People who live with their significant others will be the first to tell you that sheltering in place with someone, even someone you love, isn’t easy. But it’s also challenging to be a single person or to have a boyfriend or girlfriend you don’t live with during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
People who are dating but not cohabitating have a lot to consider when it comes to seeing romantic partners. States have begun to reopen, but the pandemic is still a reality, and the threat of COVID-19 has not gone away. That said, you might not want to put your love life on hold until there’s a vaccine or an effective treatment.
Here’s what to think about when making the decision to date during COVID-19.
The experts say:
If you’re in a committed relationship and you trust your partner, you can find ways to lower your risk if you choose to get together. It’s tougher if you’re casually dating several people or just starting a relationship.
“Dating is a little bit safer when it’s an established relationship because it is someone you know and trust,” says UNC Health pediatrician Elizabeth Blyth, MD.
Factors to consider:
– If you and your significant other see each other, who else will then be exposed? For example, if your significant other lives alone and you live with your children, you’ll want to ensure that your partner is practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask in public to protect you and your kids. Each person’s job and other exposures that aren’t optional should be considered too.
– Do you and your significant other share opinions and values around coronavirus prevention guidelines? If both of you agree to physically distance from other people, wear masks and practice strict hand hygiene, you can greatly reduce your risk of transmission. If one party (or one person in that party’s household) is lax, everyone is at risk.
– Is your relationship exclusive? Being exposed to fewer people is safer than being exposed to more people. “One person entering your risk category is not the same as 10 different people over a couple-week period,” says Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention.
– If you’re dating new people, do you have a plan for when to meet in person, versus online or over the phone? You can take the same measures you’d use to stay safe when meeting anyone new outside your household, such as keeping 6 feet of distance and wearing a mask.
How to stay safe:
The key is to talk openly about your comfort levels with whomever you’re dating, whether it’s a long-term partner or someone new. If you choose to see each other indoors or in close proximity—and especially if you choose to kiss and be intimate—you need to be on the same page in terms of prevention measures taken when you’re not together.
That risk might be worth it to you, particularly in a long-term, trusting relationship.
For first dates or newer relationships, meet outdoors in a public place, such as a park. That way you can keep your distance while still seeing each other face-to-face. Make sure you’re in sight of other people if you don’t know the person.
“Are you bike riding with someone outside? If so, that’s very safe,” says Robert Hutchins, MD, MPH, UNC Health internal medicine physician. “If you are going to the movie theater, that’s something I would avoid.”
Finally, it’s also important to be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling if you have plans to see someone. If you have any possible symptoms of COVID-19, or if you just feel off physically, it’s best to postpone, Dr. Sickbert-Bennett says. “Even if you have something scheduled and you’re looking forward to it, that’s not the day to go see someone new.”