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Do You Know Who You’re Dating?

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

7 successful ways to find "missing footprints

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

When people grow up with the same friends and families that are intertwined, they leave traceable footprints of where they’ve been, who they’ve been with, and what is important to look to in the future. They form a community of people who matter to each other.

When they begin to date, it is often with people they already know, or know of, through these long-lasting connections. They rarely use the Internet to find new partners, because they don’t have to. Their friends make sure they are in good hands and are there to rescue them if needed.

Because so many people now have left their childhood origins, they may no longer have those automatic safety nets and turn to dating apps or environments they are less familiar with. Most dates will be with strangers with whom they have not shared common origins, social circles, or family interactions.

That creates a situation where the guarantees are gone. The people you meet may or may not be telling you the truth of who they are. And, because their footprints may be harder to trace, they are free to tell incomplete truths, exaggerated stories, or actual fabrications. They may not be able to hide their physical appearance or social style when they do emerge, but what they choose to share is up for grabs.

It is true that most people do need to know one another for a while before sharing vulnerable things about themselves, and their footprint history authentically emerges in due time. But there are some potentially dangerous people whose footprints are either not traceable or don’t exist.

People who are not hiding will willingly tell you what you need to know to believe they are who they are. But, if they are not forthcoming, you should be more careful to know how to search for why and where those missing footprints are hidden, and to do that as early in the relationship as you can.

7 Successful Ways to Find Missing Footprints

1. Mutual Acquaintances

One of the reasons being fixed up by friends has a higher probability of relationship success is because the person who is doing that for you has good reasons for thinking you would click with each other. When you are dating a stranger, that person should have people who can easily vouch for their truthfulness. They don’t hide them from you.

2. Research on social media

Any legitimate person you meet should not be concerned if you want to look him or her up on Google or other social media platforms. There should be ample amounts of information that this person you’ve met is actually who they are. Did that person actually attend the college he or she told you about? Did they work for the companies they talk about? Do their stories add up? You can even ask a potential partner how they feel about your checking them out. The reaction will tell you a lot.

3. Invitations to join that person’s social circle or family members

People who have friends and who seem to like you want to get you together with others they care about. Perhaps not in the first few dates, but, if they continue to isolate you from others, those others may not exist, or know things about that person he or she doesn’t want you to know.

4. Their behavior doesn’t add up to what they tell you

He tells you that he loves hiking, but when you ask him which trails he prefers, he tells you that he doesn’t know. She talks about her love of volunteering her time at a women’s shelter but then tells you she can’t tell you the name of it because it’s confidential. He tells you how much he loves kids, but he's always busy when your sister is visiting with her children. She says she loves reading the way you do, but there isn’t a single book in her apartment.

5. When you are never invited to where they live

When you’ve dated someone a few times, and they always insist upon picking you up, or meeting you somewhere, they might just be embarrassed about where or how they live, but it is more likely they have something to hide. People you can trust tell you up front where they’re from, who they live with, what they do for a living, whether and when they’re available and why, and if they are currently also dating others.

6. When you can only reach them on a cell phone and at certain times

What footprints are they making on paths that are not those with you? FBI agent? Not likely. Angry ex? Fishy. Just started a new job that doesn’t allow interruptions from outside? Truly suspicious. Blaming it on your not being able to trust? Not acceptable.

7. Crazy-making: gaslighting and ghosting

If you are becoming increasingly aware that many of the stories you are being told don’t add up, you want to pay close attention to the reaction to challenging that reality. An authentic person will provide convincing reasons for the discrepancies. But, if there are multiple excuses, explanations, and challenges to your not being trusting enough, be aware. Don’t look away if there are multiple promises of behavioral change that don’t materialize. He or she may be a master of charming avoidance, living life in compartments that do not overlap.


You will not feel insecure or suspicious in the presence of people who are honest and open about who they are. Some scammers are, unfortunately, very smooth operators and can weave very convincing stories. But don’t ever assume that people are always who they say they are or have done the things they claim to have done. Make sure that the person you’ve started to date is willing to meet your friends early in the game. A friendly group of people who know and value you will quickly make a potential predator disappear.

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