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Dating in the Age of COVID


Dr. Nancy Gold, Clinical Psychologist | Co-founder, Elegant Introductions

The pandemic has turned the dating world upside down. Masks. Social Distancing. Fear. How do you meet the love of your life when getting near him or her makes you fear for your life? Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal” and he was right. We are all striving for a human connection. COVID has highlighted our loneliness, lack of intimacy and feelings of insecurity. Our lives, health, mental well being and economic stability are being impacted by this frightening, unseen enemy. We are all looking at our lives very differently than just a few months ago. What seemed important then just isn’t anymore. Our gaze has shifted to keeping safe, healthy, stable, strong, and connecting emotionally with loved ones.

Many singles report feeling depressed, anxious and lonely without a love interest. For many, loneliness has become a reality of COVID, forcing many individuals to be locked up at home alone. In the past, many of us learned to avoid feeling lonely by working harder, having a busy social life, shopping, and frantically dating. Unfortunately, we are now faced with the reality of feeling depressed or anxious without these outlets. At this point, we advise our clients to stop, breathe, and take a little time to do some soul searching on what they truly want. They often tell us they yearn for the company and closeness of another. Old lists are being redefined and replaced with deeper soul searching needs and realistic expectations. Complaints about loneliness due to physical isolation are rampant. People wonder what can they do and how can they handle this forced isolation? We explain to our clients that they do have control over how they survive and live through this unique time. Humans can control their days, their actions, their choices and perception of this situation. This is a very special time in our humanity, almost as if the world has stopped moving. It’s time for a breather, to become more self-aware, and get to know ourselves and others better. Many yearn for a social connection. It’s not only about dating, it’s human nature. The good news is, social distancing doesn’t have to mean social or emotional isolation.

While it’s true you can’t continue to date as you did prior to COVID, you are surrounded by technology making it possible to connect with others differently, and yes, perhaps more intimately than you did before. Intimacy is not closely linked to distance, it reflects our ability to connect to others and get close. While physical connections are discouraged, social, emotional, and intimate connections can thrive via Internet, phones, social media, an appropriate meeting place with physical distancing, etc. Our advice when exploring dating through social media:
 this is an opportunity to reevaluate what is most important to you in a potential partner. What do you really need? We are all recognizing life is short and not promised to any of us. Old notions of dating have been thrown out. We are scrambling to make sense of it all.

Yet, this pandemic has provided an unexpected benefit in the dating world: getting to know someone before looks, lust or other superficial criteria cloud your judgment. Talking on the phone, FaceTiming, texting and other social media provides a real opportunity to know someone’s background, wants, character and compatibility before you meet them. It also is a window into the person’s level of responsibility, or lack thereof. If you get to a point where you decide to meet at a safe social distance, suppose your date shows up without a mask, or insists on sitting right beside you, or kisses you hello. Talk about a red flag! Finally deciding to meet in a time of pandemic involves not only your state of mind, but the state and city where you reside. If you live in an area that has “flattened the curve,” and has things more or less under control, then meeting someone in person becomes decidedly less stressful. But if you live in a high risk area, extreme caution is obviously called for. This is yet another area that determines compatibility. Most of us aim to be responsible and considerate, taking all factors into account. Yes, someone who shows up and makes light of the pandemic, or calls the whole thing a hoax, may or may not reflect your ideas. Conversely, if you live in an area where the situation is pretty much under control, and someone is still terrified to meet you, even outside and at a safe social distance, this also conveys a message. Perhaps there is an underlying condition or a family member that needs special caution…all for observation and consideration.

Meanwhile, we have outlined some steps to take in times of pandemic, whether meeting online or in person:

  • When you decide you’d like to meet someone online, if you’re on video together, dress as you would for a date, (hair, makeup, outfit). Set up your computer, iPad or phone up so you and your background looks good. Here are some easy date options: phone call, Zoom chat room, FaceTime, online games, movies, gallery tours, video chatting and making dinner, having a cocktail, making a puzzle, playing a game of Scrabble, crossword puzzles
  • When you decide to meet in person, go with what are you comfortable with. Some ideas include meeting for a hike/walk at the park, bike ride, drinks, dinner, picnic, beach. The new normal provides a real opportunity to develop a deeper intimacy before rushing into physical intimacy.
  • Here are some things to notice: Is your date respectful of your needs, (e.g., if you don’t want to go to a restaurant, is your date pushing you to anyway?) Does your date respect your opinion? Will your date honor your needs? These are important qualities for you to observe. It addresses your date’s values. This is your health, your body, your life. If you have physical limitations or underlying conditions, is your date respectful and trying to keep you safe? Or is your date being selfish?

There is no doubt that the age of pandemic provides a whole new set of concerns and obstacles when it comes to dating. But, it also provides a chance to really get to know someone before taking a plunge you’ll later regret. So turn this negative into a positive, and take advantage of this opportunity to build a more solid, long range foundation to your budding relationship!

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