Let’s be honest here: Dating took a severe hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. With public places – like restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and other venues that single people frequent – closed for over a year, in-person dating fizzled.
Dating apps may have been buzzing with activity, but the follow-through was negligible, as everyone needed to hole up and stay safe.
Are we turning a corner now when it comes to dating? We just might be. As more and more people are getting vaccinated, and restrictions are being lifted, in-person dating is poised to make a comeback.
As much as singles may be itching to get back out there, some challenges lie ahead. After over a year of living in solitude, most are, well, kind of rusty when it comes to dating. A recent survey of 1,000 single women conducted by Nurx, a telehealth platform, reported that 44% of them worry they’re out of practice. That’s not surprising, since 70% had less or no sex the past year.
And then there’s the challenge of how to approach dating. Should you revert to pre-pandemic levels regarding frequency and variety? Or will your dating life take on a whole new look, with carefully chosen partners and widely spaced meetups?
Finally, there’s the question of precautions. Should you date only those who’ve gotten the vaccine? Or only have dates outdoors? Or both?
Make some decisions first
Are you even ready to date? It’s important to be clear with yourself, Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at Match, told Mashable. Ask yourself: Do I have the desire and energy to swipe on apps, chat, and meet new people? It’s certainly fine if you’re not ready to take those steps.
But if you are, you need to decide next on what your intentions are. Are you looking for a long-lasting partner or someone just for a night? How often do you want to date? It might be helpful to set goals. Perhaps you want to aim for one date a week, or three messages a day on the apps, suggests HelloGiggles. Or maybe not. Allow yourself to take baby steps. If going on a date a week is too much or three messages a day is overwhelming, it’s fine to dial it down and take your time.
Think about what you’re comfortable with in terms of COVID-19 safety on a date. Will you only meet fully vaccinated people? Will you only date outdoors?
We’re not fully out of the woods with COVID-19, so it’s important to keep your own health in mind, as well as that of any prospective dates. Consider adhering to safety precautions if one of you is not vaccinated. “As excited as we all are as we transition back into our lives, we need to continue to be safe and considerate of others’ well-being,” Dr. Bita Nasseri told HelloGiggles.
Yes, it’s depressing to talk about the pandemic, considering what the country has gone through this past year and what individuals have experienced on a personal level. But it’s important, not only for your health but for open communication in a possible relationship, to discuss safety precautions and expectations with your date before you’re face-to-face (and tempted to lean in for a kiss).
Here are a few tips on how to broach the COVID-19 conversation: Tell them you want to share your thoughts on COVID-19, using a clear, matter-of-fact tone. Share your thoughts first. Be clear on what you want for the date. If you don’t feel comfortable eating indoors, say so. Don’t be apologetic. When your date shares their perspective, don’t interrogate them but be sure to be empathetic and open-minded, recommends HelloGiggles. The goal is for both of you to feel safe when you finally do meet in person.
Ease your anxiety
Having had few or no dates at all during the pandemic probably led you to experience a fear of putting yourself back out there. (Fear of Dating Again or FODA is a thing – it was coined by Hinge early this year.) Are you feeling hesitant and super anxious even though you’re, paradoxically, ready and eager? That conflict is okay. Experts say there are ways to ease yourself back into the dating world with less apprehension.
First-date nerves are not anything new. They were around long before COVID-19. To get into the right mind space and calm your sympathetic nervous system before a date, try meditating, mindfulness exercises, or deep breathing, Amy E. Keller, Psy.D, a licensed ily therapist, told Verywell Mind. Rehearse in your mind how the date might go. Imagine enjoying it and how that might feel in your body.
You might also try sharing those nervous feelings with your date. Connell Barrett, author of “Dating Sucks But You Don’t,” told HelloGiggles that admitting you have butterflies can actually reduce them and help you feel more confident.
Sharpen those dating skills
It’s easy to lose confidence in doing any activity when you haven’t had practice for a while, and that’s true of dating as well. To build your confidence back up before your date, offer yourself positive self-talk and enlist friends for support and advice, suggests Verywell Mind.
Go back in your mind to when you used to flirt. Remember that? Maybe it’s like riding a bike – once you learn, you never forget how. So dust off the eye contact and big, sparkling smile, and put them to good use. Whatever you do, however, don’t talk about your ex or look at your phone. “Those are big dating faux pas,” Susan Trombelli, CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, told HelloGiggles.
In case the date hits an awkward silence or starts to drag, have a few conversational topics stashed away in your back pocket that will enliven things again datig sites. Questions about your date’s interests and passions are always a good way to boost the conversation. And it will show your date that all the Zoom meetings and phone calls of the past year have made you a better listener. “Listening is a dating superpower,” Barrett revealed to HelloGiggles.
If your dating skills need polishing, you’re not alone. According to WebMD, many singles, out of practice and tired of seclusion, are craving intimacy and romance. Because of that, dating experts see a “tsunami” of relationships coming soon. So polish off those skills and get ready for the storm.