As America emerges from a 12+ month-long global pandemic, once-social butterflies have to crawl back out of their isolation cocoon.
Whether this year was just another gone by of being single and fabulous, or maybe you left your S/O in 2020, dating post-pandemic can seem…scary.
SEE ALSO: The pandemic has us rethinking condoms, lube, and sex – for good
Very Good Light spoke to two dating coaches about the best way to navigate entering the dating scene again.
Cora Boyd is an entrepreneur, dating-sex-relationship expert, and creator. She advises leaning into the excitement of being eager to connect with new people.
“My advice is to enjoy the live, in-person connection,” she says. “You’ve had a lot of time to ground into yourself, reflect, emotionally process, and get to know yourself.”
She tells Very Good Light that you may feel awkward at first, but that’s O.K., and the other person probably does too.
“Awkwardness is part of dating,”says Cora. “Lean into it.”
Start with communication
Of course, one of the more awkward parts of post-pandemic dating is safety. Communication and honesty about boundaries are one of the most vital grounds of a relationship, and that may start with some vaccine talk. Cora advises to approach this conversation directly, but lightly.
“Before meeting up or deciding if you want to meet up, start by sharing how you are approaching COVID safety, what’s important to you in terms of meeting up with others, and open up the conversation from there,” she suggests.
Hayley Quinn is a dating coach from the U.K., well-known for her TED Talk about the quest for love, which has two million views. Hayley tells Very Good Light about FODA (fear of dating again).
“Dating can make us feel vulnerable at the best of times, so if this is you, remember there’s no right way to date,” says Hayley. “If you feel more comfortable doing a video chat before you meet IRL, then go for it… Of course, the best partners for you will be accepting of the pace you’d like to take the relationship at.”
During the pandemic, people have naturally been having more candid and emotionally intimate conversations before they meet IRL. Use this as an advantage!
“Whilst pre-Covid it might have been a struggle to ask someone if they were dating anyone else, now it has become the norm,” says Hayley. And vaccine-wise, she suggests that the easiest way to ask about someone else’s status is to share yours!
Revisit your wants and needs
It’s obvious that each of us has gone through tremendous personal growth within the last year, and that shouldn’t be forgotten when you meet up with your first partner. Your standards and needs may be different than they were a year ago, and hopefully, you know yourself as well as you ever have.
“Every date and new connection is an opportunity to set a new standard for yourself, embody your growth, and practice expressing your needs,” says Cora. “When you approach dating and relationships as a playground for personal growth, there is value and opportunity to learn on every date. Let this ‘fresh start’ energy carry over into your approach to dating, and into each date.”
Hayley shares that COVID-19 has forced a lot of people to take a step back from dating and self-reflect, and she advises leaning into that.
“Theoretically this should also be a very good way to break a dating rut; you may have finally realized what was and wasn’t working for you,” she says. “Changing your dating process and challenging who you think your type is are two of the best ways to create change in your dating life. So trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to change how you date.”
It’s been a long year, and if you’re recently single don’t expect to find the same connection you had right away, says Hayley.
“If you go into those early dates looking for ‘The One,’ you might be disappointed in that you don’t feel the same level of connection as you did with your ex,” she says. “So keep your expectations of your first dates focused on having fun and enjoying getting to know new people.”
Acceptance is one of the most important ingredients to a successful relationship, according to Hayley.
“The best people for you to connect with won’t rush getting to know you, or constantly test your boundaries. So don’t go into dates in too much of a rush to impress the other person, be authentic and when it’s a good match, it will feel easy.”
Both coaches emphasize going slowly as you enter the dating world again—there’s no rush!
“We make our best decisions in love when we give ourselves the space to really discern and feel things out,” says Cora. “Allow the newness of the dating landscape and the newness of your relationship status change to be a new chapter.”
This is a new chapter, which is so exciting and hopeful! Cora’s biggest piece of advice to bring along as you begin dating again post-COVID is to remember that no one else knows how to date post-pandemic either.
“There are no scripts,” she says. “Just follow what feels good to you.”