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Rules are different for dating during a pandemic

A University of Miami expert explains the new conventions of courting in an environment where social distancing is mandatory.
Couple dating during a pandemic

In a world where a pandemic has imposed limitations on social interactions, people eager to find love are turning to different ways to meet partners. Although online dating is nothing new, COVID-19 has helped online dating platforms grow exponentially.  

According to Brian Doss, associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami and an expert on couples’ therapy and romantic relationships, the uptick in online dating has changed the dynamics of how a relationship now flourishes. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really sped up the online trend. Because it is difficult to meet in person, I think there’s going to be increased likelihood that people are spending more time in the early stages of dating through virtual dating platforms,” he explained. 

Although circumstances may seem difficult for those looking for love, according to Doss, there are many benefits to starting a relationship online.  

“In my opinion, you’re more likely to meet someone in an online environment because a person is able to develop more meaningful conversations. Whereas, if you’re meeting in person, physical attraction dominates, and in many cases, alcohol can influence your perception,” he said. 

For those who turn to this way of dating, he explained that there are a new set of rules in the COVID-19 era. 

“I think the most important thing is that people are on the same page. A conversation about health and safety, both for themselves and their family members, is being talked about early on. Discussions about the risks and responsibilities of wearing a mask are being negotiated before in-person meetings,” said Doss. 

He urged those who are searching for a relationship to not give up.  

“I think finding a romantic relationship is one of the strong determinants of overall life satisfaction and happiness. Given that we don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last and when we’re going to be able to return to normal, it seems like a lot to ask from people to put that entirely on hold,” he explained. “There’s good evidence that loneliness is a pretty strong risk factor for a number of other mental health and physical health problems. If a person is not placing themselves at higher risk, I would really encourage people to try to date as best they can.” 

If a person is planning an in-person date, Doss recommended thinking outside the box. 

“You’re going to have to think a little more creatively about activities that you can do with masks and social distancing in place. There’s good evidence that one of the best things to do on a first date are things that are novel and involve some sort of physical activity,” he said. 

On the other hand, the pandemic has caused a great amount of strain for people already in committed relationships. Doss, who co-developed an online program called OurRelationship which offers support and ways to reduce communication conflict, has seen an increase of people searching for help during this difficult time. 

“We are all under a lot of stress because people are losing jobs and are having to teach kids who are learning from home. I think there are a lot of things being thrown at us,” Doss explained. “We are also having to depend on our partners for more than we typically do, so we’re having to renegotiate those roles.” 

He offered  a big tip for couples: recognize that you are stressed. 

“The time when stress is most harmful isn’t when stress is really severe. Because when it’s severe, we recognize it and we don’t take it out on our partners as much,” said Doss. “Stress has the biggest impact when it’s in the background, and we don’t recognize it. I think the advice is to try to be understanding and accepting of this uncertain situation and recognize that people have a lot on their plate right now.”