Person holding up a phone with the Hinge dating app open in front of a background of sparkling twinkle lights.

Let’s be honest. Dating can be challenging even under normal circumstances, but during a pandemic, it can be extra tricky. Whether you’re just dipping your toes in the water or looking for a long-term relationship, here are a few tips to help you navigate dating in a pandemic.


#1: Figure out what you really want

The pandemic has made casual meet ups and dates more risky. While this can be frustrating, it also means we have the opportunity to be more selective about who we match with, talk to and eventually meet. In order to do this, it’s important to know what you’re looking for from dates or in a committed relationship. 

Are you more interested in something brief and casual, casual but consistent or something more serious? Is physical attraction or companionship more important to you? Do you want to date someone with similar political views, aspirations, lifestyle, etc.? What does your ideal dating scenario or relationship look like? Thinking through these types of questions can help you get a better sense of what you really want.

If you're using dating apps, these questions can also help you tailor your profile and create filters. For instance, if you’re looking for something casual, you may want to consider filtering out people who are looking for a relationship or vice versa. Using these types of features and being honest about what you want allows you to set clear expectations and match with people who want similar things.


#2: Communicate and uphold your boundaries

COVID-19 has affected everyone differently, and we may have different levels of comfort when it comes to dating or meeting up. While many apps have added features to help gauge your comfort zone around the pandemic, it’s still important to communicate directly with your potential dates about what makes you feel safe and comfortable.

For instance, you may choose to meet through video before committing to an in-person date, or you may want to ensure your date is okay wearing a mask and sticking to physically distanced activities. Be honest about your expectations, and trust your gut. If someone dismisses your boundaries or pushes you to do something you’re not comfortable with, they’re probably not a good fit. 


#3: Embrace authenticity and connection

As humans, we’re hardwired to seek out clarity, safety and stability in our relationships. However, modern dating culture often emphasizes more casual interactions and low accountability. We may feel pressured to play it cool, be chill, minimize what we want/need or avoid committing too early. Ultimately, these dating norms and expectations can cause increased anxiety and uncertainty in our relationships.

One way to combat this is to intentionally embrace authenticity and connection. Allow your true self to shine through, whether you’re dating online or in person. Build a profile that reflects who you really are. Don’t be afraid to showcase your personality through your photos, questionnaires or bio! Staying true to your authentic self can also help you be more open to making meaningful connections. Seek out people who have shared interests, appreciate your quirks and allow you to be yourself. It’s also important to remember that you can take your time. Dating in a pandemic is a slow dance. Try to enjoy it, and use it as an opportunity to get to know other people (and yourself).


#4: Stay healthy

The rules for socializing have changed significantly over the past year, and this can leave us feeling anxious to go out in person. If you’re concerned about the health risks, consider sticking to virtual options or try some of these physically distanced date ideas:

  • Head outdoors. Cold weather may not be ideal, but it can be a fun way to get to know your date while limiting your exposure to COVID-19. Take advantage of the fresh air by walking or biking around town, hiking your favorite trail or building a snowman together. Be mindful that everyone has different activity levels, experience and access to things like equipment or transportation.
     
  • Visit local attractions. Many museums and exhibits have reopened to the public. If you’re up for a day trip, consider exploring the Denver Zoo, Butterfly Pavilion or check out one of the museums around Boulder. To limit your exposure, we recommend traveling separately whenever possible and opting for sites with well-ventilated or outdoor areas.
     
  • Attend campus events. There are a ton of student events planned for the spring semester from free activities at the Rec Center to game nights and comedy shows. Most events require registration, so be sure to you and your date sign up early.

Whatever you end up doing, remember to wear a face covering, wash your hands and check public health guidelines before making plans. It’s also important to remember that your dating life can have an impact on the people around you, including those you live with. Take some time to talk with them and make a plan ahead of time to keep everyone safe.


Resources

Let’s Talk consultations

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides free Let’s Talk consultations through telehealth. Let’s Talk counselors can help provide insight, solutions and information about additional resources. Students commonly visit with concerns about stress, sadness, worry, relationships, academic performance, family problems and financial struggles.

Virtual workshops

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) also offers a number of free workshops to students, including:

  • Navigating Difficult Conversations: This two-part series provides tips and tools to help you navigate difficult conversations with people you care about. The workshop will teach you to build better and stronger relationships, even when you don’t agree!
     
  • Identity and Sexual Exploration: Do you have questions about sexuality, gender or relationships? Did your previous sex-ed experiences have gaps? This workshop can provide insight into areas such as sex and sexuality, sexual health exams and testing, relationships and gender-affirming healthcare. All identities and questions welcome! Attendees can maintain anonymity by keeping their videos and microphones off.

Stalking and intimate partner abuse

While stalking often is directed at someone from a previous intimate relationship, it can also occur between former friends, roommates or someone the person has never met before, including matches from dating apps.

Stalking is any pattern of unwanted behavior, directed at a specific person, which causes that person to change their routine or feel afraid, nervous or in danger. These behaviors can take place online or in person and include, but are not limited to:

  • Repeated, unwanted phone calls, texts, messages, etc. that may or may not be threatening
  • Creating fake profiles to continue contacting a person after they have been blocked on their personal account
  • Spreading rumors online and in person
  • Posting messages or images of the person on social media or in discussion groups
  • Hacking into the person’s social media, email or other accounts

Students, staff and faculty can get confidential support for stalking and intimate partner abuse through the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) by calling 303-492-8855 or filling out a confidential request form online. This form will only be reviewed by OVA staff – the university will not be notified and no investigative action will take place. If you would like to get in touch with an OVA counselor regarding your report, be sure to include your contact information. 

OVA counselors can provide additional support to help individuals explore their rights and options, make a safety plan, get medical treatment if needed, discuss their living situation and more. They also have a free eAsk an Advocate program that allows you to meet confidentially with a counselor for additional information, support and consultation. 

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