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Ghosting has taken on a whole new meaning.

In the era of online dating and apps, who knew that being forced inside and limiting actual human connection would impact the dating scene as much as it has? Like it has with most things, COVID-19 has turned dating on its head. On one hand, it’s easier than ever to weed out the fuckbois and grrls—if they want to meet up, it’s probably a good sign they won’t be super respectful of your boundaries, nevermind care much about your pleasure. 

On the other hand, there’s a lot of lost hope. In our recent request for stories about how the pandemic has impacted your sex life, dating, and relationships, many of you shared that you’re grieving. This was the year you were going to find the love of your life. That dream doesn’t feel possible any more. Even if you find them, it’ll be in a completely different way than you expected, maybe even hoped for.

With this in mind, we sat down with love coach Renée Suzanne to ask her about the impacts of the pandemic on dating and relationships; explore what dating-related grief looks like in these times; and, get her best tips for dating amidst the chaos.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Is our current situation all bad news for those who want to find the love of their life this year,  or are there benefits?

Many singles think that dating is off the table right now but that isn’t true. If you’re interested in using dating to find a lasting relationship, this situation offers a unique opportunity to foster a lasting connection instead of the surface-level entanglements that in-person dating tends to yield.

I think that our current circumstances have made it possible to revive courtship in a way that we haven’t seen since long before online dating and apps became mainstream. Since we’re not able to meet in person, it’s possible to slow things down and get to know each other on a very deep level.

Most couples meet in person before they chat on the phone or start having deep conversations. If they ever have deep conversations at all.

They commonly rely on physical attraction to decide whether or not to pursue a relationship. They usually throw in a little alcohol, a lot of texting, maybe some Netflix and chill. This isn’t the best way to get to know someone when you’re looking for a life partner, but it is the path of least resistance.

Until now.

If you’re looking for the love of your life, you can make the most of this unique opportunity. You can use dating sites and apps and replace the first date with a phone call. If that goes well, upgrade to a virtual platform such as Zoom or FaceTime. 

You can still see the person and find out if you share an attraction, but there’s virtually no risk of things going too far physically before the emotional connection has been established. 

If all goes well, you can schedule virtual dates just like you would in-person dates. You can ask each other questions, find out what kind of relationship the other person is looking for, and find out what’s important to him or her.

It’s very likely that you’ll get to know each other much better this way than you would if you were getting together in person. The physical aspect of a relationship tends to take over pretty quickly if there’s a mutual attraction when you’re meeting in person and this dynamic has derailed many promising connections.

One recurring theme that came up in responses was sadness and grief over folx who had done the work and were ready to find the love of their life this year. What would you say to them? How can they handle the grief?

Handling grief is about acknowledging and mourning a loss. What exactly have you lost? You can journal on this and hold space for the feelings that come up.

How can you be gentle with yourself during this time? Can you talk to a friend? Take a bath? Cuddle with your dog? 

Even when you find your love, you will feel sad sometimes. So will your partner. How would you want to show up for him or her? Could you show up for yourself that way right now?

Also know that you absolutely can still find the love of your life this year. You’ll need to use different methods, but it’s still possible, even likely if you make it a priority. 

You also get to keep all the work you’ve done on yourself for the rest of your life. You’ve grown into a person who is ready for love. Nothing can ever take that away from you.

We also are hearing of folx who went through breakups around the time stay-at-home orders began. What advice would you give to them as they look towards dating during these strange times?

Breakups can be among the most painful experiences in life. They can also teach you things that you’d never learn any other way. Commit to learning everything possible from this breakup to help you have a better relationship the next time around. 

Decide ahead of time that you did the best you could and everything went just the way it was supposed to go. You’re looking for ways to have better relationships in the future, not ways to blame yourself or your former partner for what’s in the past.

Ask yourself questions with compassion and curiosity. Think of your own or try the ones below:

  • Were you clear about what kind of relationship you wanted to have? 
  • Did you communicate this information with your former partner?
  • Was there a time when you saw something that you didn’t want to and overlooked it? 
  • Did you expect him or her to change?
  • Did you abandon yourself and what you wanted and hope that it would just all work out?

When you see how you participated in this relationship you’ll learn how to avoid similar outcomes in the future. This will help you open your heart to love and trust others again. You’ll know how to take much better care of yourself in your next relationship.

Also, just let yourself mourn the loss. Have a “relationship funeral,” write a goodbye letter to your former partner (this is for you, I don’t recommend sending it), clean your space and remove any mementos that trouble you.

Finally, move on. Pining for an ex and hoping for reconciliation can add months or years to your pain. Most of the time, breakups happen for the best. Resolve that this is the case for you and go on with your life.

Is there hope for folx who really do want to find the love of their life this year?

Absolutely! If you’re looking to find the love of your life the current conditions have made it easier to filter out people who don’t share your intentions. This is a huge timesaver. 

If you learn how to use dating sites and apps effectively to find people who share your relationship goals and use virtual dating to build a lasting connection, you have a great shot at succeeding. 

When you’re finally able to meet in person you will have built a foundation of open communication and mutual trust instead of just drinking and watching movies and making out.

N.B.: One of Kait’s clients shared this song she wrote about meeting the love of her life in a Zoom room!

What are your three top tips for making the most of digital dates?

  1. Show up at your best, just like you would for an in-person date. Now is not the time to slack off if you’re looking for the love of your life. 
  2. Know what you’re looking for and communicate it honestly and openly. 
  3. Ask good questions and find out what is important to the other person. What are they looking for in a relationship?
  4. Bonus tip: have fun. Having fun is always good and it makes you more attractive.

Lastly, I have to ask—what are your thoughts on the Brooklyn drone guy? Creepy or cute?

I think he’s adorable! I’m someone who’s chosen to help women find love as my life’s work so I’m obviously biased, but you have to give the guy credit for some serious creativity, chutzpah, and romance. 

Anything else you want to share with those who are dating during COVID?

Throughout history we humans have overcome so many obstacles and challenges. We’ve used these opportunities to grow and evolve, to create better lives for ourselves and for those who will come after us. 

This too shall pass. Don’t let COVID or anything else steal your dreams.

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