How To Date In A Pandemic: Why Slow & Steady Is The 'New Normal'

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man and woman eating and flirting

These times are unprecedented, and you're likely wondering how to date in a pandemic when the end isn't in sight.

You might keep asking yourself: “What can I do about it? How do I date safely?”

You don’t want to be alone. Maybe you haven’t been in a relationship since COVID-19 forced you into isolation.

Or perhaps you broke up with someone during this stressful time. Either way, you want to date! But how?

No question, dating couldn’t be more complicated right now. Trying to meet someone is a trickier situation than ever, to say the least.

Online dating or being open to meeting someone new is hard enough in normal times. Now, you don’t know who or what is safe.

How can you possibly tell if the person you’re meeting has taken all the necessary precautions — or if they care enough to protect you?

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Finding a person capable of extending themselves and being open to your feelings is a high priority in any and all dating situations. Perhaps that’s already been difficult to find.

Now, the stakes are higher. Safety must be your number-one concern. 

So, what can you do to ensure that both of you are safe during this time?

Here are 4 ways to date in a pandemic while keeping yourself safe and healthy.

1. Prioritize your own safety.

There’s nothing more important than protecting yourself. It’s not unusual (although never true) for women to feel they must put someone else first in order to be loved.

If you’re vulnerable or not sure that you’ll be loved for yourself, then you're probably not used to paying attention to your own needs first. And right now, that is far from safe.

Now is absolutely the time to put yourself first! You have to!

How do you do that in this strange time? What does it take to date safely in a dangerous pandemic?

Spend time on the phone talking. Get to know them slowly. Ask questions. Find out who they are, what they're like, and how they're dealing with COVID-19.

Be direct. Don’t be shy. Ask questions about their practices and exposure. Pay attention to what they say or don’t say.

Do they want to know about you? Are you having a conversation with them, or are they doing all the talking?

Be sure you’re meeting someone who has your safety in mind. Don’t jump into a meeting — as attractive as they are — if you have any doubts.

Take all the necessary safety precautions when you do. They should, too.

When it comes right down to it, protecting yourself is your responsibility. And if you’ve had trouble in the past, now is a chance to turn that around. It’s never too late to learn.

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2. Take things slow.

So, here’s something else that's important about how you date in a pandemic: This is a time to take things slow.

The benefit of this pandemic is you can ease into things and take the time to get to know each other. If the other person’s pushy, that’s not a good sign.

When you’re lonely and feeling deprived, that can be a recipe for rushing things, not seeing clearly, and giving in to seduction. Yes, there are definitely benefits to “slow.”

Try not to let your loneliness dictate what you do. Stop and think. Don’t be talked into something that you actually feel uncomfortable with.

Listen to the other voice inside. The voice who disagrees with your own pressure to move fast is the voice of the real you. It’s the voice of your best instincts. The ones that protect you and keep you safe.

Slow it down. Have a lot of telephone, Zoom, or FaceTime conversations before you actually meet. Get to know them. If they're someone safe, they’ll respect that and want it, too.

When you meet, take the recommended safety precautions. Meet somewhere outside, not indoors. Keep reasonable physical space. Wear a mask.

Loneliness is understandable. It’s been months of isolation. That’s more than hard. But this is not the time to let your loneliness dictate what you do, or to take any risks.

Plus, you might not make some of the mistakes you’ve made before — this time around.

3. Don't let loneliness make you rush.

Loneliness can make you jump quickly into fantasy. Infatuation isn’t real.

If you rush things, you’re prone to imagine things about this person that aren’t really about them. They’re about what you want to see, have, or believe, because you’re hungry to fill the empty hole inside you.

It’s difficult to be lonely. Not wanting to be alone is understandable. But wanting someone with desperation inevitably drives you into the wrong situation.

Have you lived with loneliness and self-doubt your whole life? Now, it might be worse.

The pandemic is triggering old anxieties and stirring up the deepest of vulnerabilities in everyone — especially if you had any childhood trauma. It’s a lot to bear on your own.

It’s important to find the right someone; kind and thoughtful, not preoccupied with their own needs. Someone who's a good match.

If you rush into a relationship, you can’t see clearly.

Being blinded by your loneliness isn’t at all helpful and it doesn’t work or get you what you need in the end. It’s best to slow down, take lots of time, and see what’s there.

But if you can’t, if you’re depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed with feelings of isolation to the point of despair, it might be the time to consider professional help.

Talking to a therapist isn’t the same as having someone to love you. But with a sensitive ear to listen, it will make inroads into your loneliness, and you’re less likely to rush.

4. Speak to a therapist if you need help.

Do you need help developing your self-protective instincts? Could you use someone to remind you of the voice inside that tells you what you really feel?

That’s where a good friend can step in. Yet, if falling into fantasy to create a salve for your hunger for love has been with you a long time, now is the time for something more.

If the suggestions in this article sound good, but you find yourself not able to put them to use as much as you want to or need to — then reach out for some therapeutic help.

There's no reason to be alone during this difficult time. There are many psychotherapists who are working by secure and confidential Zoom or telephone.

This is the time for taking it slow, for getting it right, and for learning how to protect yourself. And it is a time for love. There’s no reason you can’t learn to safely find it.

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Dr. Sandra Cohen is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and psychoanalyst, who specializes in treating childhood trauma, persistent depressive states, and all types of anxiety. Contact her if you have any questions.

This article was originally published at Sandra E. Cohen, Ph.D.. Reprinted with permission from the author.