Dating During Distance
During this time of social distancing, many of us are binge-watching shows such as “Love is Blind” and “Too Hot to Handle” on Netflix. Watching television can serve as a distraction from our anxious thoughts but it definitely does not replace the need for human interaction.
The show “Love is Blind” questions if it is possible for singles to find a match and fall in love without seeing each other face-to-face. Couples are first introduced to each other as they date in “pods” as part of a social experiment before ever meeting in person. Believe it or not, I met my partner online and “fell in love” before meeting face to face. We communicated for many months through phone and email before meeting. I was intrigued to see if couples who formed “emotional connections” on the show could possibly sustain this after meeting face to face and including all the other variables of “life” outside the comfort of their pods.
Reverse back at least 20 years ago to the days before Tinder, Bumble, OK Cupid, and Grindr. Depending on your age, we may have to go way back to a time with limited technology where dating started with a face-to-face meeting, maintained by contact through meetings or by phone. Maybe you wrote a personal ad, traditionally in newspapers which made its transformation to online dating before smartphones, Facebook, and Snapchat. Nowadays, most young people are relying on dating apps. Considering that dating is already hard for so many, check out this video on Why Dating is Hard for Millenials:
A common recommendation for coping with loneliness and depression is to have social contact. In the time of social distancing, contact often takes place through phone or video. This may help explain why more and more people are turning to dating apps such as Tinder to help combat loneliness . [ https://www.mndaily.com/article/2020/03/n-students-are-turning-to-tinder-more-than-ever-thanks-to-social-distancing ]. As in person meet ups have decreased, many are getting creative with video dating options available through apps and finding ways to express sexual intimacy outside of face-to-face encounters.
The show “Too Hot to Handle” is a true test of celibacy as young singles can’t have sexual contact if they want to win the cash prize.
Our culture tends to struggle with instant gratification (SWIPE), wanting our needs met immediately or relying on a partner for our own happiness or fulfillment of sexual needs and fantasies. Relationship issues are a very common presenting concern in therapy and dating is often included as a significant source of stress. With use of email or text messages, there is a delay in communication (versus face-to-face or phone conversation) and it is also more difficult to detect tone. As anxiety is already heightened, it is no surprise to experience apprehension with texts when dating as you are missing out on the non-verbals. Since this is present with video dating options, communication tends to be improved. Throughout the course of “Too Hot to Handle,” contestants learn about nonverbal communication, vulnerability, intimacy, and empowerment. These are skills that are so important in dating, and in relationships in general such as eye contact and being able to pick up on cues such as flirting. One of the trends seen lately is that more and more people are having “matches” as people are taking more steps to form social connections which appear to be facilitated by quarantine. Being able to become vulnerable with another person where one can feel safe, share emotions and experiences during a time of social distances is, in my opinion, empowering.
Written By : Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC