If you're heading out on a socially distanced date, follow these tips from a relationship expert for keeping the connection going while staying apart

The last 21 weeks of lockdown have created a lot of pressure and uncertainty. Now that we are coming out of lockdown, we will all be experiencing different feelings be that anxiety, frustration, irritation, or resentment as well as positive feelings of joy, gratitude, and reconnection with what is really important.

Social distancing has changed the dating game, and is likely to leave many feeling unsure of how to proceed with new guidance in place. Here are six tips to connect on a socially distanced date, to enjoy the experience, and maybe even take a big step towards the relationship you dream of.

1. Understand what the rules of socially distanced dating are

No one will blame you if you are finding the rules confusing, and the difficulty is that two people may have different perceptions of what's right and wrong. With that in mind, you need to get clarification of what is acceptable to your fate. Ask, in advance, how they feel about a socially distanced meeting and check what will help them feel safe. Pushing them to do something they feel uncomfortable with is unlikely to end well.

2. Be especially cautious about what advances are appropriate

As always, consent is key. But in a socially distanced world, people will have different fears and perceptions on what is appropriate. Ensure you are sensitive to your dates feelings on this. If you are uncomfortable with an advance, you need to be honest and set boundaries. It may be a good idea to discuss expectations and ground rules before the date begins. For example, how are you comfortable greeting each other? A hug and a kiss on the cheek may have been standard before, but take some time to work out what would make both of your comfortable now.

3. Express how you really feel

The rules have changed, and uncertainty is heightened. To cut through this fog you need to communicate very clearly, as subtlety may not cut it. In the past, a touch or a lingering kiss could open the door to the next level. Now, you need to use words to send those messages. Try saying exactly what you feel and ensuring that this message has been heard by your date. And think of it like good practise for building on your communication skills.


Try saying exactly what you feel and ensuring that this message has been heard by your date

4. Read emotions

Just before the meeting, try and read your own emotions. Find a comfortable seated position, focus on your breath, and then shift your awareness from your breathing to your body and scan through it, noticing any feelings or emotions that are present. When you have located those emotions, notice what shape, size, weight, or colour they are and whether they are moving or still. Give them a name, if appropriate, and then get to know it for a few minutes. When you go to the date, you will be better equipped for knowing how you are feeling.

During the date try and read their emotions from their facial expressions, nonverbal body displays and speech, not just the words but the tone, pace and volume. You can also ask the killer question ‘How are you feeling, right now?’ And pause…

5. Tune in and tune the world out

With everything that’s going on in the world right now, it can feel hard to tune out. But try to make sure that you go somewhere that will be calm and private, while still being a safe space for both of you.Try and focus on them, with good eye contact and listen exquisitely well to what they are saying and how they are saying it. Once you have got through the ice breaking, ask questions to find out more, and show that you are interested in them. See if you can ask questions that dig deep into their emotions, such as ‘How are you feeling about X?’ Pauses and silences can also be surprisingly powerful.

6. Enjoy the Journey

You don’t need to hear their life story in sixty minutes. There is no hurry, this is about a journey, not rushing to the destination. Savour the joy of slow, small steps forward. We’re living in unprecedented times, and so things may not feel quite normal for a while. But take time to appreciate that you’re both embarking on this together, despite the uncertainty around you. A great question to end the date on is, ‘And what would you like to happen next?’ Wait and see where the date takes you, it could be the start of something wonderful.

Neil Wilkie is a relationship expert, psychotherapist, creator of The Relationship Paradigm® and author of ‘Reset - The Relationship Paradigm’. Find out more at relationshipparadigm.com