What we can take from a year of dating while being apart going forward.
Words by Ellen Ricks.
Dating looks quite different in the age of social distancing. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other traditional first date locations have been replaced with Zoom chats. A kiss on a first date is now an elbow bump, if you’re lucky. However, restrictions have not deterred daters. Dating app OkCupid has seen a 700% increase in the amount of users going on virtual dates since March, with other apps such as Tinder and Hinge also seeing a sizable increase.
With a vaccine soon to be distributed to the mass population, many are hopeful that our love lives will return to “normal,” or “new normal.” Still, dating in a global pandemic has given us tips that can be used going forward. Here are the trends that a dating app creator, a clinical psychotherapist and plenty of daters have been using throughout the pandemic, and should continue to do.
Holding off on Sex
Living in a time where holding someone’s hand could land you in the ICU, people have become more selective about who they see and sleep with. Or, as 41-year-old Yolisa Nehanda in South Africa said after receiving requests to be ‘lockdown buddies’’ from men, “Imagine me dying of this virus from mediocre penis?”
“Imagine me dying of this virus from mediocre penis?”Yolisa Nehanda
She has a point. With sex off the table, many people have switched their priorities to ones focused on emotional connections, something that Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a clinical psychotherapist and author of “Training Your Love Intuition, suggested we should continue when it’s safe to touch again.
“I like the idea that one of the few benefits [of the pandemic] dating wise is that it’s taught us to keep the distance,” Wish says. “[It’s] taught us to find ways to relate that don’t have to lead you into having sex too soon.” Wish also says that while sex is great, it actives your hormones and endorphins that could “prompt you to connect emotionally too deeply before you really know the other person.”
While it’s crushing to prolong a record long dry spell, postponing sex can keep you mentally, emotionally and physically healthy as you learn to build a relationship with others.
Blending Virtual and In-Person Dating
Probably one of the biggest “winners” in 2020 is virtual dating, according to Jordana Abraham, the co-founder of Ship, a dating app that allows your friends to pair you up with potential matches. Abraham noticed a boost in virtual dating at the start of the pandemic. “Practically no one would go on a virtual date, and now we’ve seen over half of our users have done it—and most reported they liked it! It’s a much safer and low-barrier way to see if you connect with someone.”
Virtual dating has been a game changer, not only for lowering exposure to the virus, but it also makes dating accessible for people with factors that make traditional dating difficult, such as disabilities.
“People have connected emotionally when they’ve been on the virtual meetings, so it is possible to take connection and learn how to apply it to real life,” says Wish. “And one of the most benefits I found amongst my clients is that taking your time to get to know someone is easier virtually.”
Many who date seem to be enjoying virtual dating, with the most popular date being watching movies or TV shows together despite the distance. Twenty-three-year-old Preston Smith in Ohio, met his partner Taylor in person back in February 2020, but didn’t pursue the relationship until they matched on Tinder during the lockdown. While they can’t physically date, Smith and Taylor have been taking on FaceTime dates where they will sync up and watch something together.
Ben Wegloski and Jen Anthony in Illinois began dating in person in January 2020, but had to switch to virtual dating when lockdown began. While the couple admits it has been a struggle, they’ve found enjoyment by watching shows together or chatting over the phone while meeting up in separate cars to maintain that in-person visual connection. Wegloski says that the easiest part of pandemic dating was actually getting to know each other. “When we couldn’t do classic dating activities like going to movies or restaurants, we really had to focus on each other and learning about one another,” he says.
With the trend of virtual watching, Ship has rolled out a new feature on their app called “Top Shows,” a new profile feature that asks users to highlight what they are loving on TV–perfect for both “Netflix and chill” season and viral dating. “In the era of COVID, people are staying home and binge-watching more than ever, and that’s become a key connection point for people,” says Abraham. “We decided to make it even easier for daters to bond over their TV obsessions by introducing this feature.” She says the app has seen an increase in usage as daters who add the Top Shows feature to their profile are twice as likely to get a match.
However, virtual dating is not without its drawbacks–the physical connection in dating remains. A solution to this could be the blending of virtual and real-life dating together. For instance, going on a short virtual date as a “trial run” before a real date, or as a good way to stay connected for when you are unable to connect in person.
By being more mindful and more aware of certain behavior you will and will not tolerate, you can find yourself in healthier relationships.Ellen Ricks
Fauci-ing and Red Flags
According to a study done by the dating site Plenty of Fish, one of the new dating terms that has appeared last year is “Fauci-ing,” where someone declines to date a person who they feel isn’t taking COVID-19 seriously enough, with 1/4th of users reporting to have done this. We’ve been given a rare opportunity to see how people react to a global crisis and spotting red flags before it’s too late. Anti-maskers, virus deniers, people not social distancing? Swipe left, please.
After a year living in the unknown, Yolisa is no longer dealing with red flags. “I have zero patience after surviving an apocalypse,” she says. “My default now is to just block men at the first sign of nonsense or red flags.”
Dr. Wish recommends that even after the pandemic is over, keep looking at potential partners, learn to ask better questions and make observations about how your date treats others. One of her best tips is to keep a dating journal that lists your emotional needs and first impressions. By being more mindful and more aware of certain behavior you will and will not tolerate, you can find yourself in healthier relationships.
If living and loving through a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to value our time, ourselves, and the connections we make.Ellen Ricks
Being Serious About Relationships
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to get serious about the relationships we form and the connections we decide to nurture. When the world feels like it’s crumbling around you, you want someone who is in your corner–someone you would buy toilet paper and lock down with.
While 1/3 of Gen Z daters have admitted to “apocalypse-ing,” another Plenty of Fish term in which people treat every relationship like it’s their last and get super serious with someone they just started dating, there is another way to date seriously without losing your sanity.
Dr. Wish recommends finding a “wing person,” someone who “can help fly the plane of the relationship.” When entering or deciding to enter a new relationship, consider if they would make a good wing person: do they want the same things you do? Are they reliable? By creating an emotional checklist, you can figure out what you’re looking for in any type of relationship.
Preston knows exactly what he wants now due to his experiences in the pandemic. “I’ve always been a bit of a hopeless romantic, but I think the pandemic has made me realize that I really do want to have solid love and a committed relationship,” he says.
If living and loving through a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to value our time, ourselves, and the connections we make. By looking at relationships based on mutual love, respect, companionship, and the ability to take care of each other during the worst of times, we can make a relationship that lasts–during “new normal” times and the apocalypse.