During lockdown many of us were forced to reflect on, or reevaluate our priorities – with meaningful connections being reported as something that people felt were most important. Spending months away from friends and family has meant that we’ve had to come up with creative ways to stay connected, such as virtual coffees, dinner and birthday celebrations – or sending emails or even handwritten letters.
While being deprived of physical contact with loved ones hasn’t been easy; many of us have seen that it is possible to maintain strong bonds with loved ones from afar.
Although lockdown restrictions have eased significantly, the majority of us have accepted that we’ll be practicing social distancing for the foreseeable future. So, it’s understandable that there are more people opening up to the idea of virtual dates, and long-distance relationships – and that many people who had never tried online dating before, are now considering it as a health-conscious option for finding love in these difficult times.
If you were looking for love or companionship before the pandemic started, or you’ve since decided that it’s something that you’d like to welcome into your life, then you might be wondering what any future love could look like in the era of social distancing.
It’s true to say that it might be a little more complex than it otherwise would be. But experts say that the pandemic could have actually improved the face of modern dating, by encouraging people to have more meaningful conversations and self-disclosure before meeting – and less anxiety about sex and money.
So if you’re feeling ready to dip your toes into the dating pool, then here are a few tips to help you get off on the right foot.
1. Consider signing up to a few online dating sites
Some people aren’t keen on the idea of meeting their love interests online, because they prefer the idea of meeting someone in a more, traditional sense – an introduction from a friend perhaps, or a chance meeting at the pub one evening. However, it can be helpful to remain open-minded about the idea of dating online – especially now, when we’re spending more time at home, and are a lot more cautious about where we go and how we behave when we do go out. With social distancing becoming the norm, it can be harder to strike up conversations with strangers, or meet new people at social clubs or events. In turn, this makes a chance in-person meeting with someone that you’re both attracted to and can get along with, much less common.
But, it’s important not to let this discourage you, because the online dating world is booming, and can offer you a world of opportunity to find a suitable companion or romantic partner. It can even help you to find people that you have things in common with faster, by allowing you to search for individuals within a specific distance, who have particular characteristics and attributes that you find attractive. Plus, with less physical contact between people taking place then ever before, it’s been reported that people across dating sites are having deeper, more frequent conversations and looking to build connections that will last before that first meeting. So, with this in mind – there’s, perhaps, never been a better time to consider dating online.
If you’re new to online dating, then it can help to sign up to a couple of different sites, to decide which suits you best. Generally, the best dating sites are the ones that do come with a monthly fee – because you tend to meet more people who are looking to take dating seriously. However, most are free to try, so you can get an idea about the type of people you’ll be likely to meet there before you take out a paid subscription. If you’re not sure where to start, then you could consider the following sites:
- Match.com. This is a general dating site, which caters for people of all ages and professions – who will have varying interests. So, if you’re not sure what sort of person you’re looking to meet yet, then this could be a good place to start.
- eHarmony. Another general dating site, which is incredibly popular and focuses on a deep matching service – with over 4 million UK members.
- Elite Singles. This is another great option if you’d prefer to join a dating site specifically for over 50s.
- Lumen. A free dating site for over 50s.
There are also some more niche dating sites available for people who are looking to meet people who have very specific interests or attributes. If you’re looking to meet someone who eats a gluten-free diet, enjoys muddy walks in the countryside, or who can’t live without their pet pooch like you – then believe it or not, there are dating sites available designed specifically to help you meet people who fall into these categories. The important thing is to ensure that any site you use is a member of the Online Dating Association (ODA) who have a set of practices and guidelines that dating services agree to abide by. You can check if a site is an ODA member here.
The great thing about online dating – particularly in the current climate – is that you can spend plenty of time simply chatting to someone and getting to know them before you decide whether you ever want to meet them in person. It’s much easier to nip any awkward interactions in the bud, or to cut communications with people who aren’t the right match for you. Whereas, on an in-person date, you can find yourself stuck there for another couple of hours out of politeness.
