I hear from so many people who’ve found themselves in a casual relationship or something that seemed to have so much promise but kept going in fits and starts or halting. They’re not compatible, and their emotional needs are unmet.

Without direction and purpose, a relationship has no aim.

This is when we take whatever’s on offer, “go with the flow” and hide our needs. As a result, we wind up knee-deep in lacklustre relationships where we settle for ambiguity, ambivalence and emotional unavailability. The relationship or person might have its/their “good times” or “good points”, but we can’t breathe out. We can’t experience genuine intimacy. As a whole, the relationship isn’t fulfilling because it doesn’t have purpose and direction. It doesn’t have what I call The Landmarks of Healthy Relationships: balance, consistency, commitment, intimacy and progression.

But what about when we start dating someone from afar during the coronavirus pandemic?

Thanks to social distancing and lockdown, dating’s changed dramatically within the space of a few weeks. While I’ve heard from plenty of people who, even if it’s with gritted teeth, they’re taking a much-needed break from dating, I’ve heard from as many that are attempting to continue. They’re having virtual drinks and candlelit dinners. Talking on the phone for ages is a thing again. In some cases, which isn’t allowed in some places (cough), they’re meeting up for socially-distanced walks.

It fascinates me that barely a month ago, you’d be hard-pushed to get some people out of messaging and texting! It might have taken weeks to pin down a date. Of course, between working from home, furlough and basically a drastic change in our day-to-day lives, suddenly some of us feel as if we can do more than just swipe. Ping-ponging texts back and forth suddenly seems too crumb-like in these Covid times! We used to blame our slow or non-existent replies on being insanely busy. Now, some of our avoidance and delay tactics are too obvious to us (and others).

But just like ‘normal’ dating, dating during coronavirus can be fraught with anxiety, confusion and intensity.

We’re in an open-ended situation where we don’t know how long this will last for and what life will look like on the other side of it. That’s enough to make the average human throw a level of caution to the wind.

Some will feel braver about saying certain things because of the open-endedness. After all, they won’t have to make good on it for some time! Others will say that they need companionship and the frisson of romantic interest that you just don’t get from your friends and family. Chatting with an attractive stranger, or certainly someone who seems to like what they like might be their source of connection and their attempt at the antidote to loneliness. We’re all only human, after all.

But we do have to take care. This is especially so when we’re aware of our anxiety, confusion and intensity, never mind someone else’s. As lovely as it might be to date and try to explore new possibilities, not practising self-care at the same time puts us in the danger zone. With a pandemic stressing our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing, the last thing we need is virtual dating drama. If there’s ambiguity, boundary-busting, a fallout or ending, thanks to coronavirus, we don’t necessarily have all of our typical avenues of escape and soothing.

By practising self-care, we’re far more likely to know our intentions. Awareness of why we do what we do leads to very different outcomes to when we don’t.

If we are intentional about dating during coronavirus, we can choose the right course of action for us.

A relationship without purpose has no aim.

If our intention is to have light fun, companionship and, in our mind, not get emotionally entangled because we don’t see corona-dating as ‘real’ dating, this needs to govern our approach. If the person we’re chatting and hanging out with is taking it seriously even if we don’t ‘get’ why they would, we need to halt, though. Being honest about our position and/or opting out is the emotionally responsible thing to do. We mustn’t assume that they will be okay with us passing time with them.

When we’re honest about our intentions, we might determine that dating is our way of managing anxiety and escaping. We might decide to address that rather than date. This means that we’ll be in a more emotionally available place on the other side of coronavirus.

We have to be honest with ourselves about our needs and desires.

It could be that we recognise that our intention and desire is a mutually fulfilling relationship that can go the distance. This might make us reassess what we’re doing, especially if we know that we’ve typically settled for crumbs. We might opt to go slower in the hopes of giving the involvement the best possible chance when lockdown eases. Or, we might leave dating alone to focus on ourselves.

If we’re creating a sense of a relationship in a coronavirus bubble, how will we gauge the relationship? How will know if the relationship has balance, consistency, commitment, intimacy and progression? We need to figure out if that’s possible for us. If not, can Future Us handle that? If we know that we can’t handle the emotional consequences of becoming involved with someone, even from afar, we need to halt. We have a duty of care to ourselves to slow right down or take a break. It might feel tough, but it’s not worth shortchanging ourselves in the short term. Taking shortcuts is why we struggle to move on and let go.

When we begin with the end in mind, we can be intentional and enjoy more successful outcomes. We have to figure out what we want (where we want to go) and how we want to feel. We can then point us in the right direction and also steer ourselves away from anything or anyone that isn’t in alignment with that.

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