Have you found yourself in an online relationship, and are ready to move it offline, but aren’t quite sure how to go about it? As stay-at-home regulations start to loosen, many are faced with figuring out how to transition their newfound virtual connections to in-person status, which can be an intimidating thought for some.
Perhaps you found getting to know someone online or via apps to be easier, as it allowed you to talk about things that maybe you weren’t comfortable discussing in person. Or, perhaps during quarantine, you had more time to chat and are worried about the schedule and demands of pre-COVID-19 life coming back in full force. There are also so many questions that can come to mind. Will the chemistry be the same outside of a virtual romance? How do you suggest gong on a date while still being mindful of the other person’s safety?
Now, to be clear, the current CDC guidelines still advise remaining six feet apart from people you are not living with, avoiding large groups, and isolating from others if you have symptoms or have been exposed to persons with symptoms. Preventative measures while out in public have not changed either: the CDC advises wearing a cloth face mask when out in public, washing your hands frequently or sanitizing with at least 60 percent alcohol hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching your eyes, face, or mouth.
If you are not ready for face-to-face interaction just yet, follow your gut and stay home. But if you’re ready to start intermingling with the outside world, make sure you keep the aforementioned precautions in mind as well as those enforced in your city or county. Also, for those who fall on the latter side of the spectrum, ahead, some tips for transitioning your virtual romance to the real world during a pandemic.
How To Move Online Dating Offline: Share Your Interest
The first step in taking your relationship off of an app is to share your interest in doing so. Your virtual partner can’t read your mind and may also have hesitations about asking to meet in-person even after stay-at-home orders are lifted. “You can indicate that while you’re concerned about COVID-19, you are very open to planning an in-person social distancing date and will practice all the recommended safety protocols,” suggests celebrity matchmaker and online dating expert, Carmelia Ray to The Zoe Report.
Lindsey Metselaar, relationship expert and host of the We Met At Acme podcast, finds that tapping into the discomfort of proposing an in-person date is actually a great way to break the ice. “Say something like, ‘So weird that we’ve never met in real life! It’s so good to know you’re actually real,'” says Metselaar to The Zoe Report. “Something light-hearted and with good humor is always a good icebreaker.”
How To Move Online Dating Offline: Establish Comfort Levels
Once you have established a mutual interest in meeting up, the one thing to be mindful of is gauging comfort levels. This may include everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) expectations to the kind of date you will be going on. “It’s a good idea if you are planning a date that you discuss your comfort level of physical proximity,” says Ray. “You can discuss whether you will be wearing gloves, a mask, and carrying sanitizer.”
Knowing what your partner expects and is comfortable with for the first date will help make planning much easier. You don’t want to show up not wearing a mask or gloves when they are doing so, as that can make for a very awkward situation and cause the other person to potentially detract from the relationship or the date.
And what if your partner just isn’t 100 percent comfortable with meeting in person yet? It is ultimately up to you to decide whether to keep investing in the relationship, but if you really see potential with that person you should honor what their needs, says Ray. “You can ask for video dates and continue to communicate regularly until you can meet in-person,” she adds.
How To Move Online Dating Offline: Plan For Social Distancing
It is highly likely your dates for foreseeable future will be of the socially distant variety, meaning you’ll likely be about six feet apart from each other (for the first few meetings at least). And until you establish some kind of commitment of exclusivity, it’s probable to expect little to no physical contact, although every scenario is unique.
Ray suggests to always try your best to limit your contact with others: Instead of going to a walk-up bar or coffee shop, choose an outdoor activity where you can manage the distance between others and between you and your date. “I would try outdoor activities versus indoor activities, if the weather allows it, such as rollerblading, walking, hiking, picnic date. coffee dates on outdoor patios, paddle boarding, or canoeing where you can sit at opposite ends of the canoe,” she says. “And remember to always be sure you are washing your hands, maintaining the recommended distance, and avoid touching unless you’re both completely comfortable with doing so.”
Metselaar reminds couples to keep expectations low for these initial dates. “Don’t go into this meeting expecting them to be this perfect person,” she says. “If you approach the meeting hoping to at the very least make a new friend, things should go well regardless.” Another thing Metselaar emphasizes is taking it slow even though it may feel like you have been just that for weeks or even months. “Just because you’ve been chatting back and forth already doesn’t mean you have to have sex immediately or do anything you aren’t yet comfortable with,” she says. “Go at your own pace.”