Life before the Coronavirus Pandemic was stressful enough. Work, children, bills, any number of events around the world threatening our future. Never mind that the first 3 of those responsibilities aren’t too interested in our stress levels; they still need doing. We’re also expected to maintain social ties, find time for the gym, change the oil in our car, among other things. All things considered, we were due for a decent break in 2020.
Then, Covid-19 showed up to redefine stress altogether.
Once we sought refuge from the world’s stresses by going on fun dates. But even that’s now regulated like a children’s church retreat just to ensure our collective safety from Covid. “Y’all don’t get too close now,” is a phrase I thought I’d heard for the last time when I was 16.
No matter how we feel about the pandemic, we’re all living affected by it and will be for some time. There isn’t much wiggle room to go on dates with restaurants and bars under limited capacity. Fancy catching a movie with someone special? Want to show them your moves as you salsa the night away in a nearby nightclub? Unless you’re reading this from Europe, chances are you’ll have to put those plans on hold for a while longer. With the winter season for thriving respiratory illnesses approaching, does this spell the end for traditional dating? Of course not! There are still plenty of ways to get your woo on during the shut downs.
Dating someone new during the pandemic isn’t all bad. It definitely slows things down a bit, but that can be a good thing. Taking it slow can help put priorities for what we want in a relationship into perspective. It gives you more time to learn mutual interests, delve into personalities, and see if you enjoy each other’s company. And dates should always be fun! If you and your date can have fun under lockdown restrictions, you can have fun no matter what.
1. Grocery shopping
Accompanying someone on a grocery run is a fantastic way to get to know someone. The more obvious reason being getting to know someone’s food preferences, but is there more to this chore?
You get to experience your date interacting in a more practical environment. You learn all their little nuances of how they handle doing certain things such as leaving the produce for last. Or even that you both have a weakness for the same junk foods! (Although, that may backfire someday should you come home to find your Flaming Hot Cheeto Puffs missing). You may even get to see how they interact with service workers, which can say a lot about a personality. There are few more relieving moments than learning your date loves sales and couponing as much as you.
If you have fun going grocery shopping with someone, chances are you’ll also have fun doing many other things. Lucky for us that grocery stores require all the necessary steps to protect ourselves already, making this activity my top recommendation.
2. Share a meal and movie together
“Alright, who seriously comes up with a responsibility like grocery shopping for a date?” some of you may be wondering. All things considered, that’s fair. You might prefer a more relaxing activity that more effectively sheds the stresses of life when you’re on a date.
Try planning a more typical date by picking a meal to eat and a movie to watch together. If you’re both open to cooking, find recipes online to share with each other. You can even cook together while on a video call. Have a movie picked out, maybe one neither of you have seen. You may find interesting similarities with someone based on what meal and movie you mutually choose to share.
3. Play games through video calls
There are few more ideal times to break out classic board games than the young age of social distancing. You can play in-person with masks and gloves, but it’ll be hard to let intimacy flow that way.
Set up your phone somewhere stable, secure, that will be pointing the video camera towards your play area. Few, if any, limits stand to stifle your game selection. Checkers or chess, Scrabble, Uno, Risk, Battleship, even Twister can provide a ton of fun as you get to know each other better. (Disclosure: I do not receive sponsorships from board game companies for this entry. But, if you work for Hasbro, I’m not opposed to it.)
4. Build Music Playlists
Most of us have activities that we prefer to throw some tunes on to. Gym, commutes, runs, studying, relaxing; music can turn the ordinary into extraordinary with the right playlist.
Music apps will usually have a way to build custom playlists and share them. You’ll learn of any shared music tastes while also discovering new sounds you’ve never heard before. This also gives you a sense of their frame of mind when set to varying tasks. Metal for an exercise playlist may suggest they prefer a pretty intense pace while working out. Maybe you’ll find a shared passion for eclectic music listening that could lead to a future night at the opera. If your chemistry is right, it’ll surely be enhanced sharing your favorite songs with each other.
5. Gather with friends outdoors
Now this is a wonderful little challenge. Few people want to see a serious relationship through if the partner doesn’t get along with their close friends. This is a great opportunity to see how things click between everyone while keeping it light and fun. There aren’t any grand expectations when small groups meet up these days which should make planning a breeze.
There are many parks that go largely unused at certain times. Pick a tree, check for ants, and set up a few blankets underneath. It would add even more fun if everyone brought their own personal picnic baskets out to help pass the time. You can all share time together as you and your date get to know one another’s friends. New friendships can blossom right along with you both.
If you hate parks or the ones nearby are infested with rabid teens, there are still plenty of other ideas for outdoor meetups. Not to mention the health benefits that come from spending time outdoors.
6. Give one another a tour of your rooms through video
A more unconventional way to spend a date that respects social distancing. Score, right? Although, it doesn’t do any favors for those who feel vulnerable about their personal space. But the reasons why many are picky about who they allow to see their bedrooms are also reasons people tend to let go of when dating someone. Oh the details to be learned about someone as you’re given an intimate, private tour of their living space. Do you have a pet peeve about making the bed? Could you not care less? Find out! “Oh, those are nice books on the nightstand.” “I really like the décor.” “Wow, that’s a lot of ties.” All details that can tell you just a bit (or a lot) about your romantic interest.
7. The classic: phone call
I’ve heard before “The worst thing you can do to someone you like is call them.” We here at UltimateLove: Counseling & Coaching, respectfully, disagree.
Getting to know someone through text whose social nuances you aren’t familiar with can lead to awkward hang-ups. There’s the missing tones and inflections with every statement. People unsure of how to interpret a text may bring a friend in on it, which is rarely appreciated or helpful. There may even be misinterpretation that short messages imply a lack of interest when really it just may be that someone is busy.
What you do get speaking on the phone are a few things, according to our counselor/coach Heidi Nguyen, M.A., LMFT.
“You can get a lot from talking on the phone with someone,” says Heidi. “Through tone of voice, their use of language, the way they communicate. Does this person inquire about your day or only talks about their day? Does this person stay connected? Is their attitude about life more positive or negative? This is revealing of their personality and can tell you so much about their relational style.”
It’s safe to assume these days that if there’s chemistry over the phone, there’s sure to be chemistry when you can meet in person.
If you enjoyed this read, you’ll also enjoy a similar article written by Jen Kim, self-proclaimed Valley Girl With a Brain and author of the book with the same title. A former intern at Psychology Today, she’s also a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.
Ducharme, J. (28 Feb, 2019) “Here’s What Being Outside Can Do For Your Health” The Times. https://time.com/5539942/green-space-health-wellness/
Engemann et al (25 Feb, 2019) “Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood” PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US). https://www.pnas.org/content/116/11/5188
Nguyen, H., M.A., LMFT (UltimateLove: C&C)