While the coronavirus is nowhere near over, as more and more of the country starts to reopen, it’s not just hitting the gym and getting a pedicure that many people are looking forward to—in-person dating is once again becoming an option. But going from an isolated, socially-distanced lockdown to dating new people is a drastic change, and there are both physical and emotional aspects to consider. Ahead, experts weigh in on how to safely start dating again after coronavirus closures, and what to keep in mind when you do.
Know your risk factors
From a medical perspective, the first thing you should consider before you start dating again is what coronavirus risk factors you have, says Jonathan Baktari, MD, CEO of e7Health. Dating during this time is risky, but it’s going to be even riskier for those who already may have a higher likelihood of contracting the virus to begin with. If that’s you, this might not be the best time start to dating.
Limit actual dates
Remember that the more dates you go on, the higher the likelihood of exposure, says Dr. Baktari. “The more you do and the more you’re out, the higher the risk,” he adds. While there’s not necessarily a set number of dates you should limit yourself to, now's the time to be super selective. Try talking on the phone or scheduling a video chat to see if there’s at least some kind of connection first, rather than immediately opting for an in-person meet up.
Ease into things
A lot of people are definitely going to want to jump into long-term relationships right away post-quarantine, says love coach Nicole Moore. “Being alone for so long without social interaction has made many singles realize just how much they do want a partner,” she explains. That may be particularly true for those who were already looking for a serious relationship pre-pandemic, which is understandable. Just be mindful of this.
“Be sure to take your time as you move into new relationships, so that you’re not seeing someone just to try and fill the void that so much time alone may have left you with,” says licensed clinical psychotherapist Erin Wiley, MA, LPC, LPCC. If anything, now’s the time to not settle for the bad dates or relationships you might’ve in the past. “You survived and made it through quarantine solo, so your standards should be higher than ever,” adds Moore.
Embrace the awkwardness
Like we said, it’s a big jump to go from being home alone for months on end to being back out in the dating world. It’s only natural that it might feel strange, awkward, and even be a little scary. “The thing is, whoever you’re going on a date or socializing with post-quarantine probably feels the same as you do,” says Moore. Be vulnerable about how you feel—uncomfortable, excited, nervous—and you’ll likely see that your connection increases. Reminding yourself to be present in the moment and appreciative for the social contact you’re having can also help you get you out of your head, she adds.
Get creative with date ideas
The best case scenario right now is being outdoors and keeping some space between you and your date, notes Dr. Baktari. Take a walk or pick up some takeout (plus a couple of canned cocktails to help ease any awkwardness) and have a picnic. Hang in the park and play cards or a board game. “These are all fun ways to interact and spend time together when you’re dating someone new,” says Wiley.
Be cautious about hook-ups
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Hooking up in times like these is going to be more loaded than ever. “Be mindful of other people's boundaries and ask them how they're feeling about physical connection before you go for it,” advises Moore. You can do so in a light and casual way, but it’s a good idea to check in with your date if you do think things are leading in that direction. Of course, there’s also your physical health to consider. If you do meet someone you connect with, the best case scenario would be that you each isolate separately and alone for 14 days, then take a covid test prior to becoming intimate, says Dr. Baktari. Granted, that may not be entirely realistic, so again, just keep in mind that the more intimate you are with someone, the higher the risk.
Maintain some alone time
The forced slowing-down that many of us had to do throughout all of this has made many people realize life was too frantic and fast-paced, points out Wiley. Make sure to continue to protect some of that quiet space for yourself as you reenter the dating scene after coronavirus closures. In other words, resist the urge to go out on multiple dates a week. “It’s a healthy balance to spend time with others and also spend alone time with ourselves. Now that we’ve had a chance to see things in a new light, consider not rushing back into the social rat race, and moving a little more slowly, while protecting some of your own personal time and space,” she suggests.
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