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Diagnosis Dictionary Types of Therapy Talk to Someone Find a Therapist Find a Treatment Center Find a Psychiatrist Find a Support Group Find Teletherapy Back Magazine At a Loss The COVID crisis throws into relief what happens when grief has—quite literally—nowhere to go. The evidence suggests that most people summon strengths that surpass their own expectations. Subscribe Issue Archive Back Today News Why Creativity Takes Courage How Your Possessions Can Help You Reach Your Goals Prescribing Psychology Gets a Boost For Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Should You Try Kundalini Yoga? Essential Reads Your Prescription: Look at Art Off to College, but for How Long? Why Misinformation Goes Viral What’s an Internal Sense? Trending Topics COVID-19 Narcissism Alzheimer's Bias Affective Forecasting Neuroscience See All Go Verified by Psychology Today American Psychoanalytic Association Psychoanalysis Unplugged Dating Pandemic-Style Here are three ways online dating has changed during COVID-19. Posted Aug 11, 2020 SHARE TWEET EMAIL COMMENTS Source: Solen Feyissa/Pixabay By Dena Domenicali-Rochelle, LCSW Online dating is tough. This fast-paced, objectifying culture can be a real impediment to finding a long-term partner. In my practice, I hear a lot about the fear people feel that they’ll be alone forever. But I’ve observed that since the coronavirus hit, the landscape of online dating has changed profoundly. Dating pandemic-style is different in several important ways. No pressure to have sex right away Sex at the early stages of a relationship is easier to take off the table. For those cautious about the virus, the only short-term option you have after matching with someone is to talk. You have to like a person enough to decide they are worth risking possible coronavirus exposure to make actual physical contact—and that physical contact could be something as simple as taking a walk without masks, a hug, or a kiss, nevermind going back to their place and having sex. A patient recently said to me: “When the lockdown happened, I was really worried that my dating life would have to be put on hold until there was a vaccine. But actually, I kind of like the way dating is right now. I don’t feel that pressure I used to feel to have sex early on in a relationship. That’s been really freeing. I can actually get to know them well before we take our clothes off.” For years, I’ve noted an unspoken understanding in the dating scene that one should be ready and/or enthusiastic about having sex by the third date. In my professional opinion, that expectation may be an obstacle to finding a long-term partner. Not that I have a problem with people having casual sex. If that’s what you’re after, go for it! (And please use a condom.) However, if you’re on the lookout for the person that will be your person, having the physical intimacy of the relationship outpace the emotional intimacy is problematic. When people don’t feel that physical connection right away, it becomes too easy to assume that this is just not the right person and then walk away without really getting to know them or giving them a chance. In short, dating pandemic-style means it’s harder to let sex get in the way of getting to know one another. And if you allow yourself the space to get to know one another, you may establish an emotional connection. Feelings are more intense—especially loneliness During the pandemic, people are feeling more intensely vulnerable and lonely than ever before. While these feelings may be incredibly painful, they can have some benefits. Sitting with those feelings day after day could help make your priorities clearer. One patient, a previously serial dater, explained how different he felt about dating after spending so many weeks on his couch alone: “It sounds weird to say, but I think I’m having different kinds of conversations online because, for the first time in a while, I think it would be really nice to have a more significant relationship.” In the pandemic, there’s less opportunity for casual one-night stands or those last-minute, low-investment, quick-drink first dates that previously distracted you. Suddenly, after weeks of sitting in your apartment alone, it’s easy to see the value in a long-term partnership, the opportunity to be “in it” with someone you love. It is possible to channel that loneliness and vulnerability you’re feeling and use them to have a different kind of conversation online, or over Zoom, or on a socially distanced walk with your date—a conversation that is less superficial and more authentic. And hopefully, one that leads to something of substance. Greater investment Online dating previously meant having a seemingly limitless number of choices in your dating pool. There was no need to invest much time or attention on any one person. The moment you felt waning enthusiasm, you could just hop online and find someone else to sample. But now, because of coronavirus, the opportunity for serial dating is much more limited. There is more of a need to slow down and invest in one another! Despite the pandemic’s downsides, it has the capacity to create a positive impact on dating. It can help people see the value of stable, long-term partnerships and reduce the role of sex as an obstacle to getting there. About the Author: Dena Domenicali-Rochelle is a clinical social worker and psychoanalyst. She is a graduate of New York University School of Social Work and the William Alanson White Institute for Psychoanalysis. She has a private practice in Stamford CT & midtown Manhattan. Due to coronavirus, she is currently practicing tela-therapy exclusively. SHARE TWEET EMAIL COMMENTS Post Comment Your name E-mail The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. Subject Comment * Notify me when new comments are posted All comments Replies to my comment Leave this field blank advertisement About the Author Sue Kolod, Ph.D., and Jack Drescher, M.D., are co-chairs of the Committee on Public Information of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and Wylie Tene is the Director of Public Affairs. Online: American Psychoanalytic Association, Twitter, Facebook Read Next Should I Send My Child Back to School? Who Me? Worried I’ll Get the Virus? Back-to-School Pandemic-Style is a Dangerous Fantasy: Back-to-School Pandemic-Style Is a Dangerous Fantasy: Part 1 Why Love Can Make You Crazy Single, Anxious, and Quarantined Online Dating in a COVID-19 World The Evidence on Loneliness and What to Do About It advertisement Most Popular How to Spot a Dark Personality Why Unloved Daughters Normalize and Rationalize Verbal Abuse What’s the Main Problem with Anger Control Techniques? What Is "Third Wave" Positive Psychology? A Key to Harry and Meghan's Estrangement advertisement Find a Therapist Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today. 