“2020 is going to be my year!” a friend told me. She had gotten out of a long-term relationship the year before, taken some time to enjoy being single, and was ready to jump back into the dating world and meet her perfect match. We all know what happened next.
Dating is hard enough, but during a pandemic?! It can seem impossible. The world seems to have no shortage of advice on how to kindle a new relationship, but now that advice comes with technological considerations (Zoom date, anyone?) as well as health implications. Even the Surgeon General has weighed in with tips on how to stay safe (and make the first move!).
Two years later, my friend is still single—and concerned that she’s lost two valuable dating years to the pandemic.
If you’re feeling a lot of emotions around dating—or not—over the last few years, you are not alone! Maybe you’re “hesidating,” feeling indifferent about dating, unsure if you want to date seriously or casually because life in general is so uncertain right now. Or maybe you’re raring to go but you’ve lost confidence after having grown rusty over the past few years.
The sheer amount of new decisions that must be made in order to dive into or back into the dating pool after some time away can be completely overwhelming. Keep reading to find out a few tips you can use to cope with the whirlwind of emotions that can come out of a pandemic dating slump.
Of course, if you feel shame or guilt, we don’t want you to ignore those feelings—unpack them with your therapist or coach or explore them on your own.
Looking back, if you feel like you didn’t do what you “should” have done in terms of your dating or romantic life, just know that the past few years have been difficult for so many of us and you’re not alone in feeling like you’ve wasted time or maybe not made the “right” decisions about what to do and when.
Piling feelings like guilt and shame, especially when it comes to our hearts, our bodies, and our feelings, on top of preexisting anxiety can be a huge burden, so we want to examine our own self-talk and how it affects us. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of a lack of information.
Using positive self-talk when you speak to yourself about how your dating and relationships journey has progressed or not progressed over the past few years is an important part of reducing the anxiety that can stem from a pandemic dating slump. Shame and guilt are normal, but we want to give ourselves the grace and space to process and then move forward.
When it comes to dating, finding romantic partners, or maintaining relationships, the relationship you have with yourself is even more important than the relationship you have with the other person or people. Plenty of single people have said that the long periods of isolation over the past few years have inspired awakenings and shifted priorities—for better or worse.
While it might sound counterintuitive to spend time alone when you’re actually trying to connect with someone else, the self-awareness and understanding of what your needs, desires, and boundaries are that you can build with the time and energy you have when you’re not with someone else can set you up for a successful relationship once you are coupled.
This time has definitely been a reflective period, and many of us are looking at life a bit differently now. Have you simplified your wants and needs? Or have they grown more extensively? Assessing where you are and what has changed for you personally and emotionally can help reduce any anxiety around navigating what dating means for you today.
Sometimes, when we attempt to self-reflect, we actually think about what we would like to want or need instead of what we do want or need.
Instead of fantasizing about what you would want in a hypothetical relationship or hypothetical partner, think: at your worst moments over the past few years, what helped and what didn’t? At your best, what was present in your life that made it great? From friends to work to binging Netflix, what was your reality? This information will be really helpful to inform your insight and decisions as you move forward in future relationships.
Like many people who have been physically disconnected from friends and family, you may have spent way more time on social media over the past few years than you did before the pandemic.
While social media can help keep us connected when we’re apart, it can also make us feel incredibly disconnected, alone, and all-around stressed when the grass seems greener on other people’s posts. If you feel bombarded by constant romantic updates from other people on social media, stop the scroll for a while.
Or our all-time favorite: Do I feel better or worse than I did before I opened the app? If you feel worse after scrolling through your social media feeds, it can be an easy hint that it might be time for a behavioral shift.
We’re not saying your friends’ lives secretly suck, but many people only post positive events on social media. You are only seeing who they want to be and who they want others to see them as. They also have moments when they feel sad, afraid, or insecure; they just don’t show them. We promise!
You don’t need to find the “perfect” partner or partners to prove anything to yourself or anyone else. Everything we’ve gone through in the past few years has been stressful and scary and hard.
It makes total sense to feel a lot of feelings about having a dating slump during a global pandemic! If you’re looking for more support, a therapist or coach who specializes in dating and relationships can help you clarify what you want, understand your attachment style, boost your confidence, process grief, reduce interfering symptoms from things like anxiety or depression, develop dating skills, address sex and intimacy, and deepen your emotional connections.
You can start dating again or for the very first time, even after everything we've been through. Slumps of all kinds in life are totally normal and taking some time to take care of you can help you get back into the dating pool and find the relationship you've been looking for.
Caitlin is an organizational change strategist, advisor, writer, and the founder of Commcoterie, a change management communication consultancy. She helps leaders and the consultants who work with them communicate change for long-lasting impact. Caitlin is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator, panelist, and podcast guest on topics such as organizational change, internal communication strategy, DEIBA, leadership and learning, management and coaching, women in the workplace, mental health and wellness at work, and company culture. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.