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Love On Lockdown: Tips For Dating During The Coronavirus Crisis

Lindsey Balbierz for NPR
Lindsey Balbierz for NPR

Spring is supposed to be romantic — enjoying long dinners on the patio at your corner cafe, introducing your new beau to friends at an outdoor concert, holding hands on an evening stroll ... except coronavirus. So, none of that is happening. And yet, people are still seeking love and connection.

In fact, dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have seen the length of user conversations and number of messagesincrease since shelter-in-place orders went into effect.

But finding love right now feels kind of like the Wild West. The old rules don't really apply — if you have a good Zoom date, what's next? And if you're already in a relationship, great! But how do you hole up with someone 24/7 without going bananas?

It's Been a Minute host Sam Sanders got some timely advice all about managing love right now. Lane Moore, host of the comedy show Tinder Live and author of the memoir How to Be Aloneshares some tips for virtual dating during the coronavirus pandemic.

(And for those maintaining a relationship during the pandemic, scroll down! We have afew tips on getting through this without biting your partner's head off.)

1. Don't force yourself to use dating apps right now.

Nimarta Narang lives in Los Angeles and is a sporadic user of the dating app Hinge. She says she has a bad habit of logging in, making a few matches and then forgetting about the app for a month or two. When she returns after a long silence, those matches aren't exactly ready to chat.

"I'm finding that during quarantine or the self-isolation period, I'm even worse for some reason," Narang says.

If dating apps don't fit into your life right now, don't force it. "Just take some time off," Moore suggests. Finding a partner isn't some sort of assignment you have to complete right now.

She eschews the idea that dating should be easier since people are under lockdown and have more "free time." "We're not operating with normal energy in a crisis. If a building is burning, you know, you're not going to be like, 'Oh, well, now they're burning. A lot of time to, like, catch up!' ... You gotta deal with the burning building."

Her advice: "To not hold yourself to this idea that because you technically, on paper, have more time, that like there's more productivity or you can focus more. This isn't the same units of time we're used to."

2. Embrace the real you.

Image is an undeniable aspect of virtual dating. So what do you do if you want to create a profile with your best face forward, but don't have the usual resources?

That question came to us from Jacqueline, who wrote into the podcast Dates & Mates. "Salons and businesses are closed, so one can't have a makeover done. Is it OK to do the best you can with what you have with items at home?"

While there's nothing wrong with wanting to look your best, Moore says to consider the double standard. "Women are held to such a disgustingly higher standard that like now you have to maintain, like untold levels of hotness in quarantine."

Moore acknowledges it might sound sappy, but this is also an opportunity to embrace a more authentic version of yourself. "Maybe now is a good time to be like, 'This is what I actually look like.' "

3. Be honest and direct.

Chelsey Smith met a guy online at the beginning of the pandemic. "We have our fourth FaceTime date scheduled for later this week," she says. "How do we keep momentum if we can't meet each other in real life?"

Moore says you can get a good idea of chemistry through a video chat. So if everything is going well — you feel comfortable and there are no signs of caginess — she suggests being honest about not knowing how to proceed. "I think that you could just ask him because he's probably thinking the same thing. It's entirely possible that he's thinking like, 'Oh, how are we going to move through this?' And who knows, maybe he has an answer," Moore says.

"It just ultimately comes down to is it worth it to you?"

4. Give yourself some extra grace right now.

This is an evergreen tip for anything pandemic-related: Be easy on yourself. Forgive yourself. This is a hard time. You might not get it all right.

4 Tips For Those Already In A Relationship During The Pandemic

To figure out how to help an existing relationship thrive during the coronavirus crisis, we checked in with Damona Hoffman. She's a certified dating and relationship coach and host of the podcast Dates & Mates. She's also under lockdown with her spouse and two children.

Here are four tips to help your relationship survive:

1. Make a plan to spend meaningful time together.

"I recommend setting up an actual date night. There's so many things that you can do at home to still make it special," Hoffman says. "Maybe even something nostalgic that reminds you why you're together in the first place."

Game night, sip and paint, stargazing, anything! "When's the last time that you took a moment to go outside and actually look up at the stars? Get your little blanket to cuddle up, keep it cute."

2. Don't expect your partner to be your everything.

Your significant other might be the only person you're getting within 6 feet of, but they can't fulfill your every emotional need. Expecting one person to check every box is a recipe for disappointment and resentment.

"Rather than looking at your partner as just your best friend and your intimate partner," Hoffman says, "try to find other avenues and other people in your support network that you can connect with virtually or [through] a distance hangout." That way, the pressure is off your partner to be your sole support.

3. When feathers are ruffled, listen and take breaks.

Fights with your partner during lockdown are different. You can't go get advice over drinks with your friends. You may not even be able to move to a different room. What's the solution?

"What I would love to see people do is to focus on listening and understanding right now," Hoffman says. "It's really easy when you are in an argument to try to be heard and to impress your perspective on the other person. But especially right now, there are a lot of problems that do not have a solution, that will not be resolved by you making your point."

If you're in a fight, try putting a pause on the conversation and doing something else. "It might just be folding the laundry," Hoffman says. "Then set a time that you and your partner can come back and have this discussion. So say, 'Why don't we talk about this tonight after the kids go to bed or tomorrow after I've had a chance to talk to my therapist?' "

Even in lockdown, there are lots of ways to access therapy, from virtual appointments to apps, Hoffman says. "Use the tools that we have available so that you can be your best self in the relationship." (Here are more tips on accessing therapy from home.)

4. Don't ignore the elephant in the room.

This is a tumultuous, isolating and uncertain time. If you find yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms or addictions, don't try to sweep them under the rug. It probably won't work very well, and doing so "really can be a silent relationship killer," Hoffman says. "These are the exact kind of things that you need your partner to be your support system on."

Hoffman says to talk about the elephant in the room. "If you just shine a light on it so that everyone knows it's here," she says, "then you can actually talk about what's going on."