Many of us are all too familiar with this uncomfortable scenario: someone initially catches your eye, but for one reason or another you lose interest.  After letting them know you’ve changed your mind and are no longer interested, they keep messaging you.  Or perhaps you’ve never been interested in someone, but they seem to think you’re wrong about your own feelings and keep trying to persuade you otherwise. Dealing with unwanted romantic attention online can be annoying, anxiety-inducing, and harrowing in many ways.  Here are some precautions you can take to do the best you can to avoid these kinds of interactions.

Look for Friends

If you’re just looking for friendships to start off, then make it clear from the beginning that you’re not looking for a relationship. Any woman can tell you that this doesn’t always work to dissuade a persistent harasser, but it’s a great place to start covering your bases.  Are you interested in any particular hobby or topic where you might find like-minded people that you can share this interest with? Meetup.com is a great way to find this sort of environment and meet people under more organic and less stressful circumstances.  Whether your interest is karaoke, ballroom dancing or dirt-bikes, you can probably find a group online that is also interested in those things.

Start Out Incognito

Giving out  your personal contact information to someone that you have not never met in person yet is something to think twice about.  Instead, try using a Google Voice number or use another messaging app that doesn’t show your phone number and has a blocking feature just in case. You can also get a special email address just for dating, that doesn’t include your last name or easily identifiable information such as your date of birth which can later be used for things such as identity theft  (ie Tiffany0988@____.com – I’m thinking that Tiffany was born in September 1988).  Also, when first meeting someone, keep your place of employment and where you live on the vague side and instead, tell them what you do and what city you live in but keep the details to yourself until you’ve been able to vet this person a bit more.

Meet Somewhere New

I know- we all have our favorite spots where we like to bring the dates and then be able to chat about it with the staff that works there, who you’ve probably already become friends with and are looking forward to seeing who your next date is and what the turnout will be.  However, doing this opens you up to introducing one of those dates to their possible new favorite place too and you may run the risk of bumping into them if you have to break things off.  You do not want a potential stalker to know where your favorite hangouts are.

If You’re Just Not Interested

If things aren’t going well and you need to break it off, it’s important that you’re very clear with the person that you’re not interested in pursuing anything romantic with them and don’t want to talk to them anymore. Don’t try to “drop hints” or sugar coat your message, as all this does is create wiggle room for the perpetrator to start thinking that “maybe there’s a chance.”  Instead, be direct, and be honest with how you feel. As you’re letting the person know you’re not interested, make sure your message ends with a “final goodbye” at the end. “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested at all,” or “I don’t see this going anywhere romantic. Good luck.” Attempts to take the sting out of your message with emojis or compliments will only muddy the waters and your suitor might take this as a cue to amp up his pursuits. Make your message clear.

Stop Responding and/or Block

If they keep responding to you, ignore them as best you can despite how tempting it is to respond negatively. Don’t agree to be friends. If they continue to pester, block their number. Do not answer calls, respond to texts or agree to meet for closure, to return items, or any other reason.  It might seem cold or cruel, but it’s not. It would be cruel to both of you to continue any sort of relationship out of guilt or a sense of duty. It’s better for both of you to move forward and find the right match.

Are you searching for a relationship and need help navigating the single life? A qualified mental health professional can help. Call me today and let’s set up a time to talk.