How to date at a distance
With bars and restaurants closed, concerts and parties postponed and strict orders to stay in our homes, you might think that dating is dead for the foreseeable. Quite the opposite. Enforced social distancing could work wonders for your love life.
In the past, I’d date fast. Often, I’d date drunk. I’d meet a guy for dinner, followed by drinks, followed by a kiss. On a good day, I’d manage to extricate myself from his arms at that point, only to spend the rest of the night fantasising about our happy ever after. On occasion, I’d wake up the next morning with my date by my side, locked into a relationship with someone I’d barely met.
How on earth did I end up here? And how do I get out of this?
The results of this speedy, mindless, unconscious approach to dating weren’t pretty. I got hurt and I hurt others. And I wasted weeks, months and years of my precious time, banging my head against the same brick wall.
In these unprecedented times, fast dating is out of bounds; physical dating is off limits.
And this, dear readers, is excellent news, especially for those of us who have a tendency to get hijacked by our hormones.
Yes, some of us lose all powers of discernment when we touch or kiss a date or get intimate. The mist descends and our animal bodies overtake our rational minds and our instincts. We ignore that tap on our shoulder or that feeling in our gut that tells us this might not be right and we dive in.
We get hooked, at least for a while, until the intensity wears off and we start to realise we’re not well suited at all.
Crash. Burn. Ouch.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to slow down and to keep our physical distance. Assuming we follow the rules, we can’t even meet dates, never mind touch or kiss them. And this means we have to get to know them first, gradually.
So how do we date at a distance? Here are some suggestions, with the caveat that we are human beings, not robots, and we’re aiming for progress not perfection, and with the acknowledgement that these are tough and potentially lonely times for singletons, which I’ll be writing about in another post soon.
Lay your foundations first
We have an amazing opportunity in this period of stillness and home-working (unless we’re on the front line, of course) to pause, reflect, connect to ourselves and check our foundations. How is our self-esteem and confidence? How is our sense of self-worth? Do we feel lovable? Do we feel emotionally resilient, with a strong inner core? Do we understand why we follow the same patterns in relationships? Are we aware of how our childhood relationships have influenced our romantic lives? Do we love and respect ourselves enough to set healthy boundaries with ourselves and others? Do we know what we’re looking for in a relationship? Have we let go of our exes - are we truly over them?
Do this inner work first and you’ll be able to date successfully online and you’ll have the tools to form healthy relationships once lockdown ends. If you’d like some resources to do this work, you'll find some at the bottom of this post.
Check you’re not dating with a craving
Dating with a craving for love, acceptance, validation or affirmation is like going supermarket shopping during the coronavirus. We might be tempted to panic buy. We’ll put anything in our basket. We won’t be discerning. Building on my first point above, make sure you’re not dating with a craving.
How do we do this? Ask yourself if your needs are met – your needs for connection, for affection, for support, for love – and if they’re not, try to get your needs met in healthy ways. This is going to be harder during lockdown but you’re an intelligent, creative person. Reach out for support. Tell your friends what you need. Join an online community. Host a virtual party. Keep healing and growing.
Polish your profile
If you do feel ready to date, start with having a good dating profile that’s worthy of you as well as some flattering photographs. Don’t sell yourself short. Notice if you’re someone who spends hours perfecting a CV but only minutes writing a dating profile. Take your time over your profile. Express your authentic self. Ask your friends for input.
Broaden your social circles
This is classic advice during normal times, especially for those who dislike online dating, but there might also be an opportunity to broaden our social circles during lockdown. Everything has gone online, from yoga classes to choirs. Can you join a group or a circle that will bring you into contact with new people, even if it's only online for now? Sign up for that course you’ve always wanted to do. Think outside the box. Follow your heart.
Choose how to communicate
Do you want to message a potential date first for a while, and then move to a phone call, followed by video? What feels right for you? Remember to set good boundaries for yourself around electronic messaging – it’s easy to lose ourselves in ping-pong messaging and obsessive phone checking, building up a sense of intensity that’s not based on reality. Keep your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds.
Decide how many messages you want to send before you move to phone calls. Avoid messaging late into the night. When you start speaking on the phone or video call, decide how long you want these calls to last and have the courage to respect your boundaries. Just as it’s unwise to stay out on a date until you’re too tired to stand and can only sink into your date’s arms, it’s similarly unwise to spend all night on a video call. Practise self-care.
Get creative with virtual dates
There are lots of ways you can date virtually. You could arrange a dinner date – you both cook dinner in your separate homes with your phone or video on and then sit down to a meal in front of your screen. You could share a movie night – watch the same movie and banter throughout or check in at the end. You could listen to the same tunes, read the same books, play the same games, go to the same virtual dance party. Get creative. When you’re going on a virtual date, make it special. Dress up. Make an effort. Give it your best shot.
Date like the Americans do
As I wrote in my book, I always wished that I could date like my American pals. They went on numerous coffee, drinks and dinner dates with different people, saying goodbye at the end of the night – until they decided they wanted to be “exclusive” (spoken in my best American accent) with someone. Do the same in this new era. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Set up virtual dates with different people. You won’t want to decide to go “exclusive” without meeting someone first, so keep on virtual dating until lockdown lifts.
Date mindfully, not mindlessly
Notice yourself. Notice your reactions. Notice how easy you find it to set healthy boundaries, to end your phone calls or virtual dates on time or when you feel like it, to express your wants and needs, to say that you do or don't want to speak again. Notice if you’re showing up as your authentic self or if you’re contorting yourself in some way in order to be liked. Notice if you’re sharing too much of yourself too soon. This leads to a false feeling of intensity. Also, be mindful not to judge, criticise or dismiss people too quickly. This could be your fear of commitment showing up.
Keep your options open and your clothes on
Avoid the temptation of getting sexual too fast, even if this is purely virtual. Again, this builds a false sense of intensity. It will also make it difficult to go on virtual dates with a number of people at the same time, unless you have no conscience. So keep your options open and your clothes on!
Remember, social lockdown isn’t for ever. Use this extraordinary time to work on your solid foundations of self-love and self-esteem, to do your healing, to practise setting healthy boundaries and to show up authentically in all your conversations.
When we’re given the green light to socialise again, you’ll be in a better position than ever to find real love.
***Free Resources & Transformational Courses***
My flagship How to Fall in Love - Laying the Foundations online interactive course with group coaching starts Monday March 30th and runs for five weeks. Join a small group of like-minded women on a transformational personal development journey. Watch previews here, email me at email@example.com to find out more or book a free discovery call here. Explore all my courses here.
Watch my free How to Fall in Love Masterclasses here.
Join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole here.
Read my post on Understanding the Push-Pull in Relationships here.