ColumnsSmart Health

Putting Yourself Out There

Dating advice in the post-pandemic limbo.

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So you made it to the other side of the pandemic, but your relationship didn’t. All of that working from home and getting either too much or too little time with your significant other revealed some problem areas in your relationship. As a result, you’ve decided to part ways, and now the two of you are a pair of singles. 

The pandemic didn’t only impact couples, though. If you’re single, the prolonged period of social isolation may have caused you to rethink your relationship status and resolve to change things up. Determined to never again go through a quarantine alone, many singles than ever before are looking more seriously at partnering up.

Regardless of whether you’re just looking for some fun or something more serious, this summer promises to be an interesting time to get back out there. Approaching this pandemic pivot with a renewed sense of curiosity and openness might increase your odds for an extra-hot summer.  

COVID Dating
How, exactly, does one date in this new COVID era? With a little more than half of Harris County still unvaccinated, and with global concerns mounting regarding the Delta variant, some caution is still warranted. Following CDC guidelines and recommendations can be helpful in determining your relative level of risk. If you are vaccinated, resuming normal activities seems to be mostly safe. In those cases, dealing with the anxiety of being in crowds again may be the most challenging part of a new courtship.

If you are unvaccinated, it’s essential to continue limiting your activities in public places, especially since studies have found that adults with positive COVID-19 test results were twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant than those with negative test results. Meeting in outdoor settings or on a restaurant patio might be a safer bet, and will allow you a chance to get to know someone without the added stress of worrying about COVID exposure.

It’s also a good idea to clarify your own COVID stance before engaging with potential dates. What level of risk are you willing to take, in terms of group activities and crowded indoor spaces? How important is it to you that anyone you date be fully vaccinated? When is it appropriate to ask or answer questions about COVID vaccinations? There is bound to be some trial and error in figuring out what feels most comfortable and natural, but thinking about these kinds of things ahead of time can save you from having to scramble if confronted with abrupt questions or decision-making.

Toss the List of Requirements
It can be difficult to have clear standards for potential partners without creating a laundry list of requirements. Judging a person based on their educational level or job, the type of car they drive, or where they live could significantly reduce your potential dating pool and cut out people who would be a good match.

Fair and reasonable expectations for a partner center around how they treat you and respect your emotional boundaries. Unfortunately, those are sometimes challenging standards to enforce. Check in with yourself while you are on a date and consider: How does this person make me feel? Do I feel safe and respected? Do they follow through with what they tell you?

Judge Not…
Just like we learned in kindergarten, it’s true that we can’t really judge a book by its cover. In fact, attraction can grow (or diminish) as you learn more about a person. Have you ever had the experience of getting to know someone who was really hot, but their attitude was a turn-off? 

The challenging part is really getting to know someone with today’s app-based dating and casually swiping left and right. Of course the physical is important, but the key is to develop your sense of what matters most to you in a date or a partner.

Perhaps her sense of humor is really what you appreciate most. Or maybe it’s the way he confidently moves through a room. Keeping in mind that someone’s brain can be just as sexy as their biceps will help you take a fresh look at the people who enter your romantic field
of vision. 

So you might try going out with someone who doesn’t  look like “your type.” Or perhaps you could spend a bit more time chatting and texting with someone in order to get to know their personality. This can provide you with the information you need to make a more informed decision about whether or not they’re a
good match.

People Are Not Like Buses…
Another frequent dating pitfall is the unconscious belief that someone better will always come along. Sure, there is always a smarter or richer person out there, but will they necessarily care for you in the right way? If you plan to make a relationship stick, remaining present-focused and developing an appreciation for the qualities in the person sitting across from you is essential. 

Date Your Spouse!
If you’re still in a relationship, perhaps what the pandemic was meant to show you is just how much your current partner means to you. Single people aren’t the only ones who can use this summer as a time to connect. Date your partner! What activities can you find to enjoy together? Are there new opportunities for recreation or volunteering that might be fun and help to further cement your bond? 

Looking Inward
The last year has shown us the importance of healthy relationships, so the renewed focus on dating isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it may even add a little heat and excitement to the summer months.Just remember, though, to continue examining and working on your relationship to yourself. When you’re in a good place, not only are you more attractive to others, but you can also feel confident about taking your best version of you into a partnership, and thus setting it up for success. 

This article appears in the July 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.


Daryl Shorter, MD

Daryl Shorter, MD, is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is board certified in both general and addiction psychiatry. His clinical practice focuses on veteran care, and he lectures widely on LGBTQ mental health. Dr. Shorter can be reached at [email protected]
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