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Social distancing and staying at home (under mandatory orders) have changed the way we move about in our day-to-day lives. Many of us are much more cautious about who we see, what we do, and where we go. In our attempts to protect ourselves and the people with whom we’re in direct contact, we make an extra effort to respect health guidelines — even at the expense of our relationships.

Some of us are still continuing to meet friends and family in close quarters and at a distance, while others haven’t seen loved ones since the very first lockdown. So what does that mean for people who are dating? How are they staying safe while exploring their options?

Online dating during the pandemic has become particularly tricky as video chatting has basically taken over as the primary mode of communication. Some people have chosen to enter into relationships and even cohabitate with their newfound partners. But where does that leave others who want to keep things casual during a pandemic? As if dating before a plague wasn’t hard enough, there’s an added layer of safety that needs to be kept in mind. 

Young woman in a face mask taking selfies on a city street

Source: AJ_Watt / Getty

Yes, dating can be difficult, and this new level of dependence upon apps and social media may be enhancing or minimizing that — depending on who you ask. Author, speaker, and intimacy and relationship educator Yanni Brown had been hosting workshops and sessions in group and one-on-one settings for over 15 years. Recently, she has transitioned to using Zoom and other video-chat platforms exclusively as she begins to service those who have decided to continue dating online.

Read on for more from Brown and relationship expert, author, speaker, and media personality Love McPherson.

You’ve Got To Do The Work

“I’m real big [of] ‘you’re gonna do the work and I’m gonna guide you,’” she says. Brown worked with a couple for six weeks, giving them homework assignments each week. These sessions, in addition to her previous endeavors, remind her that there’s no cookie-cutter approach to helping couples reach a resolution. 

Discernment & Creativity Go A Long Way

However, when it comes to helping folks identify their mistakes, Brown has some very direct words of advice. She lists rushing into a relationship, not knowing what you want, and staying too long as three very common and easy errors to make. When we meet people, we’re meeting their representative.”

It’s in getting to know them, Brown says, that we see their flaws. However, being creative with getting to know someone (in the age of online dating and a pandemic) is what she says can lead to making better connections.

Brown suggests taking socially distanced walks, cooking together over FaceTime, or engaging in other online meetings of that nature. 

Smiling couple taking selfie at park on sunny day

Source: Morsa Images / Getty

Ask The Important Questions

Most important, she advises those who are still online dating to “go into it open, asking questions that yield a conversation to gather the information that you want and need.” Sure, this can be one of the more uncomfortable steps in dating, but it can also keep you from wasting time.

For example, if you do decide to meet IRL, asking questions about in-person boundaries beforehand is critical. Are you shaking hands? Tapping elbows? Hugging? Are all of these deal breakers?

Brown suggests that respecting each other enough to observe COVID restrictions, whether you’re with friends or the person you’re seeing, is a true indicator of how that person operates outside of a pandemic. “You want to make sure you’re giving the best version of yourself to this person. You can’t go play basketball with the boys or hang with the girls and then go be around someone you claim to care about.” 

Assess When It’s Best To Let Go Of Fear

Should those feelings develop into more, relationship expert, author, speaker, and media personality Love McPherson says letting go of fears and understanding the risks are a part of taking those next steps.

She is on a mission to teach individuals, “how to love better” by healing their relationships. In the cases of those who are currently dating online, McPherson says to be aware of heightened stressors caused by the pandemic. “Being together too much…will either highlight you as an amazing team or expose the areas where you and your relationship require work.”

Even if you’re waiting to be able to spend more time together, being glued to your phone in the process doesn’t leave much to discuss. Space, even during a pandemic, is important, and setting boundaries has become essential to personal peace and thriving relationships. 

Friends / couple having breakfast in the balcony at home

Source: FG Trade / Getty

Take Action

“Catastrophes often push us to our next step,” McPherson says. So instead of avoiding the hard questions like we typically would in a pre-COVID dating scene, stepping up to the plate has become the new normal.

Here are some actions you can take, according to McPherson, to ensure that you’ll experience and maintain deeper connections: 

  1. Make sure you slow down, pay attention to red flags, and reflect while getting to know each other. 
  2. Use your time together to listen, to understand, and to talk transparently. 
  3. Pay attention to make sure that you don’t over-invest in someone who’s not invested in you.

Don’t Forget To Self-Reflect

Self-reflection is the key to figuring out what you want, in general, and this has proved to be beneficial when it comes to online dating as well. How we act while getting to know someone is a direct reflection of how well we love/know ourselves.

Get comfortable knowing what you want, communicating what you want, and actively seeking what you want. If nothing else, this past year has taught us that time is precious. Spend this time wisely by increasing your self-awareness, learning what you want from a significant other, and determining what you can offer.

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