Sherry Zimmerman
Family therapist, dating and relationship mentor

Can Socially Distanced Dating Bring You Closer?

How to date while following COVID-19 restrictions

In spite of the social restrictions that have been imposed in the wake of COVID-19, many marriage-minded daters have found innovative ways to maintain the momentum of a budding relationship, or to meet someone new for the first time.  Some couples have even announced their engagements! Yet, even though lockdown conditions have begun to ease for some us, figuring out the logistics of where to conduct a socially distanced date and what to do together has not gotten any less challenging.

We’ve grown accustomed to using ambiance, activities, and food to form the backdrop for dates; otherwise, it can be difficult to focus entirely on one another. In addition, varying our surroundings and what we do when we’re together allows us to see different aspects of each other’s personalities.  It doesn’t take much effort to arrange a date at a restaurant, movie theater, concert, museum, bowling alley, craft studio, or hiking trail.  Planning is challenging when dating venues are limited to a neighbor’s backyard, an almost-vacant park, or a place in the house that’s private enough for a video chat. For a live date, there’s added pressure to arrange for a meal, snack, or drink (home cooked? take-out? delivery? realizing at the last minute that you might get a ticket for uncorking the bottle of wine you brought for your picnic in the park?) And making a personal connection when most of your face is covered with a mask is both daunting and uncomfortable.

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Creating atmosphere

Here are some ideas to relieve some of that pressure, so that on your date, you can be your calmer self and have more energy for conversation and connection.  Most of these work for video dates as well as for live ones:

Book club/article club – Read a book or article before your date and discuss it.

Share your interests – Each share one or two favorite songs or poems and talk about why you like them, what they mean to you, what memories or feelings they evoke.

Crafting – Plan a craft that you can each work on while you speak and exchange them when you see each other. Or have a craft contest.

Play a game – Find game ideas online that you can play at a comfortable social distance, join an online pub quiz or share video of an old game show like Jeopardy! and play along – as a team or in competition.

Enrichment  – Listen to a shiur, TED Talk or lecture together and discuss it afterward.

Take a trip without leaving your home – Go on a virtual tour or scavenger hunt together.

Don’t forget food –  On a live date, each can make/bring/order part of the meal or snack. On a video date, you can cook together while apart – follow a new recipe or make one of the other’s old favorites. Too much work? Order take out, make a sandwich, or sit with a hot drink or a glass of wine while you talk.

Don’t let physical distance cause emotional distance

For some, virtual dating may be the only dating forum for the next several weeks.  These tips may help you make the most of them until you can see each other in person:

  1. Let your conversations develop the same way it would if you were meeting face to face. You may find yourself opening up more than you did before the lockdown, by sharing more of your observations, sensitivities, ideas, and feelings. This adds depth to conversation and can lay a foundation for an emotional connection, but it’s wise to be cautious about what deeply personal information you disclose to someone you may never meet. Use the same boundaries you would follow on a live date.
  2. Take the same care with your appearance as you would if you were meeting in person (nice outfit, hair, make-up for women who usually wear it). You’ll feel good about yourself and convey that positivity to your dating partner.
  3. Give yourself some time to mentally prepare for your date, just as you would for a face to face meeting. Be rested, calm, and out of the way of the noise and interruption of family members or roommates.
  4. If it’s hard to find privacy, try the balcony, a neighbor’s yard, a vacant office, or even your car.
  5. Even though distance or travel restrictions keep you from meeting in person, continue video dating as long as there seems to be potential. Don’t take a temporary break and assume you’ll pick up where you left off when you are able to see each other face-to-face. You’ll lose the momentum you’re developing, and you may never get it back.
About the Author
Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc. is a dating and relationship mentor, therapist, and former family lawyer who dedicates her professional life to helping men and women meet, date, marry, and build happy, stable homes. She has co-authored three popular books and more than 1,200 articles about dating, marriage, and relationships, and trains mentors, therapists, and matchmakers. Sherry lives in Israel with her husband, children, and grandchildren.
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