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Which Pandemic Dating Habits Will Stick Around Post-COVID?

By Madeleine Aggeler

With the U.S. vaccine rollout well underway, many members of the Bumble community are eager to safely resume the kind of in-person dating we enjoyed pre-pandemic. But after a year of lockdowns and social distancing, what will dating look like as we head towards a new normal? Will any dating habits we’ve picked up over the past year stick with us? Are there lessons we can learn from this year of caution and, for many, isolation?

While it’s still too early to say exactly how the pandemic year has shaped our dating lives, experts say some COVID dating practices are definitely worth keeping around, especially if you’re looking for something long-term. Below, some COVID dating trends that dating coaches hope will stick around in a post-pandemic world.

Pre-date calls

As eager as many of us are to slam our laptops shut for good and never open Zoom again, experts say it’s a good idea to continue including an intermediary step between when you match with someone on Bumble, and when you meet up in-person. If you’re completely video-averse now, it could just be a quick FaceTime—or a plain, old-fashioned phone call. This lets you get a better sense of how much of a connection you feel with the person before you invest the time and effort to go on a date with them. If you do feel a connection on a call, you’ll be even more excited about meeting face-to-face.

Crista Beck, an author and dating coach, says she’s long recommended that her clients include this step as a way to be more intentional about who they go out and spend time with. “First phone calls with a stranger can be weird,” Beck concedes, but she says you can keep it light and fun, and use it to look for signs of compatibility. “Look for basic things like, do you feel respected on that phone call? Did you feel heard? Did you feel understood by them?”

More open communication

COVID has forced people to have early and upfront conversations about their safety and boundaries before they start seeing someone, a practice experts hope will stick around post-pandemic. “Before, it could be awkward to say, What are your practices around intimacy and sexual involvement?” says Julie Wadley, CPC, CMM, and the dating and relationship expert behind the matchmaking and coaching company Eli Simone. COVID safety precautions were a way into those conversations for people who might feel uncomfortable having them otherwise.

And the conversation doesn’t have to stop there. Dating and relationship expert Cora Boyd hopes people will continue talking about what she calls “real sh-t” in the early stages of dating. Having serious, honest conversations —about one’s values, circumstances, and what’s going on in the world—allows you to build a foundation for a new relationship from a place of authenticity.

And if these conversations feel a little uncomfortable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Let it be awkward if it needs to be awkward,” says Boyd. “Dating has awkwardness in it. And it’s okay! It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, it means you’re leaning into it.”

More creative dates

As the pandemic has shown us, getting creative doesn’t necessarily mean elaborate planning or spending a ton of money. Since meeting up for drinks at a bar wasn’t an option for most of last year, people turned instead to walks, picnics, and hike—dates that allowed them to be safe, outdoors, and to get to know the other person in a more quiet, intimate setting.

Introducing this variety doesn’t just help break up the monotony of schlepping between loud bars, it also helps you get to know someone better. “We bond through novel experiences,” Boyd says. “It’s not just what they’re telling you, it’s who you see them to be in different circumstances.” Seeing people in a variety of social environments and contexts is a big variable in how we get to know and trust someone. By intentionally creating more ways to interact with someone, you can get a clearer idea of who they are, what they care about, and how compatible you are.

Mostly though, as more people get vaccinated, and more places start to open up, make sure to embrace the experience of dating. “When you do go on dates, enjoy the company,” says Boyd. “Enjoy putting your phone away. Enjoy being with another person.”