Dating in the times of COVID-19
One of the (bittersweet) things COVID-19 has shown us is what we wish we’d focused on more before it came into our lives.
Like some global version of musical chairs, when the world stopped we were left with the set-up, friendships and relationships we had the moment lockdown hit.
This left many single people thinking, ‘If only I’d have known this was coming, I would have taken dating more seriously….’
I should know, as the UK’s leading dating coach, I spend a lot of time talking to single men and women about what they think/feel/want. I also released a 2 million view TEDx talk all about the value of being single – so don’t worry, I’m not about to lecture you about getting coupled up.
However, if you were just about to get serious about dating, and feel like COVID-19 has caused a major loss of momentum in your love life, I am here to help.
You may be stuck at home feeling ‘skin hunger’ – the desperate need to connect with someone (anyone!). You may have seriously contemplated a reach out message to your ex, or sent a Whatsapp you soon regretted. You may have thought about creating a dating app profile then quickly decided that if normal dates can be awkward, a video call date is going to be so much worse.
In short, you may have temporarily resigned yourself to this year just not being your year.
There can, however, be some surprising benefits to trying to date during COVID-19 – from the obvious (so many new faces on dating apps) to the introspective (taking time to consider what you really want and what may have been holding you back from getting it).
A NEW PARADIGM?
New research from Match shows that single Brits are dedicating an average of 7 hours a week to their online dating during COVID-19. There have also been big spikes in direct messages being sent. Unsurprisingly, our innate need for connection combined with the fact that other avenues to dating have closed down means that dating sites are booming. A benefit of this is that people who wouldn’t have normally used dating apps are suddenly online and, with plenty of free time on their hands, they’re more open to messaging than ever before.
Furthermore, I predict there will be a second wave of enthusiasm for dating that hits the week or two before it looks like lockdown is going to be lifted: so it could be a smart idea to do a spring clean on your profile and be ready to catch the wave of momentum. Even if you don’t see yourself meeting your true love online, there’s a great opportunity to finesse your flirting skills and learn how to craft a killer message.
But being a prolific online dater isn’t the change you should be attempting to make during this time. In fact, the unprecedented circumstances of trying to date during COVID-19 have another more fundamental benefit: they can help you to change your patterns around dating.
When it comes to relationship issues, there’s one that surfaces again and again: that frustrating cycle of always choosing the ‘wrong’ person to invest your time in. It’s the double punch of thinking, ‘Wow this is what I’ve been waiting for’ followed by the disappointment of, ‘What a letdown…’.
Despite what you may think, you’re not doomed to always attract commitment-phobes and narcissists. In fact, who we end up dating is about the active decisions we make as to who we feel attraction towards: it’s about our process around dating. It is about you being hardwired to look out for all the wrong qualities in the people you meet. It’s not about you falling hard and fast for someone, building huge expectations, being swept off your feet and dropped the other side.
Time and time again it is clear to me that when we make a quick judgement about our type, about who this person you’ve just met is, or where this relationship is going, we set ourselves up for disappointment. When we accept that we don’t know exactly who is right for us, give relationships the time they need to develop and keep an open mind with dating, we form healthy relationships more easily.
TAKE YOUR TIME
COVID-19 has given us one major helping hand in this respect: it has made slow dating much, much easier. If you can rule out anyone who wants you to break quarantine to chill with them, who pushes to speak to you one minute and then vanishes the next, you can begin a much more balanced approach to dating.
Pandemic or no pandemic, when it comes to dating we will always meet sprinters and marathon runners. Sprinters are people who come flying out of the blocks, who want to impress, who give you all the validation of the chase… and then disappear. Marathon runners are those who have done the prerequisite work on themselves to be stable enough to actually build a relationship block by block.
Great relationships aren’t discovered: they’re built.
Your job, if you want a more committed relationship, is to sort the short-term thrillseekers from the long-term stoics of the dating scene. A simple, but very effective way of achieving this is to slow it down!
Nearly anyone can seem smart, funny or sexy for a few dates, but the real relationship-building qualities of consistency, communication and respect can only be demonstrated over a period of time. And right now, during COVID-19, what you have is a period of time where you can’t rush to see someone, where your relationships can’t pass go, but where you can practice getting to know someone slowly.
If changing your dating habits and choosing smarter sounds appealing, let’s look at 5 ways you can successfully date online.
1. Improve your profile
We can complain about it all we like, but the fact is if your online dating profile shows a lack of effort (or good photography) you will not get the matches you deserve. Take a long, hard look at your profile now and ask yourself these questions:
Have I described myself in a way that is overly generic? For example, ‘I like all the usual things…’ or ‘I’m not sure what I’m doing on here…’ or ‘Looking for a partner in crime…’ are all online dating cliches that need to be avoided.
Have I said what I’m looking for in another person or have I just focused on selling myself?
Have I got at least three high-resolution photos of myself on my profile, so it’s clear who I am? And is the background of my photos clear? Or should I really have put that ironing board in the background away?
2. Be responsive
If you’re looking for that marathon runner dater who is taking dating seriously, then you need to bring the same qualities of consistency and communication to the table that you’d like to see in them.
Whilst you don’t want to be slavishly replying to people 24/7, you do want to write good quality responses the same day to someone you like.
3. Have standards
If the person you’re messaging doesn’t make an effort with their chat and writes things like: ‘Lol yeah U?’ then you need to filter this person out. No matter how hot you think they are, if they are totally uninvested in the dating process, then this relationship is going nowhere.
Remember the success of any relationship is a two-way street: it’s not just about you impressing them, they also need to invest their time in getting to know you.
4. Move it forwards
It is hard to sustain an amazing chat with someone you’ve never met in real life for weeks on end. Instead, switch-up your communication to video calls, TikTok dance-offs, voice messages and pictures from your life under lockdown.
And if the person you’re chatting to never seems to be able to take a call then go back a step and refer to point 3. You want a great date: not a penfriend.
5. Get creative
To take the pressure off, restrict your first video call to a few minutes while you’re doing another activity like cooking dinner, or having your daily walk. After that, if you connect, then get creative with what you can do on your calls. You could create a virtual happy hour, play a board game online, watch a movie together, or both attempt the same recipe for date night.
Okay, it’s not quite the same as the real deal but you do have a real opportunity here to build a slow-burn connection. You also have a chance to focus on what’s really important: how you communicate in the long run, and how much effort you both make, rather than just how sexy things get right off the bat.
Ultimately our time under lockdown will end, and if you’re smart you can use this dating interim wisely to reevaluate your choices and change your dating patterns for the long haul.
Join Hayley Quinn’s 30 Days of Dating Challenge to reset your dating habits under lockdown.