The Daily Gamecock

Column: Cautious dating is an acceptable risk during the pandemic

COVID-19 has changed the dating game, encouraging people to get to know each other before physically getting close.

Isabella Gomez Sarmiento’s article, “Coronavirus FAQs: What Are The New Dating Rules? And What About Hooking Up?” said, “Meaningful emotional connections are still an essential part of everyday life — and we should keep the rewards and benefits of dating in mind, just as we do with buying food or seeking medical care.”

Relationships are a big part of the human experience. It’s a context wherein we can support each other and learn to empathize and connect on a deeper level. 

University of Virginia researcher Jessica Kansky, in her academic paper “What’s Love Got to Do With it? Romantic Relationships and Well-Being” said romantic relationships fulfill our need for social support.

"The concept of love developed over time as a way to combat loneliness and emotional and social isolation,” Kansky said.

Dating in the new normal is more focused on building an emotional relationship before meeting or being intimate physically. Virtual dates, while definitely not traditional, can be a great opportunity for deep, get-to-know-you conversations. 

Much like long-distance dating, pandemic dating is an exercise in communication. Talking without having an agenda, food or a movie to distract you helps you move past small talk and into more serious topics.

Having virtual dates before meeting in person can help you determine whether you are compatible or not before you invest a lot of in-person time. 

Beyond virtual dating, the pandemic has made the decision to go on a date in person much more meaningful. 

Because in-person dating is a risky activity while COVID-19 is still spreading, it should be considered with what the World Health Organization calls a risk-based approach. When planning a date, you should take steps to mitigate the risks that you can by choosing outdoor venues, social distancing and wearing a mask when you can’t be six feet apart, but accept that the risk can be worth the reward. 

It is important to recognize that dating as we thought of it before the pandemic should not continue unchanged. To make dating work now, there needs to be at least a conversation about what precautions against COVID-19 you both agree to follow, such as canceling the date if either of you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. 

With the pandemic, there are new thresholds of how serious the relationships are, such as talking virtually, going on dates in person and letting your date into your social bubble. According to Forbes Senior contributor Bruce Y. Lee, your social bubble is the limited number of people that you are not socially distancing from. Before you start hugging, kissing or being otherwise intimate, you need to make sure that you and your partner are being conscious about social distancing in other relationships so that you aren’t likely to pass any sicknesses to each other. 

“If both of you are healthy and feeling well, are practicing social distancing and have had no known exposure to anyone with COVID-19, touching, hugging, kissing, and sex are more likely to be safe," Huma Farid of Harvard Health Blog said. 

Dating during the COVID-19 pandemic is not risk-free, but there are ways you can minimize the risk for you and your date while still getting the companionship and social support that a romantic relationship can provide.