How to Build Trust with a New Partner During COVID
By Suzannah Weiss
Even in a casual relationship, establishing a baseline of trust is important in allowing you to find a genuine connection and establish intimacy. But now in the ongoing COVID pandemic, trust is also crucial in keeping each other safe. The current level of risk involved in dating sets the bar way higher than usual for meeting someone new: you’re trusting this person with your health.
The trend of daters taking more time to get to know each other has been a small silver lining during the pandemic. Most daters don’t have much choice but to get to know one another via messaging, phone, or video chat before meeting up IRL, so they’re getting a chance to establish real trust from a distance.
With that in mind, here are some ways you can work on building trust with a Bumble match early on in a relationship, despite — and maybe even thanks to — the current circumstances.
Meet over video first.
There’s no need to rush meeting up in person; you can spend as long as you want having virtual dates with a match first. Stephanie Wijkstrom, counselor and founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, recommends chatting with someone for a month before planning to see each other IRL. Bumble has Video Chat and Voice Call features, so you don’t need to leave the app or disclose any of your contact info to get to know someone beyond messaging.
Seeing a match’s body language and mannerisms over video calls can give you a better impression of how trustworthy they are, how comfortable they make you feel, and if you two have a connection. After all, you want to make sure you actually like them before taking the risk of meeting up!
Ask them how they’re managing COVID.
If it’s important to you to find a partner who is careful about COVID, you’ll want to discuss that as soon as possible to make sure you’re on the same page. Try asking open-ended questions like “how have you been keeping safe during COVID?” or “what’s your take on social distancing?” so they don’t just tell you what you want to hear or give you short yes or no answers.
Take note of their response and be honest with yourself about whether it’s a good fit. “If you’re a person who prefers to stay home and minimizes outside exposure, you may not be a great match for someone who is already flying, eating out in restaurants, and socializing fully,” says life coach Tiffany Schneider Raff.
Follow up on your questions.
It can be hard to tell if someone is being honest with you about their behaviors, so don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable before seeing them in person. It might be a little awkward to ask a match to give you more details about their safety precautions or social bubble, but because your health is on the line, it’s worth it.
You can also look out for signs as to whether someone is reliable. “With a trustworthy person, we don’t have to read between the lines, guess what they mean from a cryptic text message, or connect the dots in a story that has a lot of holes,” says Jennifer Teplin, founder and clinical director of Manhattan Wellness. “A trustworthy person is upfront about who they are and encourages you to do the same.”
If you’re comfortable with it, Wijkstom also suggests following a match on social media. This could give you clues into how they’re handling the pandemic, and if what they’re telling you aligns with how they’re actually acting.
Share your personal boundaries.
Another way to gauge if you can trust a match with your COVID safety concerns is by putting your desires and deal-breakers out on the table from the get-go. Have a COVID safety conversation before you even consider meeting up, including everything from basic health questions to non-negotiables, like whether you just won’t do indoor dining for now. “Better you find out now that they don’t believe in masks and end the communication then, rather than when you meet them for your first date,” points out Teplin.
Being as honest as possible about your own thoughts and feelings will also lead your match to do the same. “Self-disclosure encourages others to share,” Teplin says. “I’d encourage anyone who is feeling nervous about health elements while trying to date to share their comfort zone and expectations first, which will then allow their date to feel more comfortable with disclosure.”
Observe how they respond to your concerns.
This part is really important: Once you’ve expressed what you are and aren’t comfortable with, pay attention to the other person’s response. Are they considerate of your needs, or are they dismissive? “If they don’t validate your concerns, it may be telling you that you aren’t on the same page when it comes to the virus,” says Wijkstrom. If they aren’t going to respect your concerns on a call, they won’t in person either.
Open up about your feelings.
Sharing your emotions, even the unhappy ones, helps foster intimacy with another person. “Trust is built on vulnerability and understanding,” says Teplin. “In order to build trust, we have to open ourselves up. By doing so, it will encourage the individual on the other end of the phone to follow suit.”
One obvious way you can start doing this is by talking about how the pandemic has affected you. This is a difficult time for a lot of people, and it’s okay if that includes you — your match will likely be able to relate.
Follow your instincts.
Trusting another person starts with trusting yourself. Often, your gut will tell you whether another person is trustworthy or not, so if you get a sinking feeling in your stomach when you’re talking to them, listen to that.
Ultimately, you don’t have to do anything that you’re not comfortable with. So if you don’t feel like you trust someone and their COVID precautions enough to meet up with them, don’t! There are plenty of other potential matches just a few swipes away.