It’s officially cuffing season! And while we’re supposed to be cuddling up with our new beaus, introducing them to our families at holiday get-togethers and holding hands with them on a chilly evening stroll, coronavirus had a different idea. It’s no secret that finding love right now feels pretty impossible. Unless our soulmates are doubling as the cashiers at our local grocery store or our meal delivery drivers, it seems pretty unlikely that we’ll find love in the middle of a global pandemic. Being stuck in social isolation when we’re in our prime and during cuffing season might seem like a stroke of luck only 2020 could conjure up, but all hope isn’t completely lost. Believe it or not, Marketwatch shared that dating apps have actually seen an increase in the length of user conversations and the number of messages sent since shelter-in-place orders went into effect back in April.
In any case, looking for love in a time of social distancing is bound to be pretty tricky, especially since we’re all figuring out our new normal and making it up as we go. Luckily enough, we were able to catch up with dating coach Diana Mandell, who shared some of her expert advice for managing our dating lives during a global pandemic.
Get Back Out There
We think that we speak on behalf of singles everywhere when we say we’ve officially waited long enough for our shot at love to come along. We’ve finished watching every show on our Netflix queue, polished off far too many bottles of wine and spent our fair share of Friday nights wondering why the heck we’re still spending them alone. So we’re sure that we can all agree that it’s about time we stop letting this pandemic hold us back from putting ourselves out there.
Of course, we understand that it can be pretty tricky to get back out there when we can’t physically do so. But when you’re ready to enter the brave new world of socially distanced dating, Diana’s advice is to start out on a dating app. We’re certainly not strangers to dating apps, so we know they can be a great way to connect with someone new without ever leaving the comfort and safety of our own homes. Diana suggested that once you’ve met a match you’re interested in, you can start out by having a 20 to 30 minute phone conversation with them. If that goes well, in lieu of a first date, you can then have a video date, whether on Facetime or Zoom to see if there is a connection. If there is, you can then plan a face to face date, depending on your comfort level. So hop on an app, start swiping, and flirt it up with some new cuties in your area. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find “love in a hopeless place”, just like Rihanna did in 2011.
If your match has you at a loss for words and you’re not sure how to get a conversation going, try out Diana’s secret formula for breaking the ice:
- Address your match by name to add a personal touch
- Mention something specific to their interests to show that you’ve taken the time to check out their profile (ex: I love your triathlon pic, I’ve ran a few myself!)
- End your message with an open ended question (ex: What’s one thing that very few people know about you?)
Don’t forget that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sending an initial message on a dating app. At the end of the day, you really just want to put some time and effort into what you send initially so that they don’t feel like you simply sent the same message to every single one of your matches.
The risks and restrictions of our new reality might make it seem like finding love is tougher than ever before, but believe it or not, technology might actually be making it easier. You can call us crazy, but we think that there are even some perks to dating without physical contact (gasp!). Diana explains that one of the huge advantages to socially distanced dating is that it leads with an emotional and mental connection, versus a physical one. She says that the distance gives you the opportunity to genuinely learn about one another and decide faster if a potential relationship is worth pursuing or not. Think of it this way – video chats offer a way to strip back all of the stereotypical surface level small talk and allow you to get to know your date for who they truly are underneath it all. When you’re relying on conversation, rather than physical attraction, to create the tie that pulls you together, it forces you to have the chats that can lead to a deeper connection right off the bat.
If you’ve got pre-video date jitters, you’re not alone. Feeling nervous before a date is completely normal and natural. Diana reminds us that there are 3 things we should sort out before we hit the answer button on a video call – the background, the camera and the lighting. Once all of those factors are sorted out, all you need to do is to remember to enjoy yourself and focus on what the other person is sharing. Diana’s advice is to not worry so much about how they feel about you, but to focus on how you feel about them and whether or not you could possibly see yourself going on another date. She says that if you have an open mind and you’re excited to get to know the other person, you’ll be in great shape.
Shop Ice Breaker Games
Take The Next Step (Safely!)
At some point, there might come a time when you and your new bae want to retire from your Zoom dates and FaceTime calls to take things to the next level by meeting in person. Of course, that begs a ton of questions. How should you two navigate a first date when you’re not sure if a kiss goodbye, let alone an “accidental” touch on the hand is in the cards? What if wearing a mask is a total turn off? What if your date doesn’t know if you like them because social distancing ruins your chemistry?
Luckily enough, the foundation of a solid relationship hasn’t changed, even though dating has. Trust and honesty are still very necessary when it comes to building a foundation with someone new. It’s important to start out by having an open conversation about where you stand when it comes to meeting up during this uncertain time. Be upfront about your risk tolerance and make no assumptions. Believe it or not, some of us are still using Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer religiously, while our peers are sending “you up?” texts and coming through for those late night booty calls.
Diana’s advice for navigating this conversation is to be patient and to remember that many of us have not only ourselves to protect, but also family members, coworkers, children, and roommates to consider as well. For that reason, it’s important to be very understanding of one another and to give each other grace if you vary in your comfort levels. If someone’s comfort level is a deal breaker for you, that’s okay too. Her suggestion is to simply move on and look for someone who has similar beliefs as you.
Taking that initial step together, whether it be shedding your masks or sharing a kiss for the first time, now requires a candid conversation about what you’re comfortable with, rather than a spur of the moment decision to lean in. We know, it’s definitely a big change from the instant gratification of meeting up with someone on Tinder to Netflix and chill just days after you match. But, at the same time we’re not unfamiliar with having conversations that keep us safe when it comes to being physical. After discussing the results of our STD tests and talking about whether or not we should use protection, the COVID conversation will feel like nothing new.
Chemistry & Communication
One of the most tricky things about dating from a distance is knowing how to spark chemistry and keep the momentum going when you can’t meet in person right away. Diana reminds us that no matter how you’re keeping in contact, that communication is key. So whether you’re talking through texts, phone calls or video chats, you want to keep it consistent enough that you can continue to escalate your relationship and get to know each other better. She also emphasizes the importance of asking each other questions that dig deeper than the surface level, especially because we connect through words. Asking questions like “what are you passionate about?” and “what are you most proud of?” are a great way to find out what truly matters to them.
While it’s important to ask deep questions, Diana says that she also wants us to have some fun, be silly and tease each other as well. She reminds us that we shouldn’t be afraid to laugh together, because sharing laughter is one of the best ways to connect and bring our guards down, so we can enjoy getting to know each other.
Create Your Own Pleasure
If you find yourself constantly swiping left and saying thank you next to all of your dating app matches, don’t be afraid to revert to your *ahem* old faithful. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right and we have to take matters into our own hands, no pun intended. Social isolation offers us all a chance to start getting more comfortable with being alone, especially since there’s no safer way to experience intimacy right now. Taking the time to explore your sexuality on your own will not only allow you to become more familiar with your body, but also to become more clear about your desires before trying them out with a partner when it finally becomes safe again.
Shop Intimacy Tools
Diana Mandell is a dating coach and relationship expert with a background in psychology and psychotherapy. She specializes in working with professional singles and couples, who have the desire and motivation to transform both their mindset and their relationships. To get more of her expert insight on dating and relationships, check out her blog and her Instagram page @dianamandell.
Happy Distanced Dating!
Xo, The Pretty Little Hangers Team