There's no question that the pandemic has changed our lives in many ways. One of the significant shifts has been the ways in which we socialize and, in turn, begin new relationships.
Dating during COVID-19 is a whole new world and, according to a Canadian dating and relationships coach, some changes might be here to stay.
In an interview with Narcity, Nicole Hailey of Nicole Talks Love gave us the scoop on the dating trends she's noticed throughout the pandemic.
She also shared how she thinks dating will be impacted in the long run and gave us some advice for both singles and couples in a COVID-19 world.
Nicole has a background in counselling. She transitioned into focusing on dating and relationship coaching when she began to notice that the people she was coaching were already quite successful in most areas of their lives.
"But when it came to their love lives, that seemed to be where they struggled most," she reflected. "That’s where I started [...] helping people in this aspect of their lives."
Here are some trends, takeaways, and key pieces of advice for lovers of all types during this historical time.
The Slow Burn
Throughout the pandemic, one big theme has emerged.
"Number one would probably be that dating is becoming a lot slower. People are taking more of their time to really get to know somebody," the dating coach revealed.
She noted that people are hopping on video calls or phone calls rather than just sending messages back and forth on dating apps prior to meeting up.
"Now there’s a lot more caution, a lot more risk involved in meeting a person, so, therefore, there’s a lot more behind-the-scenes that occurs," she said.
Nicole also told us that people are spending more time getting to know each other before meeting up, and therefore the connection when they actually get together might end up being more powerful and worthwhile.
While this is a product of COVID-19, she did say that she tells her clients to hop on the phone or a video call within three to five messages.
"You really want to get onto voice messaging, get onto the telephone, get into some video calls. You want to confirm if this person is really worth continuing to get to know so that when you meet up in person you have enough interest or understanding of who they are," she said.
The dating expert also predicts that this new slower approach to dating before meeting up might remain even after restrictions are lifted, even though people will be eager to get out and meet up.
Another thing she believes COVID-19 has changed for good is that conversations will be more deep and intimate.
Without things like what we've done in a day or big events to chat about, she says that "people are asking different questions to really get to know somebody in order to develop some sort of connection that actually starts to build chemistry."
She believes conversations will be more intimate if we keep asking what she calls "curiosity questions" instead of just getting bogged down in the back and forth.
Another phenomenon that's been noticed is something we're calling "COVID cuffing," which basically means that with more spare time, people are realizing they actually would like to be in a relationship.
“Statistics show that in March the numbers were really high for online dating and then again in July because I think people were starting to realize, 'Yeah, I really do want somebody.' There’s more of a desire for more of a committed relationship," Nicole told us.
With restrictions giving people less to do and fewer people to see, there's a lot of time for reflection and a lot more time spent alone.
"People have a lot more time to potentially invest into something right now," she said.
COVID-19 has also sent many people in too feeling hyper-aware of their singleness, especially those who live alone.
With fewer distractions, people are feeling more ready than ever to lock it down and seek out something more serious.
Acceleration Without Foundation
On the flip side of the "slow burn," Nicole also told us about the fact that people who are in relationships have been forced to speed things up by either moving in together or being locked down together if they already lived together.
“COVID-19 has sped up relationships, but without enough foundation," she told us. "Some relationships survive and some don’t."
There are many aspects of a person that make us fall for them in the first place. This can include how they socialize with others, a shared love for great restaurants, hobbies, and more.
When a couple is no longer able to enjoy the different things that may have brought them together in the beginning, it can be really tough.
When we lose these pieces of our identities, either as ourselves or as a couple, Nicole suggests maintaining some sense of self.
"What do you need to keep being you? When we’re cohabitating and we’re used to other ways of filling our needs, we need to really check-in and ask, 'What do I really need in this moment?' rather than looking to our partners to always give it to us," she says.
She explained that “the key is really starting to create that sense of identity, individual space, and individual interests even within your home."
Now here's a new one. Nicole says that "future tripping" is another thing that lots of people have been experiencing during the pandemic.
"It means that you’re kinda tripping out because you can’t plan the future," she began.
“Maybe you’re single and you think that once restrictions lift up you’ll start dating, but you’re also freaking out because they aren’t lifting or they’re getting worse."
“Or, maybe you’re in a long-distance relationship and one is in Montreal and one is in Vancouver and you’ve always commuted back and forth and it was no big deal. But now, you’re both stuck in different places wondering, 'When are we going to see each other?'"
She said that it basically means that we're freaking out because the future isn't predictable.
"One of the ways to combat that is staying really present and appreciating the moment you’re in and not getting so caught up in what’s next," she offered.
"It’s really learning to stay present. When we are connecting with that person are we getting distracted? Are we giving them our full attention? Are we communicating what we both need in order to make it work?"
Another way that the past year has impacted our romantic lives is the fact that we have been living through so many massive historical events that can be really polarizing in a lot of ways.
Huge current events are unfolding all around us and our conversations have become a lot more political over than in the past, even when just getting to know someone.
"I don’t know if we know how to have conversations that we don’t agree with and still value the other person," Nicole said.
"We’re always listening to be right or wrong."
She said that dating has a lot to do with looking at what our values are and learning to listen while trying to find common ground rather than trying to find something to debate.
“When it comes to dating, it’s learning that skill. The world is so polarized right now because we never learned to have disagreeing conversations."
Nicole says we need to ask ourselves, “Can I find some level of agreement?" during these big conversations.
Finally, something that Nicole has noticed and encourages among her clients is getting creative with dates in our current situations. And this goes for singles and couples alike.
“How do you cultivate a date experience when you can’t go out and date?" she asks.
She suggested both ordering the same puzzle if you're not in the same home and having a race to see who can finish faster. Or, if you are in the same house, still setting aside time for special "date nights."
This is another great way to combat future tripping because you can plan ahead a week in advance and have something to look forward to.
It's about “anticipating structured time for an undistracted plan to make that other person feel valued," she told Narcity.