It is a very strange time to be alive. This summer the U.S. cautiously began to reopen, even as parts of the country were shut down for a second time. No matter where you live, society looks different from the one we knew at the year’s start. Many companies, for example, have adapted to the work-from-home life, holding meetings via video conference to limit face-to-face interaction. But what happens in circumstances when a certain physical connection is necessary?
Because virtual sex just can’t replace the real thing, a lot of men and women are struggling to date during the quarantine. In the era of stay-at-home orders, safe sex has taken on a whole new meaning.
Dating during COVID-19 has been tough for single guys looking to meet the right person. While not getting sick is good, romantic loneliness and the lack of physical intimacy can chip away at a person’s mental wellbeing. Yes, there are steps you can take to dating during quarantine, but the overall landscape for single people is bleak.
Relationship expert and best-selling author, James M. Sama, has been helping guys navigate the deep, tumultuous waters of romance and self-love for nearly a decade. When it comes to the lack of physical and emotional connection, Sama says the thirst is real right now, but the average guy isn’t dying from it.
“We are certainly missing that human connection to others, but I believe there is also a conscious piece of us that understands the dangers of acting on that thirst. Plus, it takes two to tango, and I believe most people are avoiding contact with strangers so even if we were willing to go out and risk it to get the biscuit, we may not find someone else who’s willing to do the same,” he said.
This pandemic has severely limited dating opportunities. While most singles are probably “spending more time ‘alone,’” Sama jokes, others have leaned on dating apps as a crutch to fill that lonely void. Dating apps have surged because of stay-at-home orders, with a reported 53% of users stating they’ve been engaging more frequently. Even though heavy use of these apps sometimes comes with a stigma, Sama thinks that increased use may actually be beneficial in the long-term.
“There is a net positive if you look at the nature of dating apps and how it applies to the current situation… Now, we have the opportunity to actually carry on conversations and get to know someone on a deeper level since meeting up right away is not an option. [COVID-19] essentially put the “hookup culture” on hold and forced us to talk about things other than just sex. And guys who kick things off by asking for photos or sexually escalating the conversations will likely be cut off quickly and learn they need to change their approach,” he said.
Hookup culture has become the norm for many young people in this technological era, which makes finding that next hookup people easier than ever. But Sama believes that the current social climate allows us to clarify the difference between wanting love or lusting for temporary satisfaction. Historically, there’s a fine line between the two. But in a time when loneliness runs wild and there’s no clear road to normality in sight, these two emotions can begin to look similar.
“Shallow pursuits are simply a subconscious band-aid that make us think we feel a real connection but are just a temporary solution. By having real, meaningful discussions and learning whether or not we actually are compatible with someone is a much more fulfilling experience, and right now dating apps are giving us that opportunity more than any other avenue,” he said.
Today, many cities are starting to reopen, for better or worse. And while masked patrons flock to restaurants, stores and beaches, others are still hesitant to socialize, especially when intimate contact may be on the table. It’s the lonely heart’s modern catch-22 — either stay safely away from people you don’t know to maintain your health while desperately longing for physical connection OR have that first-date to satisfy your need for intimacy and risk spreading or contracting COVID-19.
According to Sama, there are two solutions a single guy should consider in this difficult dating world to fill that connective void.
“I actually have a client who just went on a ‘date’ over the weekend. They met up at a park and took a socially distanced walk (I got no indication they violated the distancing rules). So I think that a safe and logical approach to a meetup can increase the comfort level, but it takes real willpower to maintain your distance and some would argue how fun that would actually be. However, if both agree, it’s a viable option,” Sama suggested.
You might say, “what about FaceTime?” Video chatting seems like the most obvious solution to dating in 2020. It’s safe, it allows you to get to know your date and has no hours of operation so it never closes. There’s zero risk of transferring COVID-19 so it seems like the safest option. While this is true, video chatting prevents you from picking up on that sixth sense, so-to-say, that feeling of true chemistry that you can only experience when it’s happening.
“I don’t believe there will ever be a replacement for in-person dates or contact. As social animals we need that connection with other humans. But as of now, video chat dates are the best option we’ve got. We can see someone’s mannerisms, observe how they move and talk, and really get a full view of what they’re like beyond just talking on the phone or looking at photos. A video chat date is ‘worse‘ than in person because that cannot be replaced, but it’s ‘better‘ than any other option we have right now,” Sama explained.
With coronavirus cases surging in many parts of the country, new stay-at-home orders could potentially follow. Indeed, this is already happening in California. If this happens to you, it could mean an increase in isolation and disrupt the dating scene for even longer.
But the other option a single guy could look toward is one often overlooked: stop looking.
Friends like to offer this advice all the time, but it may feel like a harsh statement for somebody who truly desires and makes an effort to seek out companionship. We live in a very special time, right now; one in which many are having to rediscover and reevaluate social norms. That’s why perhaps connecting with and learning about yourself may be the best long-term solution for a lasting relationship with a partner.
“This [quarantine] has given people an opportunity to focus that energy elsewhere… Anyone who’s felt a sense of loneliness after a breakup knows they can either turn to destructive measures, or productive measures. A similar loneliness is facing millions of people right now. This is a time to turn inward and reflect on what is truly important to us as individuals, which will then give us a clearer understanding of what the right partner or relationship will really look like for us,” he said.
Sometimes, the best way to connect with another person is by first connecting with ourselves. Despite this, and regardless of how one chooses to date amidst the epoch tragedy that is 2020, there is a silver lining – the truth in the matter, “finding real connection rather than just hookups or sexting,” according to Sama.
“As fun as all of that is, I speak from experience when I say that eventually it gets old and you just want to find someone you can really picture building a solid relationship with. The current ‘dating’ scene allows us to see who we really enjoy talking to on a long term basis. If you know that you can’t see someone for a month or two months, do you still want to text/video chat/call that person on a regular basis? If not, then you found out early on they weren’t for you, which is a win. And if so, you’ve already got a great foundation to work off of when you do finally get together, and it won’t feel like the first time since you’ve already built a bond. It’s a win-win really.”
To learn more about James. M. Sama, visit him online at jamesmsama.com. His book, “Unlocking Love: 10 Keys to Finding the Love of Your Life (Even If It’s You),” explores the journey of self-love and rediscovering yourself to bring forward a newfound confidence to your world. Sama’s advice can also be found on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.