COVID-19 may have kicked us out of our offices and temporarily shuttered our favorite restaurants, but are we going to let it take away the thrill of dating, too? Nope! Just because we can’t have a normal date right now doesn’t mean we can’t date at all. Still, building a real connection without meeting up physically is going to be tricky. That’s why we reached out to Nancy Lee, Ph.D., a cognitive behavior therapist and author of Don’t Sleep with Him Yet: A Badass Guide to Dating in 10 Empowering Steps, for her best tips on dating during these strange times.
1. Talk like it's 1999 (that's right, on the phone)
You know that device that’s always in your hand? The one you downloaded that dating app on that introduced you to this new person you might be into? It also makes phone calls!
While you may not be able to meet a date IRL to chat and learn about each other, that whole concept of feeling another person out to see if they’re relationship material isn’t totally out the window. Even if face-to-face romance can’t happen—at least not yet—you can still get to know someone by talking…a lot, Lee says. “I also recommend calls over texting because linguistic research reveals that people lie much more over emails and texts compared to over the phone,” she adds. “Plus, our voices are what bonds us to one another and helps cultivate emotional intimacy.”
2. Look out for coronavirus complainers
This upheaval of our daily routines and social lives isn’t easy on anyone. But is this potential new partner a champion whiner? Are they absolutely exhausting to talk to because they bring you down with negative thoughts? Are they—ugh—help-rejecting complainers? That’s a red flag, according to Lee. “Do they complain incessantly about their situation or are they resourceful and trying to make the best of things?” she asks. On the flip side, Lee notes that it’s a really great sign if they’re asking you how you’re feeling. “Genuine displays of caring and kindness during tough times bodes well for any relationship,” she says.
3. Resist the pressure of a meet-up
We get it, they want to meet you in person (who wouldn’t!), but this is clearly not the time. You’ve been direct with this potential partner that a tech-based romance is all they’re getting right now because you’re not risking your health for them or anyone else. Anyone who doesn’t understand that gets a big ole next from us.
“If someone you don’t know well—or at all—pressures or tries to convince you to get together in person when you’ve clearly communicated that you’re uncomfortable doing so, they’re not respecting your boundaries,” Lee says. “And they’re definitely not going to be a partner you can count on to support your decisions or have your back in the future.”
4. Take a chance on someone different
Everyone—single or not—is feeling lonely and isolated these days. So why not view this time cooped up in your home as an opportunity to reach out to someone a little out of your comfort zone? This could be a person on Bumble who’s “not your type”—the baseball player who doesn’t read much—or the crush you were too timid to approach in person pre-coronavirus. “You have so much more to gain than lose by making a move,” Lee says. And if it’s someone you already know, there’s the easy convo starter that you’re reaching out because you’re concerned with their well-being. “This thing that’s affecting everyone gives you a great excuse to contact—and perhaps reconnect—with someone you find yourself thinking about,” Lee adds.
5. Decide what you want out of your next relationship
If we have anything right now, it’s time to ourselves. While some of those minutes are spent perusing dating apps and entertaining the texts and calls of wannabe partners, we can also use some time for “self-discovery and reflection,” as Lee puts it, to think about exactly what it is we want out of our next relationship once the world rights itself.
If you decide that you want a serious relationship, for example, this will mean reevaluating your pre-social-distancing priorities, according to Lee. “If that’s the case, finding a partner may, for the first time, take on just as much importance as your professional or academic goals, if not more,” she says. Once we’re allowed to hang out again within six feet of each other, you can use this newfound motivation to be in a committed relationship to put yourself out there more and be proactive about it.
And if you’ve found yourself in a dating rut in the lead-up to social distancing, this forced time apart from people could be just the motivation you needed to get back in the deep end of the dating pool if you decide that’s what you want. “Perhaps absence makes the heart grow, if not fonder, at least more appreciative,” Lee says. “Meaning you’ll be newly empowered in the near-future to forge ahead with sometimes-frustrating, not infrequently disappointing, but potentially life-changing dates.”