Answering whether and how to continue dating during COVID-19 might depend on how you define dating.
You might need to Define the Relationship, (DTR – if you’re in a current connection, or several.) You might also have to redefine dating.
To be crystal clear, I am not advocating physical proximity. Not at all. The challenge, opportunity, and delight of these times is to connect without that element. You can hear, see, do, and feel things without actually touching…or even getting close enough for that possibility and temptation.
First Connections in Dating during COVID-19
Some of you have heard me reference Bert Adams’ Stages of Mate Selection in the US. This data, compiled in 1986, is still useful today as it outlines five stages with the pinnacle stage being, as I say, “Waaaaa! THE ONE!” Adams defines it as “Marriage.”
The first three stages are 1. Initial Attraction, (just what it sounds like.) 2. Deeper Attraction (where exclusivity occurs, sexuality is engaged, and disclosure tested) and 3. Building Barriers to Breaking Up (where you become a known couple and solidly part of each other’s worlds, test value systems and disclosure more deeply and start to join things like finances and physical space.) A lot happens in stage three.
In Initial Attraction, one might connect with many people at once (or as many as you find feasible.) Some people limit this number to two or three for their maximum psychic and emotional capacity. Others handle more at once; still others focus on one at a time and see where it leads.
We’re talking online dating right now. You get that, right? OR following up on connections you made before COVID had us sheltering in place.
And if you have questions about how to start the process of attracting a mate, what platform to use, and how to use it, READ HERE.
Especially if you are over 40, you can get oodles of good advice, insight, and hints from selected episodes of my podcast Midlife Love Bytes available everywhere you get your podcasts (google it or search in iTunes, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, and others.)
In the 4th stage, commitment escalates but only some connections actually become permanent and make it to THE ONE. Others reach stage four and fizzle out…and the study could not draw conclusions about why. (I find this fascinating.) But you are NOT automatically in stage four, even when you’re in a real, feels-committed relationship. That means if you have not done all the “testing” previously, you are NOT in stage four.
Who Shelters Together During COVID-19?
Most people in stage four don’t even have to worry about “dating during COVID-19,” They’re in a comfortable position to choose Sheltering-in-Place together, even when that means they own two separate places. However, if one of you is at high exposure risk and the other not, there may be good, logical reasons to stay in separate spaces if you can. Some of you will choose the security and balm of proximity and physical touch versus the safety from disease. I get it.
If you’re in stage three, you MIGHT be in a position to shelter together if you’re BOTH NOT at high exposure risk or movement (or obviously, if you’re already living together with no separate abode.)
It’s true that no matter the stage, relationships are made or broken under times of dire stress. This is a great time to allow your connections to be deepened in meaningful ways and to avoid overtaxing them when you can. (Check out the post on Love in the Time of Coronavirus for tips on how to quarantine together and keep relationship healthy.)
I recommend everyone in stages lower than four (with exceptions for those living together in stage three) maintain physical separation and employ other means of dating during COVID-19 instead.
Not just for the common good and minimizing movement, but for your individual mental and emotional health… as well as the health of any connection which may grow to a more permanent state. Dating despite distance can be key to a great future.
I know it’s hard to be apart physically. I know it’s hard to have the dating train interrupted by COVID restrictions. But there is so much that’s good and healthy in slowing things down. Treat this time as an opportunity to explore, test, enjoy, and deepen your connection(s.)
Pretend you’re separated by war, overseas deployment, oceans, job assignment, or long travel. Then let’s get on with great dating and relating even during this time.
Who and Where to date.
Disclaimer: I’m not covering what it takes to be a healthy dater, or what it takes to be ready for healthy relationship. If you need support in that area or doubt your picker, or feel desperate for companionship, consult my body of work or spend some time in one-on-one coaching with me. I love helping people with that.
These ideas are for relatively healthy, self-aware folks who know their current objective for being part of the dating pool. You are ready to be responsible daters… including but not limited to during quarantine.
That said, where can you connect?
Let me count the places:
Skype, Zoom, text, call, email, through the dating app, (of course) Facetime, Google Team, hangouts, Dropbox, and even, if you want to be super romantic, snail mail— we’re talking Old School sentiment, so save that for someone you think might meet your grandchildren. Those same grandchildren might love reading those COVID Love Letters long after we’re all gone. Ahh, paper!
I don’t recommend hanging out in chat rooms or igniting old flames via Facebook or other social media. I say that because these are stressful times and connections made there may or may not stand the test of time. True; they may entertain for the duration, so if you’re interested in playing with hearts, full steam ahead.
By all means, connect with people you’ve known a long time via Facebook, but let the intentional dating occur on a platform designed for that mission. Why? For the sake of clarity, that’s why.
