Online dating is the most popular way to find a partner since 1994. Now with COVID-19 and the social distancing boundaries of our society, online dating has become one of the safest ways according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. With the new social order of social distancing as a result of COVID, the atmosphere of dating has changed as we have heightened concerns and questions about staying healthy and safe. It can be difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible for folks to even consider dating and yet, there may be a need for companionship in such an isolating time. Although staying safe is important, having social interactions with people is just as important. But how exactly can someone date safely during COVID? Below you’ll find tips to expand your dating experiences and questions you’ll want to ask yourself to help you be better prepared for the nuances of dating during COVID. 

Creating boundaries in your dating profiles. Dating profiles are a great way to establish boundaries for your dating needs. Expressing your expectations of dating on your profiles allows for honest communication between you and your prospective date. By expressing your boundaries and dating needs before talking with someone, you have already set a precedent to the other person about your expectations and may rely on them if someone may ask you to do something you may not be comfortable with doing.  

Wait to meet in person. For some, just meeting up with a new person can be daunting. In order to establish a good connection with a date, waiting to meet in person may be a good way to get to know them first. You may want to establish a connection with them via messaging or through online video conferencing such as Zoom or GoogleMeets. Perhaps setting up a video date-night in which you and your date play a game or make dinner together over video. There are many options and opportunities to maintain a healthy distance with a new partner! 

Socially-distanced dates. You may want to meet up with someone but feel a pressure to get closer to your date or take off your protective measures. By creating a date that incorporates social distancing, you may feel less inclined to violate your own boundaries. Here are some examples of socially distanced date ideas:

  • Walks in the park or forest where you wear masks and maintain a safe distance that both of you have agreed upon before the date.
  • Playing paintball in an outdoor environment in which you and the other person are wearing protective clothing and headgear and maintaining a socially safe distance.
  • Canoeing or Kayaking along a river, lake, ocean wearing masks
  • Apple picking or pumpkin carving outdoors wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from each other. 
  • Ice skating in an outdoor rink or indoor arena depending on both of your comfort levels while maintaining a safe distance and wearing masks.
  • Walks in the rain under two separate umbrellas throughout the city or the countryside
  • Playing tennis either indoors or outdoors based on your comfort levels and discussing if masks are necessary.
  • Meeting up to go grocery shopping together if you live in the same neighborhood taking separate transportation to the store.
  • Visiting an outdoor beer or wine garden.
  • Taking bike rides in a neighborhood or along a trail.

Before implementing any of the above tips, take some time and ask yourself the following questions in order to maintain your well-being safely. You may want to write them down or answer them in your head. By setting up boundaries before you even start to trek into the online dating apps and websites, you're able to feel more comfortable in your dating abilities so you may explore within the difficult confines of COVID. It’s important to note, there is no one way to date, only your way.

EMOTIONAL READINESS

  • Are you ready to be dating? 
  • Have you given yourself enough time to emotionally process your last relationship?  
  • Are you willing to let someone into your world?
  • In what ways are you not ready to let someone in? What can you do to work on those barriers?

 TIME AVAILABILITY

  • Can you identify for yourself how much time per week you have to explore online apps and to take the risk?
  • Will you be able to maintain the other obligations you may have such as family, friends, work, and/or religious obligations?

COVID SAFETY ISSUES

  • What are your responsibilities to the people you currently live with? Or interact with?  Do you have family, friends or coworkers that you share indoor space with that are immunocompromised? 
  • What is the level of physical risk you are willing to take?  For example, if you work in a hospital system would you feel more comfortable dating someone who is equally high risk?  
  • How committed to the person do you need to be, to be willing to break the social distancing space and risk exposing yourself to COVID? At what juncture in a relationship do you want to have the conversation about COVID monogamy (ie breathing the same air, never mind kissing and all the old concerns about STI’s and pregnancy). 
  • Can you identify for yourself the different meaning (s) of sitting outside and eating near each other?  Sitting at a restaurant?  Sharing a drink?  Walking into a store with someone? Taking your mask off?  

SEXUAL SAFETY ISSUES

  • Can you identify for yourself the different meaning(s) of holding hands, kissing, mutual masturbation, phone sex, oral sex, intercourse? Do you care if the other person is being exclusive?  
  • How can you ensure that the other person will stop if you want to stop? 
  • Are you hoping to see multiple people or just one person at a time? How does this change your plan?
  • What information would you need about a potential date's status to feel comfortable having a sexual relationship with them? (e.g. do you need them to have a negative COVID test, or know that they're quarantining?)

EMOTIONAL CONNECTION QUESTIONS

  • What would you need to know about the other person's dating status or intentions to make you feel comfortable? 
  • In the past, how have you been able to identify an emotional connection with a potential partner? How can you incorporate the past identifiers to this new standard (e.g. being able to talk to someone about deeper problems may be transitioned to talking about the deeper problems over text/video chat)?

WHEN DO YOU KNOW IT’S A REAL RELATIONSHIP

  • Has the other person introduced you to their friends (by skype, facetime, zoom, facebook posts)?
  • How do you feel about inviting the other person into your life (meeting your friends or family via video chat?)
  • Do you find yourself always initiating conversations or contact with the other person? 
  • How do you feel about having a conversation with them about increasing the level of your relationship (e.x. Calling each other names, creating boundaries around the relationship, going “official” on facebook, etc.)?

By answering the above questions, you have deepened your understanding of your boundaries and needs while dating during COVID. You may be more aware and critical about unsafe behavior or requests from another person. Take that uncomfortable feeling and see where it conflicts within you. That conflicting feeling is okay, it’s your safety mechanism to protect you and your loved ones. Be open to expressing this with the other person if it comes up and work together on compromising. It seems now more than ever communication is key to a happy and healthy dating life. These are uncharted territories when it comes to dating during a pandemic, but with these tips and questions, you’ll be able to define your needs and create boundaries for a more fulfilling and bountiful dating experience.