2. Establish the level of contact you’re both comfortable with early on
Although lockdown restrictions have eased and the majority of regions across the UK are now able to visit pubs and restaurants, and even meet inside people’s homes – not everyone will feel comfortable doing so, while health concerns are still present. We’ve reached a stage during the pandemic, where social distancing means different things to different people. Some people are still being incredibly cautious and avoiding close or indoor contact with people outside their household at all costs, while others are returning to their regular leisure activities – like going to the gym or meeting a friend for a drink at the pub.
For this reason, it’s perhaps important to have a conversation with potential love interests early on, to determine the level of contact you’re both comfortable with. If you have no intention of meeting any dates face-to-face in the near future and would simply like to keep interactions online for now, then there’s no harm in making this clear to anyone you chat to as you get to know each other. Similarly, if you are hoping to meet up with someone after a few conversations – but they aren’t comfortable doing so, then it also helps for you to know this, so that you can adjust your expectations accordingly. This will help to make sure that you’re both on the same page, and that no one is left disappointed or feeling as though they’ve been led down the garden path.
It’s important not to feel pressured, or to pressure anyone else into meeting in a setting that one of you is uncomfortable with. The best relationships are based on trust and honesty, and if you meet someone you think is right for you, then hopefully they won’t mind waiting until the time is right to meet, and vice versa.
3. Get inventive with your dates
If you think it’s likely that you will go on a few first dates before you find someone who is suitable for you, then it’s important to try and do this as safely as possible. Although the Government has now advised that we can meet people in pubs, restaurants and houses, it’s not the best idea to have several in-person dates in settings where it’s difficult to keep your distance.
Instead, you could plan all first dates in a virtual setting. This way you can stay safe, while you get to know people better. A candlelit dinner date over Skype might not be exactly how you envisaged finding love, but it does offer you the opportunity to try something new. It also helps to ease first date nerves, because you can do it in the comfort of your own home, and have the option to make a quick exit if it feels like things aren’t going to plan. You could also find other ways to bond online over your interests, without having to meet in person – for example, if you’re both keen runners, then why not challenge each other to a run-off on Strava, and see who can achieve the fastest time?
You could also get creative with dates outside, especially whilst the weather is good. Outdoor picnics, a long stroll through a pretty park – or even an outdoor movie experience can all be great options for when you do finally decide to meet someone in person.
Dates are probably the most creative that they’ve ever been, which can add an interesting and perhaps even exciting element to your dating experience. Like many experiences in life, dating will often be what you make of it – so try to shine a positive light on it and be as innovative as you can.
Note: For safety reasons, when meeting someone for the first time, always remember to let a friend or family member know where you are and when you expect to be home. This way, they can check in on you to make sure that everything went smoothly, and that you got home okay.
4. Always be honest
One of the beautiful things about building a relationship online, over the phone – or even by writing handwritten letters to one another, is that there is greater emphasis on communication. And although you might not meet up straight away, by the time you do, you will have already laid some solid foundations for a strong emotional connection. For this reason, it’s important to be honest about your wants, needs and intentions during your interactions with potential partners or companions.
Dating at a distance gives you the benefit of being able to ask the questions that you wouldn’t usually have the confidence to ask face-to-face – meaning that you can actually find out more about each other a lot sooner than you would over a series of face-to-face dates. However, this will only be the case if each of you remains honest, and can really listen to one another. If you’re dating online, then it’s natural to be a little wary of who you’re talking to at first, and whilst you should never disclose any information that could put your safety or your finances at risk – such as your address or your bank details – try not to be afraid to let people see the real you.
Although life is still a bit strange at the moment, it’s perfectly acceptable to go in search of love or companionship, if it’s done in a way that minimises the health risk to both yourself and others. Many people have even found that the recent months have actually made their quest for love all the more important. And while your dating experience might not be as you would have pictured it pre-pandemic, that isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Try to take your time and enjoy the process of talking to and getting to know someone, without the pressure of meeting up as soon as you would usually. Starting a relationship more slowly gives you time to reflect, more time to notice red flags, and a greater chance of building a long-lasting relationship that’s built on love.