The COVID-19 pandemic—a.k.a. the world’s worst wet blanket—turned the already-chaotic dating world completely upside down. Rather than feeling awkward in a restaurant or movie theater, we were stuck feeling awkward via a FaceTime call. Somehow, this was much, much worse.
Whether your rendezvous were outdoors and masked or online, dating during a global pandemic was tricky, to say the absolute least. But now that the world is slowly returning to normal, we’re left with an equally nerve-racking realm: post-pandemic dating.
As daunting as dating may seem after a year of sweatpants and solitude, it’s not impossible. Embrace the butterflies and confidently enter our new “normal” by keeping these five dating tips in mind.
1. This Time, Take It Slow
Pre-pandemic, spontaneity was fun, exciting, and sexy. But after an entire year of staring into the void of the unknown, it’s normal to want to step cautiously.
Dating app OkCupid noted a new post-COVID trend of “slow dating—a blend of deeper conversations and more romance through digital and virtual dating.”
Ease back into the dating world by being more selective of partners and dates, scheduling meetings in advance, and taking things as slow—or as fast—as both parties prefer.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Amy E. Keller, PsyD, says, “Be sure to take it slow after living in a world that doesn’t feel very trustworthy. Trust your heart and intuition.”
2. Conversations Will Feel Different
Research shows that social isolation affects memory and verbal recall and leads to increased paranoia and negativity. This cognitive shift can leave even the chattiest of extroverts with a new case of social anxiety. Plain and simple, socializing post-pandemic feels weird.
Saturday Night Live hit the nail on the head with its Post-Quarantine Conversation skit. In the skit, people share about their pandemic experiences at one of their first social gatherings. It’s awkward to say the least, and your post-COVID dates may not be all that different. Prepare for that COVID small talk and all of the typical pandemic questions.
Remember to give yourself some grace as you dip your toes back into the dating pool. You may have a hard time opening up on the first date or feel extra nervous, and that’s okay.
3. Your Priorities Might Have Changed
A year at home led many of us to reassess and reprioritize our values, relationships, and lives in general. Spending so much time with ourselves offered greater insight into the people we are, wish to be, and want to be around.
Maybe you’ll no longer be attracted to your typical “type.” Perhaps casual dating isn’t even on your list of priorities anymore. Acknowledge this reprioritization; don’t ignore it.
It’s also important to remember that everyone—crushes, long-term relationships, and everyone in between—has also had time to reprioritize. Not all of your pre-pandemic relationships will thrive in a post-pandemic reality, and that’s okay.
4. Come Prepared With Goals and Boundaries
Sure, a global pandemic wasn’t the wake-up call any of us asked for, but it’s the one we got. So don’t be afraid to let your post-pandemic priorities spill over into your dating life. In fact, they should spill over.
Use all of the time you had in solo quarantine to your advantage by approaching dates with clear goals and boundaries. Are you looking for love or a fun fling? Do you feel like talking about COVID, or would you rather pretend 2020 didn’t happen for a few hours? How comfortable do you feel going maskless? What about being socially undistant?
Communicate these goals and boundaries to your partner before or at the beginning of your date to ensure everyone is on the same page.
5. They’re Just As Nervous As You Are
Social anxiety has a funny way of convincing us that we’re the only ones feeling the way we do. Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We were all affected by the dumpster fire that was 2020. And that even goes for the mega-hottie you matched with on Tinder.
A study conducted by the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of British Columbia and the University of Regina found that roughly 10% of people will develop psychological problems related to the pandemic, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and even PTSD.
I don’t say that to intimidate you; I say it to encourage you. As nervous as you might feel, the person sitting across from you or on the other end of the video call likely feels just as trepidatious as you do. So, laugh off the heebie-jeebies, relax, and have fun. You and your date both deserve it.