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Sex And The City: COVID Edition

Hi Christan, You may remember me from a few months back. I was on one of your dating profile workshops and then participated on a speed dating event afterwards. I've been listening to the Womenology podcast since then and learned a few things. Thank you for all the advice you do put out there. It's helpful.

Here is my question: Since the workshop, I put together my dating profile on Bumble. Not great based on the workshop but I got something out there to start and it did attract a few women and matches. Some of those we texted through the app, a few I was able to take off the app and texted beyond, furthermore a couple of them turned into phone calls and I've had a few IRL dates after things started opening up again. The hard part is to move from friendly conversation to dating conversation given the social distancing restrictions. I'm usually not one to bring up sex or intimacy on text or phone until I have seen someone in person. Maybe I'm old school and women expect that nowadays but I just find it awkward. I try to be fun & funny but I am not the flirty type. More of a romantic, and I do need a mental connection before a sexual one ever develops (weird for a guy but honest).

However, the IRL dates that I have gone, the physical aspect is not there anymore either. I'm respectful of social distancing and it's not conductive to physical contact or kissing or anything as a first date... so it comes back to friendly conversation / texting all over again. Unable to move things forward, two of these potential relationships fizzled out after two dates and I was frustrated / disappointed. I'm currently facing the same situation again. Someone really great that I like, we've gone to two IRL dates, text daily multiple times for the last month and talk on the phone a couple of times a week. Intimacy & sex have not come up. I've not even tried to physically touch this person once because of social distancing and I'm afraid it's going to fizzle out again.

I know she likes me. She's said as much (and I have too), but I'm very frustrated. Third date is coming up and I really want to move things along the spectrum (I'm very patient and take my time, but I do want to feel progress and that I'm not wasting my time). I have no clue on how to go about this properly and respectfully. Am I worrying too much about this in the time of Covid & Me Too?Part of the issue is that I was married for 20+ years and just started dating again since I was 19. The world has changed and I feel like I am coming across as insecure when in reality I just want to be respectful. Thoughts?

First, I'm so happy that you've met someone after taking one of my online dating workshops. It sounds like things are going well. I also appreciate your thoughtful response to social distancing rules and a woman's comfort when it comes to discussing physical intimacy. Even when there isn't a pandemic, it's a subject that requires honest and mature communication. Over-thinking about sex and dating during COVID is necessary, as we simply do not know what the right answer is other than to practice social distancing when we're with or around people we don't know well.

You're not worrying too much at all. Nobody knows if we can or should still date online or have sex during COVID. (Random hook-ups during COVID should be completely out of the question, in my opinion.) We're currently experiencing something completely unprecedented. In fact, I'm sensing a bit of ennui in the online dating world. Without a clear time line, I think many people - men and women - feel there's no point in trying to meet someone now, especially if sex is off the table. There's no clear direction. As a result, people are aimlessly swiping and chatting out of a need for connection.

There's confusion surrounding pretty much everything that involves in-person interaction. The only way we're going to figure things out, I think, is through trial and error. Which isn't great considering, you know, human lives are at stake. (Imagine being a teacher right now.) There's nothing disrespectful about wanting to regard people's boundaries, nor does it make you a creep because you would like to take things to a physical level with a woman you've grown to like and to whom you are attracted. As humans, we are wired to crave physical touch. Touch starvation is very real and can have crippling affects on our physical and mental well-being. Studies have shown that the boom of social media and the dependence we have on our phones has led to people being touched significantly less. The irony here is that physical affection - a hug, holding hands - leads to the production of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that boost our immune system. If there was ever a time we needed an extra boost in that area, it would be now.

With that in mind, why not open up the conversation to the woman you're dating? Tell her exactly what you just told me. Ask her how she sees the two of you proceeding. This is a conversation you should be having any way. Because, see, here's the thing: you two need to be on the same page about the direction of the relationship. Establish that first. Then discuss where you both stand on forms of affection and sex.

The obvious next step is to independently quarantine for 14 days and then get tested. If both of your tests come back negative - and you both feel comfortable initiating physical contact - then just take it slow. The truth is, I don't know what the appropriate next step is. The reality is, eventually we're all just going to have to take a risk, even after a vaccine exists. It's going to take us some time to re-adjust when this is over.

You might just have to put sex on hold for a few more months, which might not be a bad thing. Without the emotional complications that often come with sex, you and she can really get to know each other and focus on gauging whether or not your relationship can go the distance. Or, you and your partner might decide that you trust each other enough to forge ahead with a physical relationship.

The important thing to remember is that - whatever you two decide - you decided together how the relationship will unfold. Don't underestimate the importance of that or what it signifies. Sex or no sex, you've reached an important stage in your relationship: mutual trust and respect.

Many believe that a relationship without sex is just friendship, forgetting that this is what dating used to be. Now that the option of sex is no longer a given, singles are being forced to re-examine their dating habits and priorities. Now the focus is on communication and emotional intimacy, which is no necessarily a bad thing. This could be exactly what we needed to get dating back on track.

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