Much like you'd ask someone questions about their political views, favorite music genres, and more when considering if they'd make a good partner, you're now likely to add COVID-19 preferences and safety measures to the list. How is this new—and complicated—element changing how we are dating today, when human connection is craved more than ever?
Emma Harrison*, a professional living and working in Grand Rapids, was hesitant to focus on dating during the pandemic yet ended up connecting with a couple of people through a dating app, toward the beginning of the shutdown.
"I ended up needing to take a break after only a few days," Harrison said. "I think the stress of the pandemic was already a lot to deal with, and I didn't feel like I had energy to date."
Eventually, Harrison felt comfortable enough to get back in the dating game, discussing deal-breakers with potential dates virtually early on to get a good sense of whether they should meet in person.
"I'm a very 'in-person person' and really need to interact with someone in real life to know if they are someone I want to pursue further," Harrison explained. "I did go on one 'virtual date' before deciding whether we wanted to meet up in person. We each grabbed a drink and utilized the dating app's video chat feature."
Communication needs to be prioritized, especially to determine what each person is comfortable with.
"I think I'm usually pretty clear that I want to keep things distanced on the first date, at least," said Harrison, stressing that if your date doesn't want to respect boundaries you've set, they're not worth any more of your time. "So far, no one has had a problem with that, though I did have one guy try to give me a hug when we met up and I had to remind him to stay back."
For Harrison, whose love language is physical touch, dating and communication has definitely become harder.
"I just get a better sense of who people are when they're right in front of me, as you can't miss the subtleties, mannerisms and sense of confidence that way. There have been people who seemed great over text who ended up being totally different when I actually met them. I've also caught myself 'liking' someone based on our messages, but then had no chemistry or real attraction to them in person."
Fun and safe date ideas Harrison recommends include going for a walk or hike, hanging out at a park—maybe with takeout—and grabbing drinks at a restaurant with outdoor seating. But with the arrival of colder weather comes new challenges, especially for women like Harrison who aren't yet comfortable with indoor dates.
"I'll have to get comfortable with some outdoor winter activities, like snowshoeing and ice skating," said Harrison. "I'll probably have to accept that I may have to go on more virtual dates until I'm ready to expose myself to that person in their home or mine."
There are, however, some benefits to dating during this strange time.
"You are forced to make decisions about people quickly. Do I really want to expose myself to this person? Do I trust that this person has been taking appropriate precautions in his life? I've also had to have the 'exclusivity conversation' way earlier than normal, because once things become physical, I absolutely am not comfortable with him seeing other people."
Ultimately, Harrison would rather go on weird dates or make virtual connections than not try dating at all.
"Don't forget that everyone else who is dating right now is also trying to figure out how to navigate through this pandemic and is probably just as frustrated as you.
"You've just got to make the best out of this crazy year we've been handed."
Remember: No texting your ex!
*Not her real name.
The New York Times offered tips for strengthening your existing relationship during this time.
- Nurture yourself. Move your body, meditate or journal.
- Create a plan together. Share what's on your plate to stay on the same page.
- Check in with each other daily. Ask questions about how you're both feeling, et cetera.
- Focus on intention. Create separate workspaces, carve out alone time, get creative with date nights.
- Appreciation and gratitude are key. Notice and thank each other for your efforts.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.