A few days before the coronavirus pandemic swept through New York City, transforming everyday life as we know it, my best friend went on a date. She’d hit things off with a guy on Hinge and they had plans to meet up at a bar for a few rounds of pinball — standard first-date stuff for the world of four weeks ago. But as she was getting ready to leave, she received a series of worrisome texts. Her date might have been exposed to coronavirus at his office and was waiting for his coworker’s test results. “I’m really looking forward to hanging out with you tonight and feeling perfectly normal,” he said, “but I’d totally understand if you want to reschedule.” She thought it over and agreed to see him anyway.

What followed was a sweet but strange evening: They greeted each other with an elbow bump, sanitized the pinball machine with Clorox wipes, and exchanged Purell instead of a goodnight kiss. The city shuttered bars and restaurants the next day, putting an end to traditional first dates for the foreseeable future. My friend still wonders if she should’ve asked for a rain check.

We may be separated by six feet or hundreds of miles, but in a way, we’re more connected than ever.

So, what does this social phenomenon mean for the future of romance? How can we care for each other (and ourselves) in a healthy way — and stay relatively sane? We reached out to dating and psychology experts to answer these questions and more. Read on for their insight, and to find out how readers are navigating love in the age of covid-19.

To swipe or not to swipe? The pros and cons of looking for love in a pandemic.

That depends on whether your desire for connection stems from a fear of being alone, says relationship expert and bestselling author, Susan Winter. “For some people, loneliness can translate into an obsession with finding a partner. Ask yourself: Is it possible that I want a partner way too much? If you suspect the answer is yes, take advantage of this time to be alone.” It’s not often that life gives us opportunities to examine ourselves to this extent. Identify what scares you about being alone and survive it; you’ll emerge from your self-quarantine with a sense of self-trust that will serve you well in your future relationships.

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