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Image / Self / Real-life Stories

Digital intimacy: the experts weigh in on socially-distant dating during Covid-19

by Erin Lindsay
20th Aug 2020

Dr. Caroline West, along with some of our favourite influencers and Bumble Ireland, gave some tips on how to navigate dating and relationships in a post Covid-19 world

Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or ‘it’s complicated’ (isn’t it always?), 2020 has been a strange year for love. The old rules of dating and relationships have gone out the window, and coping with this ‘new normal’ doesn’t feel too comfortable yet.

How are we supposed to meet people, find a connection, discuss our feelings and emotions, let alone have sex if we want to? All of a sudden, dating feels very new and scary — like everything else in 2020.

Dr. Caroline West, sex and relationships expert with Bumble Ireland, explains that everyone is in the same boat when it comes to missing how things were before — even apart from sex, we are all craving the intimacy and connections that were easier to establish pre-Covid.

“People are craving any type of loving touch or connection, even hugging has become more important. I know from my own friend group that they are all keen to get back on the horse when it comes to dating, but are experiencing a lot anxiety around it. People aren’t sure what they can and can’t do, and are scared to meet new people.”

According to Dr. West, loneliness has become a huge problem with singletons during the pandemic, but some of the outcomes on dating and relationships have been positive. “I think we’re going to see more people becoming comfortable with digital intimacy — now that we can’t spend as much face-to-face time with each other, our phones have become our prime way of communicating.

“With that, I think that our communication skills will improve as well. During Covid, we’ve had to become more comfortable in setting boundaries and being upfront about where we’ve been and whether we’re putting others at risk — maybe that will encourage us to become more comfortable with discussing our sexual histories and our feelings about relationships, which traditionally, Irish people don’t tend to be very comfortable doing.”

For those looking to get back on the dating scene, but unsure of how to navigate the ‘new normal’, Dr. West advises embracing the unknown. “It’s completely normal to be anxious about this situation, and it’s okay to take it slow and be cautious — your date is probably feeling the same way. Don’t jump into a long and exhaustive date straight off the bat — try a smaller interaction like a coffee date or a walk in the park to start off with, to take the pressure off yourself.

Ideal date night

“Take this time to embrace new ways of dating and getting to know one another, but if you aren’t feeling it, or if you feel like you need to get out the situation, these social-distancing rules can be a good excuse to get out. Always keep yourself safe.”

So what about some date ideas? Some of Ireland’s top influencers have weighed in with their ideal dates for lockdown love. Holly Carpenter is trying to stay positive about the ‘new normal’: “Without being able to rely on potentially meeting someone on a night out, more single people are using dating apps like Bumble. This means there are plenty of new profiles to browse and swipe in your desired direction,” she says.

“I also find that with the slower pace of life these days, people have less distractions and more time to chat and get to know one another. The pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective for people and this can help give you a clearer idea of what you’re really looking for in a partner.”

Holly’s ideal date is a casual daytime affair. “My idea of a perfect distanced date would be a swim out in Clontarf followed by a coffee in the Happy Out café. If I’m not feeling up for being in a bikini in front of my date that day then I think a stroll and a 99 is also a lovely laidback way to spend time with someone.

“My advice for anyone reading this who is yet to meet someone special is to keep the faith. You never know who could be right around the corner.”

Louise Cooney’s love life during Covid has been tumultuous — she had to cut her dream move to New York short and return to Ireland when the pandemic hit.  “While I was in New York I was on dating apps and I did some video dates with people I met on Bumble — which was weird at first but a fun experience.

“Calling is a quick way to make the first move or a great way to get familiar with someone. The best part? You don’t have to exchange phone numbers or email addresses! So you don’t have to worry about anyone having your personal information until you’re ready.”

Now that she’s back on home ground, she’s enjoying life on an island: “Ireland has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world… so it certainly wouldn’t make for a bad date. A perfect picnic date would have to be in Doolin, where I was isolated. It’s just so peaceful down there. A view of the rolling hills, a good sunset and some wine and cheese — that would be ideal!”

For Shauna Doyle, outdoor dates are top of her agenda, to take the pressure and intensity off of a first date in a cramped restaurant. “Some of my favorites places to go are Crosshaven, Kinsale, Inchydoney, Fitzgerald’s Park and, if you are feeling a little adventurous, head west and bring your pop-up tent and some bug spray. (Maybe save this for the third date!). ”

Feature photo: Pexels

Read more: Four fraught Netflix love stories to fill the Normal People-shaped hole in your week

Read more: Is COVID online dating favouring men over women?

Read more: Love after Covid: This is what Irish couples are saying to relationship therapists right now

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