Dating (and Love) Coming Out of COVID

Dating (and Love) Coming Out of COVID
By Sara L. Manewith, MSW Director JCFS Response for Teens  and Ann Luban, LCSW Director JCFS Community Services

For many, any thoughts of romance were put on a solid hold over the last 2+ years of the pandemic.  Meeting strangers, let alone contemplating physical intimacies, was considered unsafe and unwise.  With restaurants and bars shuttered, even finding places to meet was sorely limited. 

Some people continued to engage in dating but doing so with many restrictions: meeting and talking only online; when the weather allowed, meeting only outside for masked walks; declining any physical contact. 

As much of the country is now vaccinated, and the mandated restrictions on being together indoors have eased – and as springtime heralds the romance of summer --- many people are once again ready to dip (or dive!) into the dating scene.  What follows are some thoughts on how we can enjoy dating thoughtfully, perhaps a little more slowly, and in line with our Jewish values.

  • Yishuv hada’at can be thought of as a “settled mind.” Think of dating in a mindful way.  This is the time to focus on meeting people, learning about yourself – your likes and dislikes, who you do and don’t click with -- rather than seeking the next thing, wondering who or what is around the corner, or focusing only on the potential “one”.
  • If you use the tools of the internet to initially meet people, make sure you connect with them in person early on.  Internet chats or phone calls can provide you with some information, but they typically can’t provide you with some of the intangible qualities that are important to relationships – chemistry, connection, company. 
  • Plan brief meetings – a drink, a coffee, a 30-minute stroll.  If there’s attraction, you can always extend the date at that time or another.  If it’s not a match, you’re not tied to a 2-hour meal or 4-hour baseball game.  Save those for later when you know you want to spend more time with someone.
  • Give someone a second chance.  First dates are hard.  Each of you may be nervous and not your best self.  If your date was reasonably nice and met your basic parameters (geographic proximity, hygiene, temperament), see what you might learn on a second date. 
  • There are many ways to be a good, interesting, and kind person.  That doesn’t mean that it’s always a match, though.  If you are absolutely certain that you’re not interested…
  • Learn to say “no thank you”, directly, and with kindness.  Social work researcher Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind”.  Learn to say something like, “Thank you so much for your time.  I realize we’re not a great match, but I wish you well in your dating!” or “It was pleasant meeting you, but I’m not interested in moving forward.  Good luck!”  This actually shows people great respect, kavod.
  • The online world of dating is great, but don’t forget real life, too.  Where are you comfortable and your best self?  Is it in Jewish spaces, on the softball diamond, relishing live music or theater, building or making things, practicing tikkun olam, (repairing the world)?  Where is your kehilla, community?  Be in those spaces where you shine!

Dating is a wonderful way to learn more about yourself.  You can better understand partnering by paying attention to these questions:

  • What types of people do you find you most easily connect with? 
  • When and where are you most charming and alive? 
  • Who brings out qualities in yourself that you like – or dislike? 
  • Who helps you expand your horizons? 
  • What values are really the most important to you?

When embarking on dating, you don’t have to know exactly what you want going in.  Maybe you’re ultimately seeking a spouse or life partner, but you’re also interested in enjoying some romantic company.  Either way, seeking and risking love is courageous!  Good for you.