How To Navigate Dating And Self-Love During A Pandemic
I recently wrote an article on the benefits I experienced from taking a year off dating and how important it was for me in order to heal and be ready to date again. Well, imagine my thrill when shortly after I decide to end my dating sabbatical, I’m faced with a worldwide pandemic that severely limited my ability to date.
With that said, despite the many challenges the pandemic has brought on for both singles and attached, I experienced some positive changes from it when it came to my dating life.
Social distancing has made me find a whole new way of communicating and connecting that I probably wouldn’t have explored had this pandemic not occurred. Through finding creative ways to have first dates, like using video chats, to social distance walks and hikes, I found myself navigating a territory that I haven’t put as much emphasis on as I should have – building emotional connections.
During this rare era of dating, I’ve been able to learn new ways of connecting and exploring relationships that I hadn’t tried before and hope to continue post-pandemic. These strategies have put me more in tune with myself and what I appreciate in getting to know someone. The most effective practices I hope to continue are below.
1. Stepping out of my comfort zone and into video chatting.
Going on your first virtual date is no easy task, even if you get to stay home and low-key wear your pajama pants, it’s still incredibly scary knowing you’ll be face to face via camera with a complete stranger. I would be lying if I said I didn’t drink a couple of glasses of wine before the first time I tried it.
But once I ripped the band-aid off, it wasn’t so scary anymore and was actually even fun. I ended up feeling proud of myself for being brave enough to do it.
When you go on a first date with someone you’ve never met in real life, you have to put a lot of effort into it. You are typically designating at least two hours of your time to spend with a stranger you may or may not hit it off with. You have to come up with a good outfit, do your hair, drive somewhere, and try your best to not appear tired if you’re going for drinks after a long day of work.
With video chatting, it’s so much more simple. While I think it’s still important you put in some effort to showcase your best self, you also get to do it from the comfort of your own home. If they lack charm or just aren’t your type, you can end the date a lot easier on the phone than in person.
Plus, you can still tell a lot about a person from a video chat that you’d never pick up from texting. Their mannerisms, attitude, and humor become more evident.
You can get glimpses of the background of where they are, does their house look well kept or is it completely disorganized and messy in the background? Did they show up to your video chat date right after the gym, sweating, and in their gym clothes or take the time to do their hair a bit and look good for you? All of that can help you get an idea of who they are.
So even though I missed the exciting feeling of a good date in person, where there’s clear chemistry, possible hand-holding or more, I enjoyed being able to talk to different types of people, all without leaving the comfort of my home and being able to decide if I’d even be interested in meeting up with them in person.
2. Taking the time to get to know someone before letting the physical connection blur things.
Some of my relationships in the past have developed physically before they did emotionally and those ones were always the rockiest. I love that pandemic dating forces us to focus much more on the emotional connection over the physical side of things.
From my experience, I found if he isn’t keeping me engaged, making me laugh, or bonding over shared interests, he’s not my guy. If it was in person, I might not notice the conversation is a bit dull if I’m distracted by his good looks but on the phone, I want to talk about meaningful things like our childhood, what movies make us tick, and what our passions are.
Through these ways of connecting, I have found myself feeling emotionally connected to men I never thought I’d be into. I gave chances to men I would normally pass on (or swipe left on), and found myself pleasantly surprised that the men I would have likely skipped out on were often the ones surprising me with our shared interests, chemistry over the phone, and engaging conversations.
I learned going outside of your usual type can be a good thing.
3. Identifying when my heart wasn’t into it and when I needed alone time or a break from dating
During social distancing, I found myself not always in the mood to talk or engage in conversation with new people I hadn’t met yet. Despite the unknown in the world, I didn’t put any pressure on myself to rush relationships or date when my heart wasn’t into it.
Instead, I enjoyed the peacefulness of living alone and being able to do all the things I wanted to without distractions from another person. I was able to complete personal projects that I had wanted to do but hadn’t set aside the time.
While being comfortable alone is great, there were still times I craved human touch or connection. In those moments, I discovered and practiced what gave me similar feelings like taking luxurious bubble baths with candles, meditating next to my sage diffuser, snuggling up to my dogs, and watching a comedy that made me laugh so hard it hurt in the most wonderful way.
When the world goes back to normal, I hope I can recognize when I’m burned out from dating or need a break and can put the focus on my self-care instead.
4. Discovering that doing activities together is a way less pressured way of getting to know someone
Once the social distance rules lightened up a bit but still not enough to go for dinner and drinks, I found myself going on creative outdoor dates which included hikes, walks in the park, bike rides, or hanging on a beach.
I discovered doing activities side by side and not face-to-face dinners takes the pressure off significantly and allowed me to have a much more relaxed time instead.
When you’re at dinner, you feel like you’re sitting in front of someone on a job interview, trying to explain why you would be a great match for them all while hyper-focusing on whether or not you’ve said or done something stupid. Doing something fun together is a much better way to get to know someone on a first date and this is something I hope to continue post-pandemic for any first dates I might have.
There’s no doubt dating during a pandemic has its difficulties. However, I was pleased to discover I actually was forced to date in a way that I wasn’t exactly used to and probably wouldn’t have tried without social-distancing becoming my new normal for a while.