Dating in a pandemic may seem like a confusing and impossible goal. This may be discouraging if one of your values is to pursue a romantic relationship. You may be thinking that dating isn’t a viable option right now, however, this may be a great opportunity to find meaningful connections. This webinar will focus on tools, skills, and discussions surrounding dating and seeking new relationships in the midst of a pandemic. This webinar will also include a chance to ask Dr. Michelle Litwer your related questions in an additional 20-minute Q&A.

Dating in a Pandemic is a part of our three-part webinar series: Adulting in a Pandemic, specifically geared towards Young Adults.

This is a FREE webinar. To register, click here.

THURSDAY, JUNE 25TH, 11:00 AM EST

Dating typically brings up a wide range of emotions. These emotions can be especially overwhelming and tough to manage during the coronavirus pandemic. This time is filled with uncertainty, higher levels of anxiety and frustration, grief, income loss, health complications, and feelings of disconnected and loneliness. You may be thinking that dating is the last thing on people’s minds right now, but stressful circumstances actually increase the innate desire to connect to others.

Some fun facts and data:

Recent data shows that online dating has rapidly increased. For example, Bumble saw a 26% increase in messages sent and 56% increase in video calls increase in use for its video call tool. In a user survey, Match found that 69% of singles said they were open to video chat vs. 6% of singles who were using video to meet a date pre-pandemic. 22% of singles willing to become exclusive with someone they had not met in person. In-app video chatting on Bumble increased 93% across country between March 13 (the day after the WHO labeled COVID as a pandemic) and March 27th.

Advantages of dating in a pandemic:

  • Dating helps build emotional intimacy and deeper connection. This could be a great time for people who are less interested in a “hookup” and are looking to establish an intimate, meaningful relationship.
  • It provides an opportunity to learn how your date handles challenging situations. And, since unexpected challenges are inevitable in life, you get to assess their skills in managing distress if you are looking to build a life with this person.
  • Conversation skills can be improved due to the lack of distractions you may find in a bar/restaurant/public space. There is more quality talking on video chats/ social distance activities.
  • This is an opportunity to build empathy among strangers trying to navigate similar challenges. Individuals on dating apps share something in common right now, which could be a great conversation starter, and ways to express validation and empathy.
  • You can save time and money dating virtually. As unemployment/furlough soars, this could be a nice break for your wallet. Not to mention, less time spent commuting to the date (while managing work/life schedule).