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Subscribe A Beginner’s Guide to Casual DatingMedically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST — Written by Crystal Raypole on March 2, 2020 Casual vs. seriousRole of sexPurposeEtiquetteSelf-careGetting seriousTakeawayShare on Pinterest At first blush, casual dating can seem like an effortless way to forge new connections and ease loneliness without having to get too attached. All fun, no harm, right? While casual dating can certainly proceed smoothly for all involved, it’s not always quite that simple. Things can get pretty complicated, especially if you don’t have a clear idea of why you’re dating casually or what you want out of it. Thinking of giving casual dating a try? Keep the following in mind. The line between casual and serious can be tricky If you’re not sure exactly what “casual” dating means, you’re not alone. Not everyone defines it in the same way, and often the “line” separating serious and casual dating is more of a smudged blur. For example, are you still casually dating someone if you’ve introduced them to your family? What if you take a short trip together? Here are a few other FAQs to consider.What does a casual relationship look like? Casual dating is often (but not always) nonexclusive. People commonly assume it’s fine to see other people unless there’s been an explicit discussion about exclusivity. Still, it’s always wise to have a convo about exclusivity at some point just to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Generally speaking, casual dating describes:something more defined than “friends with benefits” or hookupsconnections that involve some degree of emotional attachmentsituations that lack relationship labels attachments you pursue for fun, not commitmentWhat does a serious relationship look like? People often date seriously in the hopes of finding a partner to settle down with long-term. Serious relationships usually involve: strong emotional attachmentrelationship labels like “boyfriend,” “partner,” or “significant other”firm commitmentsome discussion of your future togetherOkay, so casual dating = polyamory, right? Actually, no. Many people commit to one partner exclusively (or monogamously) once things get serious. But you can develop serious relationships even if you practice nonmonogamy. Plus, casually dating multiple people isn’t the same thing as polyamory. Polyamorous dating can involve both casual and serious relationships. Many polyamorous people maintain a serious, committed relationship with one person (their primary partner) and see other partners casually. Others might have a few committed partners, many casual attachments, or some other combination of relationships. As with all other relationship styles, the success of polyamory depends on frequent, honest communication and clearly defined boundaries. Casual dating doesn’t have to mean sex Plenty of people believe casual dating is just another way of saying casual sex, but that’s not always the case. Unlike FWB and hookup situations, casual dating generally operates with relationship-like parameters, even if they’re loosely defined. People who are casually dating typically:say “dates,” not “hangouts” or “chilling”text or call each other fairly regularlymake firm plans and communicate when you need to cancelenjoy spending nonsexual time together Sure, you might have sex. For many people, that’s part of the fun of casual dating. But you can certainly date without sex. What matters most is what you want to get out of dating. Not everyone desires a sexual relationship, and that’s absolutely fine. Maybe you’re down for heavy make-out sessions, as long as clothes stay on. You might even feel comfortable spending the night and sleeping together without sex. Talking to your partner(s) about boundaries can help give them a better picture of what you want from your dates and give them the opportunity to decide if your goals align. What’s the point? If casual dating doesn’t necessarily involve sex, you might wonder what purpose it serves. Plus, people primarily motivated to have sex often get those needs met through hookups or FWB relationships, anyway. So, why bother with casual dating at all? It can help you get used to dating Casual dating can serve as a transitional step between hookups and more serious connections. Not everyone feels comfortable dating seriously (or dating at all). You might find relationships particularly difficult if you: fear rejectionstruggle with intimacyhave experienced toxic relationships or relationship pain Dating casually can help you warm up to the idea of connecting intimately with people before you dive into a long-term relationship. Even if you do want a relationship, the very idea might terrify you and keep you from attempting to date at all. It can help you figure out what you want (and don’t want) Casual dating is a great way to narrow down what really matters to you in a relationship. For example, you might learn that what you really want is someone who:has a similar schedulewants to have sex regularlyenjoys waking up earlyisn’t diet-conscious Alternately, you might find that these things aren’t really deal breakers for you.It gives you the chance to enjoy dating without pressure Finally, casual dating creates an opportunity for people who want to stay single to enjoy dates and similar interactions with like-minded people. You can still enjoy activities like dancing, seeing a movie, or going wine tasting without wanting to have sex or embark on a relationship. