundaries, then that is a warning sign.  

Mashable