The good news is that there are ways to reduce and manage anxiety surrounding dating in the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Notice if you are judging your anxiety. Watch out for judgmental thoughts like “Ugh, what’s wrong with me. I’m not supposed to feel this anxious.” Anxiety is a normal and valid emotion to experience when dating. Anxiety can actually help you stay focused and motivated on the date! You may start off by naming and labeling your anxiety (i.e., “I’m feeling anxious because I feel awkward on this Zoom date and I’m worried the internet will cut out, that makes perfect sense, and there is nothing wrong with that”). The more you accept your emotions and validate them, the less overwhelming they will feel. And hey, news flash! The person you are sitting across from on the screen is most likely anxious too. You are not alone!
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  3. You may feel a sense of defeat and dread if several dates don’t end up working out. You may have the belief such as “I’ll be alone forever.” Catch yourself when you are going down this road. Although it may FEEL like you will be alone forever, this is unlikely to be true, and it is important to not let that thought interfere with working toward your goals. It may take time, so be patient, encourage yourself, and incorporate self-compassion when coaching yourself through (i.e., “I’m doing the best I can, despite this being a new and difficult process”). Remember, not everyone will be a match, and that is OK.
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  5. Radical acceptance is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill that can help tremendously during the rollercoaster of dating in a pandemic. Radical acceptance can be defined as complete and total openness to the facts of reality as they are (without bitterness or throwing a “tantrum”). The good thing is Acceptance DOES NOT equal approval, liking, condoning. So, for example, you don’t have to LIKE or LOVE dating in a pandemic. Saying things like, “It is what it is” and “I don’t like this, I can’t change it, but I can accept it” are ways to work towards accepting this painful reality.
    a. It may be helpful to notice when you are in non-acceptance mode: things like denial, avoidance of addressing the problem, phrases such as “it shouldn’t be this way,” “this isn’t fair,” and “why is this happening to me.”
    b. Be mindful that fighting reality doesn’t change reality.
    c. When you finally accept a situation as it is, it can lead to change (i.e., accepting social distancing rules can lead to finding new ways to date such as Zoom dates/ social distance activities).
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  7. Try not to ignore the elephant in the room. Talking about COVID and the challenges/stressors it presents can be very helpful and a way to connect. The topic can be a good icebreaker too. However, try to balance the amount of time spent talking about COVID and related stressors. If you find yourself obsessing about the topic, try to shift gears towards more positive topics (hobbies, values, interests, fun facts).
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  9. Individuals often create rules and “shoulds” around who they are choosing to date. For example, they may say they will only date someone who is a certain height or has a specific career. Be mindful of the rules you are creating, and how rigidity can get in the way of finding a partner. It may be worth increasing flexibility and seeing what would happen if you opened yourself up to others. Try going out of your comfort zone.
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  11. It may be helpful to identify what you’re seeking in a partner. Think about the values that are important to you in a partner. Define 3-5 non-negotiables. For example, you may value that your partner has a steady job, is passionate and ambitious, part of a group/community, or values family.
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  13. Focus on getting to know each other and try engaging on video chat as soon as possible. If you’re feeling a strong connection with somebody, it may be a better use of time to see them face to face on screen or meet up in person while social distancing. If the relationship progresses, you can spice up the virtual date with fun activities (stay tuned for ideas).
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  15. Anxiety often causes individuals to have an inward focus (i.e., ruminating and focusing on how you physically appear and sound). This can take away from the overall experience, and you may feel less connected and present. Try maintaining an outward focus by paying attention to what your date is saying, their facial expressions, and body language (which is understandably more difficult virtually). You will probably notice that you are better able to fully participate in the moment and be spontaneous, rather than obsess about the next word you’re going to say.
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  17. Find meaning in this distressing situation. This skill can be thought of as “making lemonade out of lemons.” Remind yourself of the positive aspects of this situation (i.e., “I save money and time without commuting. I get to be relaxed in my own home without having to dress up. I can even play with a stress ball during the date”).
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  19. If you decide to meet up in person, ask appropriate questions to feel more secure and reassured. Ex: How do you live your daily life? How many contacts do you have? Do you live with roommates? Do you have family members you see regularly?
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  21. A theory called cognitive overload/paradox of choice states that when faced with too many alternatives, we often pick none. After conversing with about 9 people, stop your search and get to know at least one of them better. Additionally, think of reasons to say YES. Often times we focus on the negatives and overlook the characteristics we do like about the person. Concentrate on what you do like about your date.
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  23. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and assert your needs. For example, if you have different views on social distancing, wearing masks, physical touch, sex, amount of time spent on Zoom date, etc., maintain your position and do what is right for you. Understand that you and your date may have different limits on social distancing/dating in general. Try to be direct, and don’t over apologize for having a different point of view!Ex: “I’m feeling worried about going home with you. I prefer to continue this walk and hang at the park.”
    Ex: “I’ve noticed we’ve been on Zoom for an hour and a half. I have to finish some laundry and prepare dinner. I had a great time.”
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  25. Notice any unhelpful thoughts that may make your anxiety worse. An example of this is catastrophizing (i.e., thinking the worst possible outcome will happen). Be on the lookout for phrases such as “If there are any awkward pauses, they won’t like me, and I’ll be embarrassed forever.” Try to ask yourself what is the worst possible scenario? Could I cope with that? Is it really as bad as I think it is? How will I recover if the worst were to happen?
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  27. Ask yourself what specifically is making you anxious. For example, you may have the thought “I’m worried someone will come into the room during my Zoom date.” The first step is to ask yourself, how likely is this to happen? If it is very likely, how can I reduce the likelihood of this happening (i.e., telling the people I live with ahead of time that I need 90 minutes to myself and to please not walk into the room).
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  29. If dating is scary for you, praise and reward yourself for facing your fear. Self-compassion is key here. It is important to remind yourself that you tried your best and put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Ultimately, the only way to achieve goals and live a valued life is to experience discomfort and painful emotions. Embrace that feeling. Ask yourself, “What would I say to comfort my friend right now?”
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  31. Be yourself! I think this is one of the most helpful tips. Often, people try to paint a picture that is not genuine and authentic of who they really are. This may get you in trouble down the road when the person sees a different version of you that they did not expect. Be mindful of how you are coming across on the first few dates and ask yourself if this is in line with your values, desires, and personal interests.
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  33. Relaxation techniques can be very helpful before a date. Try to think about relaxing activities you can engage in, rather than coming into the date feeling stressed, tense and overwhelmed. This could be engaging in paced breathing, listening to soothing music, stretching your body, taking a warm bath, looking at pleasant pictures, or talking to a supportive friend before the date.
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  35. Most importantly… embrace the awkwardness. Your cat or dog may make weird noises or jump on you, or a family member/ roommate may walk by the screen. Your date may observe something in your room that you weren’t expecting. Go with it, laugh it off, and try to have fun with it.

Here are some creative ideas for virtual dates/ discussions to bring up when connecting with your date:

  • Social distance walks
  • Picnic at the park
  • Curbside drinks
  • Citi bike tour
  • Cooking together (or order in the same meal)
  • Wine tasting
  • Question game (ex: 36 questions that lead to love)
  • Play games on the Houseparty app
  • Game in the Jackbox Party Pack
  • Movie night with Netflix Party extension
  • Online workout class
  • Virtual Museum tours
  • Attend a live stream concert/ virtual dance party

Other Helpful Resources: 

I hope these are some helpful and useful tips to get you through an exciting yet anxiety provoking experience! Good luck out there!