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy those activities with friends, of course, but dating also allows you to enjoy the thrill of attraction and anticipate the possibility of a kiss or other intimate contact. It’s not for everyone, though Casual dating has its uses, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe you:tend to develop strong romantic feelings once you get involvedwant to date someone who’s willing to consider a future togetherneed a clearly labeled relationshipprefer to form strong emotional connections These things may or may not lend themselves to successful casual dating. At the end of the day, if casual dating feels “bleh” to you, that’s a good enough reason to skip it. Whatever you do, respect is key When spending time with a lot of people, you’ll probably encounter different relationship styles, attitudes, and behaviors. People don’t always treat others with kindness, and they may do some pretty inconsiderate things. Unfortunately, you can’t change other people. However, the following etiquette tips can help you commit to respect and compassion in your own behavior. Honor boundaries Dating boundaries can range from emotional to physical to sexual. When dating multiple people, keep in mind they may not want to talk about their other partners or hear about yours. So, ask before telling a story about your most recent date or sharing how excited you are for the next one. You’ll probably want to have a conversation early on about sexual boundaries, too. If they don’t want to have sex, respect that decision. Not everyone’s needs are compatible, so if that doesn’t work for you, it’s perfectly all right to say so (politely).Don’t ghost Casual doesn’t mean insignificant. Dropping a partner without a word is not only rude and unkind, but it can also cause them a lot of stress and confusion. They might agonize over what they did wrong or wonder if something happened to you. If you don’t want to keep dating someone, tell them so in person. You can keep it brief and honest without going into extreme detail. If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to do this, a phone call or text is better than nothing. Think of it this way: You cared about them enough to go on a few dates, so they deserve to know you’re no longer interested. Practice honesty Honesty is always important. When dating, if you don’t disclose your intentions upfront, either intentionally or because you feel unsure about what you want, things can get awkward and confusing. When you start seeing someone new, mention what you’re looking for. Some people won’t share their own feelings until asked, so ask about their dating goals, too. Make sure to check back in with the other person if these goals change.Keep commitments Casual involvements can sometimes feel like they’re lower in priority. You might make plans with someone but lose interest before the date, especially if someone else asks you out. It’s common to feel tempted by a “better offer,” but consider how you’d feel if the same thing happened to you. If you feel comfortable, be honest with them and ask if they mind rescheduling. Otherwise, stick with the plans you made unless you have a good reason not to. Either way, make sure you don’t leave them hanging. If you’re really just not interested in seeing them again, it’s better to be honest than make plans and cancel them, especially if this becomes a habit. Don’t forget about self-care Boredom, loneliness, anxiety about your future, sexual frustration, stress —dating often seems like a good solution to these problems. It can certainly help if these concerns are minor or temporary. When something more serious underlies your feelings, dating may not do much to address the real problem. You’ll generally need support from a therapist to work through anxiety or depression, for example. Even if you’re having a great time and feeling secure in your dating life, it’s still crucial to make sure you aren’t neglecting your relationship with yourself. Take time for yourself Everyone needs alone time. Going on dates regularly can seem like a lot of fun, at first. They can also burn you out and make you dread your next date. Make sure to set aside time to rest and relax by yourself. If dating limits your time for hobbies or other things you enjoy, consider cutting back on dates for a bit. Don’t neglect other relationships Connecting with new people can help you expand your life and try things you wouldn’t usually do. Don’t forget to continue spending time with your friends and loved ones. These relationships are important, too. Take health precautions It’s always wise to take steps to stay on top of your sexual health, whether you’re dating seriously or casually. If you’re casually dating and having sex, get in the habit of using condoms and other barrier methods. It’s also a good idea to get regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections. If you catch serious feelings Despite your intention of keeping things casual, your feelings might take an unexpected turn. You might feel hesitant to bring it up out of fear that you’ll wreck the good thing you’ve got going. It’s important to tell the truth, though. For all you know, they’ve developed similar feelings. Even if they don’t feel the same way, keeping your interest a secret can eventually hurt you when the relationship never progresses. Worst case scenario, they turn you down or decide to end your current involvement. Accepting this can be touch, but just as you want them to honor your needs and boundaries, you have to grant them the same respect. The bottom line Casual dating may not be for everyone, and it’s not always as simple as it seems. For plenty of people, though, it offers a low-pressure way to enjoy the company of someone you’re attracted to without worrying about commitments or your possible future together. If you’re throwing your hat into the casual dating ring, don’t forget to be upfront about boundaries and your dating goals. Last medically reviewed on March 2, 2020 Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST — Written by Crystal Raypole on March 2, 2020 related storiesWhat Is Ghosting, Why Does It Happen, and What Can You Do to Move Past It?What Makes a Relationship Healthy?How to Understand and Build Intimacy in Every RelationshipWhat Does It Mean to Be Polyamorous?How Not Being Able to Have Sex Redefined My Sexuality — and Dating Life Read this next What Is Ghosting, Why Does It Happen, and What Can You Do to Move Past It?Medically reviewed by Timothy J. 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