How to Figure Out What Kind of Dating You’re Comfortable with During COVID

From Bumble’s Dating 101 in 2021 guide.

Editor’s note: this post was published on December 21, 2020. We urge readers to abide by guidelines issued in their local areas since then.

While we’re still living with COVID, a date can mean an IRL meet-up somewhere outdoors and distanced, but it can also mean a video chat, a phone call, or a virtual activity that lets you get to know someone without any health risk. And daters are exploring all of their options. Want proof? Folks who have adopted Bumble’s Virtual Date Badge have shown interest in masked-up dates, meeting up but staying socially distanced from one another, and dating virtually.

It can be difficult to choose the right option that will let you feel connected while also minimizing your risk—especially now, when the prospect of a new match is more exhilarating than ever. “Meeting someone who you want to actively go on a date with can stir up a whirlwind of exciting emotions and feelings,” says Dr. Carolina Pataky, a sex therapist and founder of Love Discovery Institute. “You may want to throw all your inhibitions out the window. That’s why you need to plan and prepare, beforehand.”

“The prospect of a new match is more exhilarating than ever.”

So before you start to plan any date, says Pataky, “Sit with yourself, be honest and decide what your actual comfort level is with exposure. Weigh some options.” Think about how you communicate and connect. Do you struggle to read cues when you’re communicating virtually, so the risk of meeting in person with precautions seems worthwhile? Or will you have an easier time opening up with someone when you can relax in your own home, without worrying about COVID?

Dr. Laurie Mintz, psychologist and author of Becoming Cliterate, suggests that in situations where you’re trying to figure out your boundaries it helps to “talk to a friend that you trust about it, examine your values, examine your comfort level, examine your feelings of safety, and make the best decision possible for yourself.” There’s no one-size-fits-all answer; you’ll only discover what’s right for you by thinking through your options.

Once you’ve made your choice, “give yourself a few days to sit with your planned decision to see how you feel about it beyond the heat of the moment,” says sex educator Dr. Sadie Allison. “Make sure to really listen to your body—do you feel comfortable with what you’re doing? Or is this a decision based on anxiety or a sense of urgency?”

“Examine your values, examine your comfort level, examine your feelings of safety, and make the best decision possible for yourself.”

If you decide to meet up, plan the safest date possible. Sticking with virtual dating? Explore the different platforms that exist for communicating online, including Bumble’s Video Chat and Voice Call feature, to see what feels best for you. And if you decide you only want to date digitally, don’t worry that it will lead to fewer matches—Bumble users who added the Virtual Date Badge on their profile experienced over a 20% increase in the average number of monthly matches versus those who didn’t.

Even with all that in mind, it can feel tempting to throw caution to the wind, spontaneously meet up with someone at a bar, and pretend things are “normal.” But this can often be a recipe for panic and shame later. However, if you do make a call you later regret, don’t beat yourself up. “This is a very unprecedented time,” says Pataky. “You’re going to make mistakes. No one is doing everything right. First, forgive yourself. And to ease some of that tension, go get yourself tested.”

Dating right now is complicated and we’re all just trying to figure it out—no matter how you decide to connect, just focus on making sure it’s the right choice for you.