Your COVID Checklist If You're Planning To Go On An IRL Date
Early on in quarantine, dating apps and video dating rose in popularity. While there were fewer opportunities to meet up in person, some research showed many singles started to take dating more seriously. Now, as businesses begin to reopen and rates of the virus are going down in certain areas, some online daters are wondering if it's safe to transition to in-real-life (IRL) dates.
Those who plan on making the switch still have to keep the health of themselves, their date, and those around them in mind. To make the process less stressful, mbg put together a list of questions to consider and gathered advice from experts to navigate IRL dating during a pandemic.
When should I transition from online to IRL dates?
The "right time" to transition from online to in-person dating will depend on each person's comfort level. "You can begin by playfully testing the waters with the person you're communicating with virtually," couples therapist Alicia Muñoz, LPC, tells mbg. Do this by telling them where you'd feel comfortable meeting up and asking them where they'd like to meet up in the future.
"Toying with different ideas will help you learn more about this person," she says. "Based on how this conversation goes, you'll either feel more (or possibly less) comfortable moving forward into planning an actual IRL date."
It's also important to consider what's motivating the transition. "Does your desire to connect with this person feel like it's about them?" Muñoz says. "Or about something else unrelated to them? Are you lonely, restless, anxious, or bored?" If these feelings are stronger than your interest in the date, it may not be worth risking the exposure. "Also, if you're going on a date to cope with anxiety, grief, or boredom, it may interfere with a satisfying connection for both of you," she adds. If the interest is there, however, finding ways to meet up safely is possible.
Questions to ask your date before meeting IRL.
"If you're going on a blind date, you're going to have to do a lot of screening questions," integrative medicine doctor Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., previously told mbg. If you've been dating someone online for a while, you may already know a few of the answers.
Here are some questions to ask your potential date to help you assess the risk of meeting up with them, according to Muñoz and COVID health guidelines:
- Do you know your state's recommended protocols related to COVID-19? Do you practice them?
- Are you someone who does what you can in order to be safe in tough situations (like this pandemic)?
- Do you feel like your actions make a difference?
- What are some of the things you believe you can control when it comes to COVID-19?
- How do you feel about your exposure level? How many people are you coming into contact with on a given day or week?
- Have you been around anybody who has tested positive for COVID-19? If so, how long ago? Have you been tested?
- Do you have any symptoms of cough, fever, shortness of breath?
- Have you been traveling out of the state or the country recently?
- Are you thoughtful or impulsive?
- What precautions do you think we should take if we meet up IRL?
- Can you adhere to the precautions I'd like to take, such as [name your preferences here]?
"These are important issues in any relationship and can be a litmus test, of sorts, particularly as you're just getting to know a new person," Muñoz says.
How to set boundaries for IRL dates.
"If someone sparks your interest and you have to start dating virtually because of the circumstances, that's perfectly fine," Gandhi says. There's no reason to rush into IRL if you're not comfortable yet. If you have been dating the person online for a while and they're pushing you to meet up before you're ready, set boundaries.
Here are a few ways to decline a date directly and clearly:
- I've given meeting up in person some thought, and I'm just not comfortable with the idea.
- Let's keep talking about this. I want to feel good about meeting up with you. I'm just not there yet.
- I'm not ready to meet up with you. I'll let you know when that changes.
If applicable, emphasize that you really do like them and are looking forward to meeting with them in person as soon as you feel it's safe.
If you are comfortable meeting up under certain conditions (i.e., you both wear face masks, the date is outdoors, you sit 6 feet apart, etc.), state that clearly. Let your date know you're going to leave if you feel uncomfortable.
At the end of the day, in-person social interaction is critical for mental health. If you're feeling a connection with someone and you feel comfortable enough to meet IRL, it's not totally off the table. Just be sure to think thoroughly about the decision, check in with your date's comfort levels, and assert your own.