Is Offering A First Date At Their House A Red Flag?

When it comes to dating, there are often unspoken rules that people tend to follow: Don't text too quickly after the first date, but don't wait too long, either. Don't date an ex's friend or a friend's ex without their OK. Don't assume exclusivity unless you've discussed it with your new paramour first. But there are many gray areas of dating, too, with questions that can only be answered by the two people (or even three or four, depending on if a polyamorous relationship is right for you).

This has felt particularly true over the past few years, as COVID-19 has changed or altered a lot of what we previously knew or remembered about dating, with many re-evaluating what it is they want. "People are desperate for relationships," clinical psychotherapist Stephanie Regan told The Irish Times. International matchmaker Sarah Louise Ryan echoed this, explaining to the outlet that "People feel they've lost a lot of time, and while they're actively and consciously dating, they are also in a rush."

As reported by The Atlantic, one survey of 5,000 Americans conducted by Singles in America found that "69[%] are being more honest with potential partners and 63[%] are spending more time getting to know them." Yet at the same time, per Mashable, seven out of 10 adults admitted to finding dating more challenging since the pandemic. With this suspension of the status quo, it can make it difficult to know what's a red flag, or what's perfectly acceptable.

Is it OK to have a first date at someone else's home?

For many, many months the best that most could do when it came to a first date was a virtual date over Zoom or FaceTime (should you both happen to be iPhone users). Many of us spent much of the pandemic avoiding restaurants, bars, and movie theaters — essentially anywhere that would typically make for standard first date fare. And while these places have since opened up, there are still plenty (immunocompromised or otherwise) who don't feel safe in crowded, indoor spaces. For that reason, or another, someone might suggest a first (IRL) date in their home.

And while Jessica Alderson, relationship expert and co-founder of SO SYNCD, doesn't think this is an immediate red flag, she does strongly suggest finding an alternative location. "More often than not, there isn't any malicious intent behind the offer," she told Mashable, adding, "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 . . . 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." If you do decide to make an exception to this and have a first date at your home or someone else's, be sure to find ways to still protect your safety, be it by having others or telling a friend about it in advance.

So, what should you do on the first date?

If you're not comfortable meeting in someone's home, then be certain to suggest a different location and activity, especially one that speaks to you, what you enjoy, and what you value. As Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT, author and co-founder of OURS premarital counseling, told Today, "First dates are inherently stressful — it's hard to meet new people, let alone to meet a person that you hope likes you." For that reason, a first date should be as low-key as possible, with an emphasis on getting to know one another and simply enjoying each other's company. Typically, coffee or a drink is the first date standby — and with good reason. "Over-planning a first date can sometimes take away from what it's actually about: getting to know each other," couples therapist Rachel Zar, LMFT, CST, mentioned to Today. 

But if you're not content with coffee, a drink, or any other beverage for a first date, other ideas include going to a movie, visiting a gallery, striking up some competition at the local arcade, or taking a walk together, which some say is the perfect first date activity. Hopefully by the end of the date, whatever it is you decide to do, hopefully you'll feel that spark, and see those signs that you should go on a second date. And if you do — good news — you now have another date to plan.