As if dating weren’t complicated enough already, COVID-19 has upped the ante. Throughout 2020, dating as we know it came to a standstill—as virtual dates replaced in-person dates and nearly every physical form of intimacy with potential partners came with new risks.
Now that 2.25 billion vaccines have been administered worldwide and infection statistics are gradually decreasing in the U.S and Europe, it’s getting safer to socialize more. The virus may not be gone, but with lockdowns and restrictions starting to ease, starting to date again feels feasible.
So what can we do to safely dive back into the dating pool with our mental and physical health intact?
Work on your confidence and self-esteem.
The pandemic has taken a lot from us these past 14 months, and our mojo, confidence, and optimism are no exception. It’s okay to move at your own pace as you ease back into dating and take the necessary time to restore yourself before re-emerging as single.
“Take it slow. It has been a year full of uncertainty,” advises Akua K. Boateng, Ph.D., LPC, founder & CEO of Boateng Psychotherapy & Consultation. “You get to create safety as you pursue dating. Dating can be challenging enough outside of doing it post-pandemic, so normalize the emotions that arise.”
Boateng recommends practicing mindfulness to help process complicated thoughts and feelings and identify your emotional needs. She also suggests writing down your preferred outcome for the dating process and communicating it on dates. It’s important to set realistic boundaries—both with yourself and potential partners—that will help you feel safe and secure moving forward.
“Going into the unknown can be tough but having a plan helps mitigate anxiety,” says Boateng. Even if these needs have changed since the pandemic…this is ok. If you aren’t ready, take the time to learn about your desires for connection and work on self-awareness. Self-discovery time will only enhance your future relationship.”
Make sure you’re truly ready to date again.
As with many aspects of life, there will always be times when we think we’re ready for something when we’re not. Wanting intimacy, feeling lonely, or feeling nostalgic may be signs that it’s not yet time to jump back into dating. Matchmaker and dating coach Shannon Tebb suggests staying intentional to make sure your path aligns with your level of readiness .
“It’s not about racing through profiles or getting out on as many dates as you can, but rather, it’s about making a conscious decision to meet someone based on whether they are ideally a good match,” founder of Shanny In the City. “Be upfront about what you’re looking for—whether it’s a relationship or casual dating, virtual dates or [in-person] dates. I think that definitely paints the picture and gives people clear communication on next steps moving forward.”
Tend to your own needs first, then start exploring. And above all else, if it feels wrong; hold off. There’s nothing wrong with some nervousness, butterflies, or general worries here and there. But if you find yourself feeling queasy at the thought of throwing your dating hat back into the ring, keep it on your head for a little while longer.
Explore what it means to stay safe.
No matter what laws are in effect where you live or how many people have been vaccinated, safe will always be better than sorry. Social distancing and COVID-19 prevention will likely be a big part of our lives for the foreseeable future—and that includes our dating lives. For instance, mentions of the word “vaccination” on OkCupid profiles increased 1,486.5% in April 2021 compared to January 2021.
“We’ve become more comfortable and upfront about discussing health issues—like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and getting the coronavirus vaccine,” says Michael Kaye, Senior Global PR Manager for OkCupid. “As more and more daters get their coronavirus vaccines, singles are sharing their status proudly. That’s making people more open to talking about sexual health.”
Staying safe in terms of STD/STIs during sex is a well-covered topic; however, many of us may be asking how to navigate safety issues around sex and COVID-19. Just like every other part of pandemic life, staying safe starts with protecting yourself, says behavioral scientist and relationship coach Clarissa Silva.
“Prior to having sex, make sure your potential partner has been tested and is negative,” shares Silva, who is also the creator of the H20 Method. (With home testing kits being available in most countries, this is easier now than ever for both you and your partner.) “Discuss vaccination and C19 prevention strategies, your sexual health history together, and practice safe sex.”
The thing about dating and COVID-19 is that it isn’t that different from daily COVID-19 safety. Not only is there no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through penetrative sex, but it isn’t advised to sanitize intimate areas of the body beyond your usual hygiene routine. If you’re unsure about anything, the New York City Health Department has even advised having masked sex, alongside giving other tips.
Stay empathetic, but stay true to yourself.
All things considered, not everyone will be able to wear a mask or get a vaccine. Whether it’s due to health reasons, allergies, or age, you’re likely to come across a potential partner or date who can’t (or isn’t willing to) protect themselves in the same manner you do. Think critically before jumping to conclusions, but if you are high-risk or simply don’t feel comfortable, you have a right to politely exit the situation.
Following these tips and best practices can ensure that you’re ready for the emotional and physical aspects of dating inside this new normal—and to find a partner who can help you navigate this brave new world in which we’re living.
What are your thoughts, fears, and hopes about getting back into the dating sphere? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!