“I’ve been checking out dating apps while social distancing, and I’ve been enjoying talking to one guy in particular who I’m actually interested in! The only problem is, neither of us seems totally comfortable meeting up with the shelter-in-place guidelines going on right now. Since we cannot meet for an IRL date for who knows how long, I feel like we’re losing momentum and I don’t want to. How do I keep up the rapport until we can meet?”
In my opinion, quarantine is actually a weirdly wonderful time to go about dating differently by putting intimacy first. Kinda like Love Is Blind…but way less dramatic. Remote dating means we can get to know someone through extensive conversation, which will make the transition to a physical relationship more natural and comfortable. So, even though you can’t see each other physically, here’s exactly how I would escalate the intimacy from afar.
1. Don’t spend all your time texting
It would be easy to spend the next however many weeks or months texting this person, but it’s also too easy for major communication fails and mixed messages to happen. So, keep texting about open-ended questions and deeper discussions (i.e. marriage, children, religion) to a minimum. Use text and social media as a way to share humorous highlights from your day, memes and anything that’s easy to consume at a passing glance.
After you’ve had a little back-and-forth banter, go ahead and suggest a phone call.
2. Start with Calls, Not FaceTime
To start, chatting on the phone may feel less intimidating. It’s sometimes easier to focus strictly on what the person says, instead of worrying about how you’re presenting yourself visually. On top of that, you should be able to gauge chemistry a whole lot better on a quick phone call than you can via text. Can you joke? Do they pick up on your humor? Can you fill the time without even thinking twice about it? If not, then you can probably continue your search on the apps.
3. Keep early FaceTimes to 30 minutes or less
After one or two flirty, intriguing phone calls, step it up. Pepper in FaceTime, Skype or Zoom calls, which should be a better approximation of a real-life date. Just like you would in a pre-COVID world, get a drink or even do dinner via FaceTime. And, just like you would pre-COVID, have an out. Say you have to join another call at 9 p.m. or take the dog out. Even though we kinda have all the time in the world right now, you want to pace this relationship realistically instead of speeding through milestones. Leave something on the table to explore tomorrow.
4. Graduate to multi-hour “dates.”
If all goes well, plan a “date” centered around an at-home activity. There are a lot of interesting, fun things you could do together. Maybe you can order supplies for a paint-and-pour, both working on the same picture as you talk and sip wine. You could also watch the same Netflix movie or TV series while FaceTiming, chatting and discussing the whole way. If you do this, keep it light (think Too Hot to Handle or Schitt’s Creek).
If you are feeling more cerebral, you could do a book or “little bit of everything” club, where you separately do a little “homework” and have some built-in talking points. This is a great way to learn more about the way someone thinks in a super organic manner. It’ll also give you something to bond over and text back and forth about.
Another “date” idea: 20 questions. Each of you has to come up with ten questions that you’d love to know about the other person. List your questions from least to most provocative and ask and answer in this order. (It’s kind of like 36 Questions to Fall in Love, but where you lead the charge.)
The most important point is to be creative and really enjoy getting to know someone on a deeper level before your relationship eventually turns physical. Actually date right now; don’t wait until you see them in person to develop a relationship. For people who typically escalate relationships physically before emotionally, this could be a welcome change of pace.
Jenna Birch is a journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women, as well as a dating coach (currently accepting new clients). To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at email@example.com.