If you think that the pandemic has slowed the establishment of new love, think again. Tinder saw the highest number of swipes in the dating app’s history on March 29. That date is, interestingly, around two weeks after the country began to shut down. It’s almost as if Americans thought, “I’ll be stuck at home. No better time than the present to research some potential matches!” The online dating industry as a whole saw more than a 13 percent increase during the pandemic. A respiratory virus sweeping the nation can’t stop lovebirds from finding each other. So we know that singles were actively looking for love or simple connections during lockdown, but what happens when you find someone in the time of social distancing?
You might recall that at the very beginning of the pandemic, people were claiming “quarantine buddies.” Single individuals and those who live alone predicted a long stretch of time when meeting up with anyone outside your home would be off-limits, so they paired up with a friend to quarantine with to fight the loneliness. Spending time, in person, with anybody outside your household was very taboo. Of course, that puts quite the damper on dating. We’re fortunate that the vaccines are rolling out now, but it can still be a while until those who aren’t on priority lists receive theirs. So on that note, here is how to stay safe when dating someone new until you can get vaccinated.
Enjoy the getting-to-know-you phase
Instead of asking, “How do we do things the way we normally would, but during Covid?” maybe lean into doing things differently. There might be a benefit to it. When there isn’t a global pandemic, you can basically hook up with someone as soon as you both consent to it. And while you may tell yourself you’ll wait longer this time, the right combination of cocktails, music, and mood lighting may sway your decision. Then what happens? You feel attached, without knowing the person too well. This isn’t a sexist thing: this is a science thing. When we orgasm (which, hopefully, your partner ensures you do), our bodies release oxytocin, which can make us feel bonded to the person who gave us that orgasm. Then, things can get confusing. Chemistry gets mistaken for compatibility, though the two don’t always go together. Maybe use this time as an excuse to get to know someone through virtual dates and phone calls before even considering getting into bed with them.
Communicate about roommates
You’ll need to talk about your living situations. If the person you hope to meet up with (and potentially hook up with) has a roommate, it’s important to gain an understanding of the COVID precautions being taken in that home. Is that roommate an essential worker who goes into a physical location to do his job every day? How does the roommate feel about you coming around? Does each roommate have their own bathroom or is it shared? You’ll have to get comfortable asking questions to get a lay of the land at this person’s place before going over there.
If you slip up, quarantine
In an ideal world, you’ll take all of the precautions. You will only see this person after you’ve both quarantined, been tested, and all of that good stuff. However, if you mess up and link up without having taken the necessary precautions, don’t let your shame around that cause you to make another bad decision. Don’t go off and see other people after you’ve met up with someone, having no idea whether or not that individual had the virus. Take responsibility for your mistake and quarantine before spending time with anyone else. While it can be hard to admit you did something irresponsible, it will be even harder to face if you give someone COVID because you wouldn’t admit that.
Get tested…COVID tested, that is
Speaking of getting tested, get tested! Obviously, you’ll still want to do your standard STD testing if and when you and this partner hook up/get serious/stop using condoms. But we’re talking about COVID-19 tests right now. A negative COVID test and a clean STD test result both give you that feeling of freedom. Now you’re ready to go have fun with each other, without worrying about getting an illness. Understandably, making an appointment and driving to a testing site can be a nuisance for some. That’s why on March 20th Tinder gave away 1,000 at-home testing kits to 500 matches. Recognizing that many young adults moved in with their parents during the pandemic, the company found it especially important that Gen Z’ers and others who are low down on the vaccine list continue to keep their loved ones safe while they explore a new kind of love.
Get excellent picnic supplies
The CDC has told us time and time again that the spread of COVID-19 is less likely outdoors than indoors. So you may have a lot of picnics in store. Anyone who has done a decent amount of park hangs at this point has learned that the outdoors is only hospitable for so long. Eventually, bugs crawl onto your food and the wet ground seeps up through the blanket. Invest in a waterproof picnic blanket like any of these. They’re warm on the top and waterproof on the bottom, and roll up like a suitcase for easy carrying. You’ll also want a good picnic basket/wine cooler hybrid like this one. Without good outdoor supplies, you might be tempted to move inside.
Hold off on meeting the friends
If you really get to like someone, the next natural step is introducing them to your friends and family. Some individuals who hit it off early in the pandemic might have had to wait months, or nearly a year now, before introducing their new flames to their other loved ones. Even though you want to announce your love from the rooftops and show off your great new partner to your friends (and perhaps your parents who have been pressuring you to partner up), you still have to be safe. If you really want your partner to meet friends and family who are in at-risk groups, introduce them over Zoom.
Stay up to date with local cases
Stay in the know on case rates in your area. Things are changing rapidly. While you might have made a date a few weeks ago for this weekend, cases may have jumped since then. An activity that’s moderately responsible one month can be reckless the next. The National Health Service has an app that will keep you informed on your risk level and cases in your area. It will notify you if you’ve been in contact with another app user who tested positive, has you check into venues and alerts you if you visited a place where someone tested positive, and keeps you informed on case rates in your area.
Don’t sleep around
Well, this one should go without saying, but this is no time to play the field and hedge your bets — at least not physically. If you want to chat with multiple people on the apps and go on virtual dates with several guys, that’s fine. But if you do get physical with one, you can’t get physical with another – at least not before quarantining and getting tested. Maybe there was something liberating about having a few hookups in the rotation before the pandemic. And as long as you used protection and were honest about not being exclusive, who were you hurting? But now the risk that comes with sleeping around is much higher.
Before the pandemic, you didn’t necessarily have to tell one guy if you were spending time with another. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, right? Again, as long as it was understood you were not exclusive you don’t owe anybody anything. However, now, with COVID-19, no matter how awkward it may be, if you spend time in person with one guy and then turn around and do the same with another, you have to let both know what you did. You could have gotten COVID from one, and given it to the other if getting tested before hanging out wasn’t the protocol.
Be mindful of family
If you are dating right now, you need to be mindful of your family if you’re also spending time or staying with them. Don’t go have an indoor dinner with 68-year-old mom after meeting up with a new guy. Even if you are taking precautions, you sort of have to choose between spending close time with at-risk family members, or your new partner. You have to choose your bubble, and the two can’t overlap without proper precautions. Again, you may have to be more honest than you want to, and find a tactful way to explain to your grandmother that you won’t be visiting for a little while because you want to spend time with a guy from a dating app.