Dating during a pandemic is undoubtedly a new thing for all of us. Thankfully, there are ways and means of going about it.
Get clear on what you want
Dating during a pandemic isn't only about being clear about what kind of partner you're looking for. It's also getting clear on what risks you're willing to take. Are you:
- Looking for someone to chat with online until the pandemic is over?
- Are you keen to meet someone but only outdoors; following social distancing protocol?
- Are you willing to remove the mask, but only after knowing them for a certain period of time?
- What COVID protocol would they have to follow for you to be willing to get intimate with them?
- Are you prepared to "have the talk" about all the above?
There is a chance that the person you end up dating is either more, or less, stringent with COVID protocol than you are. To get physically close, you both have to be on the same page.
Also, note that people are looking for different things when dating. For some, dating during COVID is simply a way to find new friends and overcome isolation. It's a spot of fun. For others, while they might be up for chatting to different people, they're looking for the one. Yet others will only want to focus on one person at a time. Be clear on what it is you want.
Have the talk early on
Before wasting time spending hours chatting, find out what they want. Both when it comes to dating during COVID and when it comes to dating at large. Are they looking for companionship, casual dating, a relationship, or something else?
It's easy to get carried away when chatting to someone online, so if you meet online, do have that talk early on. Also, bear in mind people aren't always what you expect them to be in real life. Usually, they aren't.
Some people truly can't write messages to save their lives. They are about as fun to chat to as a goldfish. Bearing in mind goldfish don't chat. That doesn't mean they aren't fun in real life.
If they aren't comfortable chatting, or doing phone calls, meet for a quick coffee and determine what you both want out of the experience. No, you might not know if there's enough chemistry to lead anywhere at all, but you both know what you want.
Even if they are super fun to chat with, try to meet for a twenty-minute coffee as soon as possible. It's better than building expectations. Because even if someone turns out to be great in real life, they likely won't be exactly as you expected them to be. And the longer you wait, the more attached you'll be to the idea you have of them.
If you keep dating, also find out what they are looking for in life in general. Do they want a safe and stable life filled with routines they enjoy? Are they looking for fun new experiences? Do they seek financial stability first? Or are they seeking new challenges and achievements? Are you comfortable with the life they want to create and what drives them?
Online opens doors...and leave them open...
With a pandemic, the chances are that you turn to online dating to meet people. Unless, of course, you're blessed with a brilliant community organising outdoor get-togethers and social distance activities.
Meeting people online is brilliant. I always say that the perk with online dating is that you can meet a lot of people. While sitting in your couch in your PJs. Possibly, eating a pint of ice cream. And watching a romantic comedy.
There is no stress about going out on a Friday night "just" to meet someone. Nor do you have to attend a ton of social activities for any other reason than being social. It removes the pressure of "finding" someone when doing social stuff. Instead, you have thousands of people in an app in your living room. You can meet someone at 3 am , or during your lunch break at work. All you have to do is "swipe right" (or whatever it happens to be on the app/site).
The issue? With so many fish in the sea and no face-to-face interaction, you quickly strike up conversations with a lot of people. Invariably, you realise some are more fun than others to chat with. And as there isn't that face-to-face thing, you might miss out on someone who's better in real life than while chatting. Which is why I often recommend meeting for a quick coffee, or drink, ASAP.
Accept that a lot of people will leave in the middle of a conversation. Life happened, or they got chatting to someone else with whom they had more chemistry.
Unfortunately, some people take this a step further and disappear after a few dates. If you don't like someone after the first date, and they don't like you, chances are there will be no more conversation. If they contact you, on the other hand, the polite thing to do is to say they were nice, but you felt no sparks. Or if you want to be just friends, say so.
The same holds true after another date or two. But if there's a lot of conversation and it goes on for weeks, you'd think they'd let you know if they decide not to pursue it further. Unfortunately, not everyone does that. They "ghost" you instead--disappear without a word.
This is why, if you don't like ghosting, you also discuss upfront that you would like someone to tell you if they lose interest. And it happens. We slowly discover who someone is, and not everyone is a match for us. Nothing personal, it's just not everyone's a fit.
Personally, I prefer if someone tells me that they don't want to keep dating me. I believe that's the right thing to do. To be upfront. If I think someone seems like a great person, I assume they'll do that. Unfortunately, some supposedly great people don't think so. And assuming they will be upfront only leads to issues.
Instead of making assumptions, ask for what you want upfront. Ask someone to tell you if they want to stop seeing you, as opposed to disappearing like a thief in the night.
Oh and note: ghosts often haunt you. They may randomly pop back into your life with some excuse for why they left. They may also leave you feeling haunted wondering "why?"
Stick to your guns
It's easy to let go of your own boundaries when fires start crackling. Always wearing a mask and keeping your social distance is easy until you feel madly attracted to someone or are desperate for a hug. It's also really easy to be clear on what you want from a man or woman until you're attracted to someone. That's to say: you're attracted to someone who doesn't offer that. Sticking to your guns about what you want is hard when attraction or the need for friendship and comfort creep in.
Sometimes it's good to be flexible. However, it's also imperative to know what your non-negotiable boundaries are. As such, it's good to have the above-mentioned talks as soon as possible.
The easiest way to keep a clear head? Be sure about what you want and where you are willing to be flexible. Also, try to fill your life with things that bring you joy. Most people get swept away by attraction when other areas of their life are coming apart. And when undergoing isolation, we all have a big part of our life come apart. That's why it's crucial to stay in touch with others digitally, over the phone and in the great outdoors.
Likewise, stay fit and try to fill your life with hobbies and projects that bring you joy. Having a purpose, whether a small side-business, doing volunteering, or cooking up meals for those in need tend to put you in a bright mood.
Here's a sneaky tip: the high you get from falling in love can be balanced out by exercising, followed by a meal of carbs.
The overarching answer: make no assumptions
Whether during a pandemic, or not, one of the most important things when dating is making no assumptions. Don't assume that someone will take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID. Don't assume they'll respect your need for safety. Don't assume that a good person won't ghost you. Don't assume that an adventurous person wants to travel the world after retirement.
State what you want. If someone isn't delivering, ask if it would be possible for them to change their ways. If you want to make them happy, ask for what they want. And be honest when answering whether you're willing to provide it or not.
Online dating is brilliant because it opens so many doors to meeting new people. But it also means you might get to know people before meeting them. And most people are slightly different to how you imagined them. Again, don't make assumptions. And give people a chance to grow on you. First impressions don't always last.
Lastly, stick to your guns about what you want. Don't let the need for being social or falling in love corrupt you. Be flexible, but don't negotiate your own boundaries. Fill your life with things you love to counteract the high of falling in love. Exercise, spend time with friends (digitally, over the phone and outdoors), and find things that give you purpose, whether a business, cause, your family, or helping people in your community.