Dating within limits

Staying safe under restrictions

Written by Jennifer Hanson

You’ve been cooped up for months, but now the sun is out, it’s getting warm and you want to take that cutie you’ve been chatting with on a picnic date that will maybe/probably end with a kiss. However, as tired as we are of it, the pandemic still looms and shows no signs of going away anytime soon. What to do?

There are so many things to be concerned about when it comes to dating during a pandemic. Online dating offers the ability to filter preferences and reveal intentions early, and these choices can ultimately promote better outcomes.1 Now, with some states beginning to lift restrictions, you’re probably wondering what is and isn’t safe to embark on as a single person. Here’s a handy guide for how to proceed within the new normal of dating with enhanced social distancing measures.

Before you date

There is obviously some unease with dating during the pandemic. Dates probably aren’t going to be like they were before coronavirus, and there needs to be a certain level of trust involved with whoever you’re seeing. Before jumping into a date because you’re hungry for human contact, be sure to honestly answer a few questions:

These may seem like intense questions, but socializing at all right now carries that amount of risk with it.

For some people, these questions might yield positive results. More than one third of marriages between 2005 and 2012 started online, and these marriages ranked higher in satisfaction and were less likely to end in divorce.2 If they’re already ticking boxes and you haven’t even met, you could eventually be part of this marriage-changing trend too!

Trust and commitment are the two crucial pillars of a solid relational house3 and subsequently relational success. Without trust, a relationship cannot be healthy.4 Now is the time to trust your gut and hold off if you’ve seen some evidence of questionable judgment. This is a concern especially if you’re interacting with at-risk communities or older folks since COVID-19 can spread easily to more vulnerable populations.

After all, expectations matter for relationships. When people are honest about what they’re looking for, they tend to get what they want out of the interaction.5 You’re not alone if you feel unsure about dating in person. You can always try a phone conversation or video date if you want to test your chemistry and compatibility first. This is a great litmus test for how you get along, and it guarantees a chance to talk on a more personal level before putting yourself at risk for infection.

If things go well and you do connect through virtual dating, it might be time to think about an in-person date. However, there are some precautions to take before meeting up. The more you talk about these concerns beforehand; the less likely things will get weird in the moment.

You’re going out! Now what?

So, you and your (potential) partner are talking about meeting up for your first date. Unless they’ve been living under a rock, they are probably aware of the fact that meeting up is at least a little dangerous during the pandemic. While this conversation topic isn’t exactly pleasant, both of you should feel comfortable enough with each other to talk about it before you decide to meet.

For starters, figure out what you’re going to do on your date  Can you sit down at a restaurant or a bar where you currently live? If not, a park picnic date could be a thoughtful alternative. Now is the time to get creative with your dates and show off your inventive side. Studies have shown that more creative personalities tend to hold more passion in their romantic relationships, and ultimately use it to overlook imperfections.6 Being resourceful might just tick some boxes for them as well!

Openly discuss what both of you are comfortable with as far as physical closeness. Social distancing measures advise six feet between humans in public places and wearing a face covering. It might be a little awkward to talk about, but if you’re feeling sparks you might relax your stance in the heat of the moment. Communicating what you’re comfortable with beforehand will avoid heavier awkwardness down the road if one of you is having reservations.

A smart approach is to abide by social distancing measures on the first in-person date and see how you feel afterwards. If they’re worth moving on to a second date with, consider weakening the restrictions so you can be slightly more intimate. Remember to observe normal standards for dating as well, such as meeting your date in a public place and always informing someone who you’ll be with and where you’re going.

First date expectations

It’s obvious that dates are going to be far different than before the pandemic hit, but that doesn’t mean the rush of feelings will be any different. First dates are an exciting time to thoroughly get to know the person you’re with, not to mention socially interacting with someone after months of quarantine.

Try not to hinge everything on this first time and just enjoy being out of the house with your new companion. Make sure to focus on having fun and being in the moment. Enjoy their company and the things you’ve grown to like about them. Clearly you are both excited enough to put safety on the line, so this is something worth savoring.

Be honest if you’re unsure about closeness when you’re in the moment. You have to navigate these interactions together, and mutual understanding will go a long way. If things are going well and you’ve decided to not make this a strictly distanced date, look for cues that they’re receptive to touch. Park excursions give plenty of opportunities for snuggling and stargazing if the vibe is right.

Moving forward

So, you’ve had a pandemic date or two and you’re really excited about this new person. Maybe you’ve given hugs, held hands or had a snuggle, and you want to keep this going in the safest way possible. There are a few facts to keep in mind about COVID-19 before moving further with your new partner.

Unfortunately, it’s important to remember that kissing can spread coronavirus if one of you is infected.7 Mutual oral contact requires the previous high level of trust necessary during this time. Talk to your partner and see where they’re at. Your risk of infection is probably low if you have both had minimal contact with the outside world in the last couple weeks and neither of you have symptoms. If one of you is an essential worker or in an at-risk group, it’s up to you to decide whether or not the variable risk is worth it.

These precautions extend to sex as well. You are your safest sex partner, and the next safest is someone you live with. Keeping sexual contact monogamous is preferred to avoid further germ spread. Although coronavirus has not shown signs of being transmitted through semen or vaginal fluid, the amount of oral contact used during sex can render this meaningless.7

There are plenty of other ways to be intimate without touch or kissing. Masturbation, whether virtually or across the room, can be an exciting way to get to know your partner. If you do decide to initiate sex, make sure to wash your hands beforehand and use necessary protection as always. Less face-to-face positions, like reverse cowgirl or sex from behind, can be utilized to lower the risk of germ spread.

Above all, there has never been a better time to take things slow and thoughtfully communicate. Trusting each other, getting creative and working through adversity are all qualities of a fulfilling relationship, and a pandemic just means you get to experience them earlier to make sure you’re compatible.


  1. Online Dating: A Critical Analysis from the Perspective of Psychological Science. Author(s): Eli J. Finkel, Paul W. Eastwick, Benjamin R. Karney, Harry T. Reis and Susan Sprecher Source: Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January 2012), pp. 3-66.
  2. Marital outcomes from on-line meetings. Authors: John T. Cacioppo, Stephanie Cacioppo, Gian C. Gonzaga, Elizabeth L. Ogburn, Tyler J. VanderWeele. Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2013, 110 (25) 10135-10140.
  3. Gottman, J. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. Campbell & Stanton (2019). Adult attachment and trust in romantic relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology, 25.
  5. Wentland, J. (2015). Expectations for relationship outcomes in online dating settings. International Academy of Sex Research
  6. Carswell, K. L., Finkel, E. J., & Kumashiro, M. (2019). Creativity and romantic passion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(6), 919–941.
  7. Sex and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020, March 27). Retrieved May 10, 2020, from

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