Just a few months ago, no one would have imagined that the world was just about to turn upside down. With lockdown orders, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt at a personal level, more so in romantic relationships.
With couples spending more time together and others entirely conducting their relationships virtually, these are indeed strange times for finding love or sustaining the love we already have.
Nonetheless, now might be an excellent time for dating. There are plenty of lessons to learn and opportunities to date with a purpose.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the new dating landscape and get through it all without giving up on love:
Building Emotional Independence
The pandemic has brought with it or perhaps exacerbated extreme emotions within us such as anxiety, fear, and worry. If you are in lockdown alone, it is normal to feel lonely. You may feel in need of another person for much-needed company. Even for couples who are quarantining together, there is an added need for emotional support from their partner. However, whether you are dating virtually or face-to-face, there is a risk of expecting your partner to fulfill all your emotional needs, and this can be a great source of conflict.
Do you feel resentful towards your partner because they are not alleviating your emotional concerns? If so, you are probably expecting too much from them. The truth is, your partner cannot check every box when it comes to your emotional needs. Equally, you cannot make every worry of theirs go away!
Instead of getting swallowed up in the whirlwind of emotions that come with these uncertain times and expecting someone else to rescue you, take this as your chance to build emotional independence. Why not rescue yourself?
Emotionally independent people have an inner resilience that allows them to face any circumstance on their own. It is not that these people do not need a support system; instead, they know that their wellbeing and happiness is primarily their responsibility. So, instead of agonizing about how little you are talking or not being intimate, focus on things like physical and emotional self-care.
Instead of depending on your partner to fulfill all your emotional needs, seek out other people including friends and family whom you can connect and share your emotional concerns with. By doing this, you not only take the pressure off of your relationship, but you also put yourself entirely in charge of your life.
Practicing Acceptance And Empathy
Being in the now and fully accepting what is going on not only allows you to begin making sense of a scary global pandemic; it also helps you to be more empathetic with your partner. In the current environment, there are fewer distractions to take us away from the now. If you are not used to being in the present moment, this might be a particularly difficult time. If your response to setbacks is usually escapism, you are now being forced to deal with what is.
Tough as it seems, lockdown might be good news for relationships and dating. These strange times are a lesson in radical acceptance, not just of the health crisis but of others. Propagated by renowned psychologist and author, Marsha Linehan, the concept of radical acceptance is about being with reality instead of fighting it. It is about making peace with what you cannot change or choose not to change.
How does radical acceptance apply to dating in the era of the coronavirus?
It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
First of all, accept that it is OK not to be OK. Your feelings, worries, concerns, and fears, as well as those of your partner, are entirely valid. You may not approve of the situation you are in, but you can accept it for what it is.
After accepting the situation the pandemic has created, you’ll be in a better position to empathize with your partner. One way to do this is to understand and accept the fact that your partner’s coping mechanism might be different. We’re all processing the new normal brought on by the pandemic in different ways. If your response to stress is vastly different from that of your partner, this can be a source of needless disagreement. But it doesn’t need to be. You can turn this into yet another experience to not only strengthen your bond but also to cultivate self-awareness.
For example, instead of becoming upset by your partner’s laid back approach to the coronavirus, take this as a cue to honor them and their very individual way of dealing with the ongoing mayhem. Let them know that even though you are feeling more concerned about the pandemic than they seem to be, you see them, hear them, and respect their choice to cope in a way that is different from yours.
Cultivating A Sense Of Self-Awareness
With more time on our hands and the gnawing experience of isolation, people are being forced to look inward and cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness. A greater sense of self-awareness allows us to enter relationships with a better understanding of ourselves and others.
Virtual dating can encourage vulnerability and openness, which are essential in forming a strong bond with another. There is more time to have in-depth, meaningful conversations. While there is nothing wrong with getting physical, building that initial emotional, intellectual, and spiritual bond can help a relationship to flourish in the long-term.
This is also an excellent time to practice uninterrupted listening. This technique, rooted in psychotherapy involves allocating a set amount of time where you and your partner take turns to talk about your feelings, including fears, worries, and stressors. If you find yourselves not communicating well, try taking an intentional approach. Both choose to listen to one another deliberately and to shut out all other ‘noises’ that may be interrupting your flow.
Project or Look Deeper
A pandemic such as this one can trigger past emotions. We can either project these onto our partner or take the time to look deeper and examine where these emotions are coming from and what to do about them. This analytical approach enables you to be less harsh with yourself and your partner. You then create space to express yourself and listen to your partner express him/herself without any judgment—this is what vulnerability is about.
Lastly, don’t assume that the other person knows or should know what you need. Especially with online dating, the lack of physical connection can make it challenging. Usually, we pick up cues about what’s working and not working, what the other person needs, or how they are feeling. As such, it is vital to take responsibility for having your needs met. Communicate your needs very clearly. It is already a stressful time. So don’t add to the pressure of it all with mind games and passive-aggressive behavior.
Now more than ever, kindness is a much-needed virtue. Whether you are living in close quarters with your significant other, are in a committed long-distance relationship, or you are dipping your feet in the virtual dating pool, there are opportunities to extend loving kindness to your partner.
Kindness does not have to be expressed in big, bold gestures. In these difficult times, a little goes a long way. From ordering your partner’s favorite comfort food to assisting out with work-related tasks, they might need help with, use this time to find ways to ease anxiety and stress.
There is something to be said about the boomerang effect of kindness. When you extend kindness, especially when it is particularly difficult to do, you are entering a state of compassion for yourself as well. Generosity is about supporting the highest good of others. In turn, it allows you to support the highest good for yourself. The kinder you are, the happier and more thoughtful person you become—talk about a win-win.
Right now, it is easy to become caught up in fear, stress, and anxiety and extending kindness might be the last thing on your mind. To actualize this virtue and build it into your day-to-day life, you have to be intentional about it. For starters, you could write down at least three acts of kindness you would like to do for your partner. Then, take deliberate action to execute these.
An Opportunity To Be Authentic
For many people, lockdown means there is no need to dress up or wear a full face of makeup. ‘Exposing’ yourself this way can be a particularly vulnerable situation, especially for female-identifying individuals as they are held to a high standard of beauty and to always be “looking the part”.
Now that you are mostly at home, the real question is: should you continue to maintain these standards when you are FaceTiming or Zooming with a love interest or should you take this opportunity to show off the real unedited you?
Showing up to a virtual date as the real you can be particularly empowering. This is especially if you are just getting to know someone. You are then saying, ‘This is actually what I look like.’
There is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing up and wearing makeup. However, there is more to relationships than neat physical appearances. Have you been longing for authenticity in your love life? If so, now is a good time to start practicing it yourself. You do not have to show up on your FaceTime dates looking shabby—that’s a different kind of energy. Do groom yourself but do not be afraid to show yourself in your ‘at home’ look if this is something you feel you want to do in your relationships going forward.
Practicing Emotion Self-Regulation
Emotion self-regulation is the practice of controlling your emotional response to outside stimuli. You could self-regulate by suppressing emotion, but that often leads to adverse outcomes. Here’s a better approach to emotional self-regulation; practicing optimism when faced with a setback or reframing a challenging situation. This will deescalate feelings of anger, resentment, or fear.
In its wake, the pandemic has stirred up uncertainty on an individual level. Unsurprisingly, people are prone to emotions that are unconducive for healthy relationships to flourish. Whether you are in lockdown with your partner or dating virtually, “fighting” during this time is different. For one, you do not have much-needed face-to-face access to friends and family whom you would typically turn to for advice.
This means you have only yourselves to deal with your relationship issues, making emotion self-regulation particularly important.
One way to use self-regulation during this time is practicing mindful acceptance of your emotions. Mindfulness allows you to be highly aware of your feelings so that you are not acting them out blindly. This could yield negative outcomes for your relationship. Cultivating such awareness helps you to create space between your emotions and subsequent actions.
What does this look like in real life? When you are mindful of your emotions, you can feel yourself becoming angry or irritated by your partner. But, instead of immediately acting on these emotions, you take a step back from the situation for a while. You can then revisit it when you are calmer.
Another way to practice emotional self-regulation is to reframe triggering situations. So, instead of looking at a fight as a be-all and end-all situation, you could reframe it as a learning opportunity. This can be particularly helpful if you have just started seeing someone that you genuinely like. Instead of instantly breaking up following a tiff, you take the time to acknowledge the extenuating emotional circumstances you both (and many others) are in currently. Then, you find the lessons to be learned from it.
Dating in the Pandemic
Successful dating is already tough enough. In the wake of the pandemic, it can be particularly challenging due to the emotional pressures of an unpredictable global health crisis. However, these tough times bring with them new opportunities for personal development. We can all build healthy, vibrant relationships based on kindness, empathy, and acceptance.