What’s your pandemic dating style?

by Russ Haywood

First dates in a pandemic introduce a whole new level of risk and vulnerability. Wondering how your date is masking their real self was already hard enough! Now you’re wondering what’s behind their pandemic mask as well? What’s their potential COVID exposure like? When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, will they get vaccinated? In this article, we’ll cover the pros and cons of five different ways of dating in these unprecedented times.

The Pandemic Talk

No one wakes up in the morning thinking: “Oh, I’m going to send my date tonight to the ICU next week.” But COVID-19 doesn’t care what you think or do, it’s only obsessed with spreading itself.

Getting on the same page with your own pandemic expectations is a tremendous amount of work, especially in an era fraught with politicized misinformation. When/where should you wear a mask? How can you safely meet friends and family? Are all of these precautions even worth it?

When you and your connections are responsible for each other’s health, it’s critically important to get on the same page about how to manage this pandemic. Yet, getting two people on the same page—even those you know, trust, and maybe even live with—can be a challenge. With every person added to your pandemic pod, mistakes become more far-reaching.

So, if it’s already immensely risky and challenging to safely interact with people you know in a pandemic, what snowball’s chance in hell do you have safely interacting with those you don’t know on a date!? It seems like daters today have five basic choices when it comes to seeking romance in a pandemic:

Five Pandemic Dating Styles

From most risk to least risk

  1. Date like a pandemic doesn’t matter/exist (highly unethical)
  2. Engage in a DIY pandemic expectation check-in, over, and over (and over)
  3. Distance “Date”
  4. The Parallel approach
  5. Don’t date! (Ugh…)

1. Date like a pandemic doesn’t matter (highly unethical)

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Of course, in-person dates are hard to match in terms of what they can tell you about attraction and compatibility. But what risks do they pose to you, those closest to you, and your community?

COVID-19 preys on our social life. People being close, sharing airspace; the more intimate the better. The whole point of social distancing is to clamp down on the virus’s ability to spread—because no one knows who they’ll inadvertently spread it to. Since asymptomatic people can spread COVID-19 without knowing it, going on multiple dates a week with multiple different people, in multiple different social settings (bars, coffee shops, events) is wholly inappropriate.

If you’re reading this, this probably isn’t your dating style. But, how do you make sure it’s not your date’s dating style?

2. The DIY Check-in

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

A wise dater might engage in a very tedious set of pandemic interview questions over the phone or chat—every time with every potential date, again and again.

If you’re asking the right questions in the right way at the right time, a potential date’s answers will help you find out if your pandemic practices align. They may also illuminate your date’s romantic intentions, and lead to an in-person meetup sooner rather than later.

But what if you miss a question? How do you know you’re asking the right ones to begin with? Meeting in-person may now pressure a relationship into being more serious, which may or may not be the right vibe for the moment or the person. 

Before, a dud date was just a dud. You wasted a few hours, twenty to forty bucks (or more), and certainly at least some energy. Now in a pandemic wasting an in-person date on a dud is more than an inconvenience, it’s highly risky (to yourself and others).

3. Distance Dating

Obviously, there’s a near zero viral risk being a shut-in, seeing everyone virtually. Provided your remote conversations include discussing hard worldview questions that surface during an election, social unrest, or some other highly sensitive debate, you can get to know someone this way.

Distance dating has no viral risks, but introduces a new risk: Totally wasting your time! Beyond the common limits of digital life, the physical gap between you two may let all sorts of fantasies and delusions fill the void. Are they really that great or are you projecting desperation and/or other needs onto them?

Socializing via screens often becomes a drag and that frustration may taint the relationship’s potential in numerous ways.

If distance dating is done well and you two like each other, have spent 10+ days in social isolation to minimize viral risks, and you want to meet outdoors in a park: the higher bandwidth of in-person dynamics may dramatically change romantic dating prospects. With “in-person” comes a veritable bouquet of stimuli, including pheromones, smells, body language, and unfiltered eye contact. Maybe you spent all that time to learn in-person that you’re just not attracted to them?

4. The Modern, Moderated Approach with Parallel

We hopefully agree that neither “dating as usual” and “not dating at all” are viable long-term options. We likewise suggest that the in-between options, “distance dating” and “extensive DIY pandemic check-ins”, aren’t stellar either.

So, we’ve built an app to help save your time and risk: Parallel: Relationship Compass securely unveils you and your date’s romantic alignments on big life questions and the pandemic practices you’re both doing to help keep each other safe. The app guides a conversation easily, efficiently, and in-person (distanced).

We built a feature specifically for touching base on COVID-19 compatibility, called the Something Pandemic intent. That way, you can get a sense of where you and your date truly align (and where you don’t align) on all things PPE and beyond. You can know you’re asking the right questions right away, and you don’t have to worry about missing questions or wasting time.

With Parallel, please date safely from 6+ feet away (ideally outdoors) to quickly test the risks of breaking quarantine.

5. Don’t Date!

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Just forget about dating? You’re strong and willing to do your part to save even one person from getting even mildly sick. As it is everyone’s ethical responsibility to slow the spread of a novel virus that has already caused over 200,000 deaths in the U.S. But is it fair to ask an entire generation to put the development of their lives on hold because a few selfish players in high-levels of government have chosen to irresponsibly manage a pandemic? Imagine this pandemic lasting another three months. Another three years. Loneliness is a threat to public health too. A massive 2015 meta-analysis suggested that being lonely is associated with a 26% increase in the likelihood of dying early. 

You certainly have an ethical duty to yourself to live a full and vibrant life.

With these five pandemic dating styles laid out in front of you, which will you choose? Do you think we missed any dating styles? Let us know in the comments.

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