Those are the platforms. But how do you use them to connect?
Creative Dating Connections via Technology
The rule for dating during COVID-19 is to do those activities during this time you’d normally do in each stage of connecting. Step by step, little by little.
Texting is for flirting. Emojis, innuendo, nuance, joking, sweetness. Go ahead. Sexting is for Stages 2 and beyond. Knock yourself out. Keep in mind that research indicates one or two touch points is max for what most people prefer during a work day. Anything more is too distracting and comes off as desperate.
Of course, set up regular old phone calls. My honey does not like spending time on the phone, but in early stages we did! Lots of it. Because he was interested. He will spend time on the phone now when I ask for more connection at times when we’re apart. That said, if a candidate is not interested in spending time on the phone, they’re probably just not that interested.
Next candidate, please!
Yes, Skype, Zoom, Facetime (and the like) where you can see one another. This is where you can really get creative.
Look for ways of adapting a conventional date:
Meet for a coffee. This is great for the first “meet date” I often recommend. You are just spending a little time together to see if you want to spend more time together. Make coffee. Sit. Chat. Get acquainted. Keep it around an hour. Even if it goes really well, the adage “keep ’em wanting more” still applies in early connection. You’ve got time.
Eat a meal together… separately at the same time.
Better yet, cook a meal together…separately. Same recipe? Why not? Then you can compare the taste and process.
Wine tasting anyone? Got a supply or cellar already? Feature your fave three to compare and talk about.
Are you a mixologist? Make a date to have drinks together.
Watch the same movie at the same time in different spaces. Stay connected via text during it…or keep your faces on a small screen while you watch the big one. That way, you can read responses throughout the saga, pause for bathroom or snack breaks in real time, and chat when it’s over.
Dating during COVID-19 in Stage 2 into 3
Introduce your date virtually. Gather a group of friends for online happy hour and let your new connection join in the fun. Maybe you have a great social connector in your bunch who can prep gentle questions and topics to draw your date into the group and help him/her learn about your friend set. And vice versa.
You get to decide when it’s time to introduce other family members. As in real life, don’t rush this. If you’re at home with kids, allowing them to swish through the frame without requiring them to say “hi” may be realistic and appropriate. Make appointments to introduce elsewhere if you’re ready for that. Life does not need to stop just because social distancing is on.
Play games online. Just the two of you or with a group: friends or family. Virtual game rooms abound but you can make your own and enact Cherades through video. Get creative on how to play other games too, like Heads-up or Code Names or other games where you just need to see a game board that one person can manipulate.
Introduce your date to your hobbies and projects. Remember at this stage you are getting to know, testing values, and experimenting with disclosure. So be intentional about testing. In order to test disclosure, you have to be vulnerable and actually share something. Yeah, risk it. Even at this tender time.
You can find others, but Pocket Worthy published this article on rekindling a love with these 36 questions, but you can use them to explore one as well. Be sure it’s not a quiz or interview for the other person either. You’re both exploring and telling the truth. Enjoy it.
Have a star-gazing chat. Is it safe to go out where you are? Is it a clear night? Go gaze up at the same stars and moon at the same time. Do what lovers do and talk about dreams, hopes, fears, and joys under the canopy of a spring night.
Even those of you who want a date to be more active, can. Go for a run together: keep one another on video and speaker chat. Right now, if you see others out and about, they might give you a slant eye with your speaker phone on but mostly, they’ll understand. These are weird times and you are getting creative. 😉
Same goes for any other kind of active date.
Who says you can’t work out together virtually or have a contest shooting baskets or corn hole or anything else.
Come up with more. I know you can. But you get it. Do everything you normally do in those early stages of dating. Just do it digitally.
The question of Chemistry
If you have not met in person before quarantine began and you are plagued by the question whether your chemistry mixes, I get it.
You’ve got two choices: Wait to find out. (Honestly, what’s the hurry? I think waiting is more responsible.)
BUT…if you absolutely MUST KNOW, schedule a heavy walk…but only if the viral load where you live is super low. There are indicators the transmission of COVID-19 viral droplets may occur through the air at the micro level, so don’t risk it if you don’t have to.
If you just can’t stand it, be sure you really do stay six feet apart. Get sweaty. But stay away from one another. Keep it limited to a specific time-frame (like long enough to break a sweat, not so long temptation grows) and agree ahead of time that this is ONLY an in-person TEST of your physical attraction.
It’s NOT a first kiss. Or first touch.
So step away. And if it’s a YES, get back to connecting virtually, where emotional and intellectual connections are beautifully grown, tested, and deepened. Your relational life -even when individual connections don’t extend past COVID-19- will be better for it. And you’ll emerge from quarantine an even better dater.
As always, if I can help, reach out.CONNECT