Whether you're fed up of virtual dates and video dates or find chatting to someone over a screen just really exhausting and weird, you might be thinking about going on some social distance dates now that lockdown restrictions allow us to meet others outside (as long as we stay two metres away, of course). Whereas before the pandemic you might have met a potential romantic or sexual partner in a pub, or at a museum or gallery, dates in lockdown are totally different and these staples are just not an option. This means if we want to go on quarantine dates we need to get a bit creative.
It also means that many of us are feeling more awkward than ever about dating. How do you build intimacy and test if there's a "connection" when you have to stay so far apart? Is physical attraction and "chemistry" possible on a socially distanced date? Kate Moyle, psychosexual therapist and sex expert at LELO, says that although we put a lot of weight on the idea of chemistry, "there is no one right way to forge a connection with someone." She adds, "Sometimes it's a slow burn, other times it's intense. Attraction is something we can't fully explain. Yes, it plays a big part in dating and getting to know someone, but it's also something that might change and be replaced by other feelings."
Kate says that while what we perceive as "chemistry" or attraction may be responsible for sex at the start of a relationship, "closeness may become more of a motivating factor once we know someone better." She predicts there is the potential for a date to go either way in these circumstances, depending on the people involved. "For some the distance may add to the thrill and excitement of wanting to do something more because they can't, and for others it may mean that the connection fades faster as they don't have the physical connection."
Lockdown date ideas
It's all about being creative and having fun while adhering to the current restrictions. Relationship and sex expert for Lovehoney Annabelle Knight shares some fun quarantine date ideas.
- Park dates. "In parks there are lots of places you can meet in person while staying two metres apart. Parks are the new pubs and a perfect spot to spark up a new romance. Bring a blanket and even a pillow for extra comfort. Nibbles and drinks are essential, too. Deckchairs are another good idea because it can get sore sitting on grass for a long time."
- Beach dates. "If you're lucky enough to live near a beach that has reopened to visitors, like Brighton and Bournemouth, beaches are the perfect date spot as long as you stay two metres apart. Bring your swimsuit because a dip in the chilly water is a great way to bond."
- Wild swimming. "There are lots of places where you can go wild swimming in lakes and rivers and enjoy a walk in the country at the same time. Lots of accessible via public transport as you can discover in this wild swimming guide."
- A game of tennis. "In ordinary times we would only be a few weeks away from Wimbledon. Tennis is one the best sports for social distancing fun. All public courts have reopened and most are next to parks. It means you can combine a couples of sets with a park date."
- A bike ride. "Cycling is another sport that lends itself to social distancing. You could arrange to cycle around a local park or the mega adventurous could try something a bit more tiring. Box Hill in Surrey, for instance, is a big one for cyclists but definitely not for the faint hearted. If you haven't got a bike most cities have bike sharing schemes these days, so it should not be too much trouble to find a set of wheels."
- Roller blading. "A fun way to make a park date a little more exciting. Bring elbow and knee pads if you are new to it because falls happen often and you can end up with a few cuts and bruises..."
- A city walk. "Most city centres are far quieter than they ever were and it's a great time to see tourism hotspots without the crowds."
Social distance date advice
Chances are you're going to be feeling a bit weird about going on a socially distanced date during lockdown - and that's totally normal. "“It's OK to acknowledge that this new way of dating might feel awkward. We can’t ignore the fact that a lot has changed in the past few months and coronavirus has been a huge upheaval to all our lives," says Match’s dating expert Hayley Quinn.
And as socially distant dates are a new experience for everyone, Logan Ury, director of relationship science at Hinge reminds us not to be too hard on ourselves right now. "We’re all figuring this out as we go," she adds.
So, if you're feeling awkward/nervous/anxious when you go on the date, why not simply tell your date how you're feeling? Logan says, "You could say, 'This is kind of odd, isn’t it? Thanks for giving it a try with me'. Confessing your fears will lower your anxiety, because you no longer have to pretend you’re completely comfortable. It also gives the other person a chance to share what’s going on for them." And it's highly likely they'll be feeling weird, too.
How to build intimacy when you're so far apart
Many of us mistakenly think of intimacy as a physical thing. But while physical intimacy is important in building relationships, Logan says it's really only one aspect. "One of the fastest ways to create connection is through lowering your guard and sharing a vulnerable side of yourself," she says.
Kate agrees. "Sharing, conversation, openness and vulnerability, eye-contact and laughter are just some of a the ways that we connect all the time that don't require touch."
So how do you connect without touching? Logan suggests answering the famous 36 questions to fall in love. "They escalate in intensity and intimacy and aren't just random questions. They were designed by psychologist Arthur Aron and his colleagues for an experiment in which they paired up random strangers to ask each other a series of 36 questions. Arthur and his team found that these particular questions help potential partners bond by building connection and promoting vulnerability."
Kate recommends playing the dating game from The School of Life. "Instead of sticking to the usual way of doing things, focus on being able to build intimacy in non-contact and non-physical ways, all of which can positively impact desire too," she adds.
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