Self-Defense While Dating: Experts Talk Protecting Yourself

by Gia Miller

Self-defense courses are always a good idea, as you’ll learn from experts how to defend yourself against an aggressive attacker while gaining confidence and self-reliance. Even so, it’d take true dedication to be able to deploy those skills against a real-time threat.

“Unless you practice several times a week, the likelihood of using these skills in a high-stress situation is very unlikely,” explains Marc Abrams, a psychologist and lifelong martial artist who has taught self-protection courses.

There are steps you can take, however, to ensure your safety on a first date. Experts suggest learning self-protection, a proactive approach based on situational awareness and preventive strategies.


With self-protection, you break an attacker’s conditioning to identify weak and vulnerable targets by taking control of your actions. Begin with your very first interaction.

“Pay attention to how they answer your questions, noticing if they’ve forgotten important details from their profile,” advises Bruce May, a retired New York City detective who trains officers in self-defense and also teaches crime prevention and self-protection courses.

“When things don’t make sense, our default is to rationalize it, and attackers are conditioned to expect this. But, the fact that it didn’t make sense means you should ask more questions. If it’s still not making sense, it’s a red flag.”


Once you’ve decided to meet for a first date, make a plan. Pick a location you know well, and if your date suggests an unfamiliar place, recommend another.

According to May, the best time and location is a coffee shop during daylight hours. They are well-lit with a calm atmosphere so you can pay attention to your date’s cues. Plus, if something were to happen in a coffee shop, people would take notice. A loud, dark bar can be over-stimulating, making it harder to properly assess potential threats.

Next, prepare for the date. “Before you go on a date, notify someone where you are going, who you are going with, what you are wearing, and when you should be home,” Abrams recommends.

He also suggests a perhaps unusual tactic to provide law enforcement with tangible information should the worst happen.

“Leave a voicemail on your own cell phone and landline with the same information, including the make and model of your car and your license plate number,” he says. “Also, do not let someone pick you up at your home until at least the third date.”


On the date, Abrams and May recommend taking the following steps:

  • Make sure you sit relatively close to the door.
  • Pay attention to your drink. It shouldn’t leave your sight once the barista or bartender hands it to you. If you go to the bathroom, order a fresh one on your return.
  • Learn about what the person does, who they are, and their relationship history.
  • If something about your date seems strange, don’t try to rationalize it. Ask questions.

It’s okay to leave a date early if isn’t going well. Feel empowered to say if you don’t think it’s working. Simply say so, shake their hand, leave money for your drinks, and then go.

On the other hand, if all goes well, Abrams advises introducing them to your friends after a few dates. Your friends will provide another perspective while your date’s friends will show you the company they keep.

Remember, everything is a clue, and self-protection means you have to rely on yourself as your strongest ally. Listen to your own body, and if you sense danger, quickly remove yourself from the situation.