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    Dating Dangers: Love's a Minefield

    Dating advice from the experts about how to find Mr. or Ms. Right.

    Danger: Is It Date Rape? continued...

    You can't be too careful; date-rape drugs such as GHB, Rohypnol, or Ketamine can render a victim unconscious and with limited memory. Using these drugs is a federal crime that carries a possible 20-year sentence.

    A few rules:

    1. Don't accept open drinks, whether they're alcoholic or not, from someone you don't trust.
    2. At parties, accept only drinks that come in closed containers. Never leave your drink unattended or turn your back on your table.
    3. Do not drink from punch bowls, pitchers, or tubs.

    Another idea: Carry a DrinkSafe date rape drug test package of drink testing strips or coasters in your purse or pocket.

    Danger: Equal-Opportunity STDs

    Here's another reality check: sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are incredibly common in the U.S. -- even if your social circle is affluent and educated. The most common STDs are: Chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV/AIDS.

    To reduce risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Ask your partner if he or she has ever had an STD -- even if the question feels awkward. Limit your number of sexual partners. Don't have sex with someone who has sores on his or her genitals. Don't receive oral sex from somebody with a cold sore. Ask your partner to be tested. Try alternate forms of sexual intimacy.

    Danger: Meeting Online

    The anonymity of Internet dating has obvious hazards. If you're looking for love, your contact may be looking for just a quickie. Establish upfront what you are really searching for. Talk on the phone first, then arrange a brief meeting in a public place -- for coffee, lunch, or maybe a drink.

    Dating advice: Take your cell phone with you. Let someone know where you're going, who you'll be meeting. Arrange to call your friend at a specific time. Park in a well-lit place. When the first date ends, don't let them walk you to your car. You don't want them to know your license plate.

    Schwartz is relationship counselor for Perfectmatch.com. "I've used all the dating services ... I think online dating is great, absolutely the best thing of the 21st century. I've met some very special people."

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