By George Arkley 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

For the first time in fourteen months, we are allowed to hug people. After a year of social distancing, masks, hand sanitiser and isolation – hugging feels a little alien. We can hug people outside of our bubble, and different households can meet indoors to stay overnight.

Dating in a pandemic is strange, to say the least. Zoomancing, flu-meranging and mask-fishing have infected the dating world and plagued our relationships with some unforeseen complications. Seriously – things were hard enough in the dating scene before the pandemic hit.

We learned to date over a screen and in freezing pub gardens. We mastered the art of talking about our lives with a new partner when, let's be honest – there was nothing new to update them on. Discussing our latest Deliveroo finds was the height of passion and wearing a fresh pair of sweatpants was how we 'made an effort.'

However, as Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown progresses, we are hit with, yet another, dating curveball. The hug or not to hug rule. We can date people indoors and hug them at the end of the date. Wild, I know.

In normal life, hugging would not be a big deal at all. However, in the post-pandemic era, hugging a stranger feels uncomfortable and somewhat scary. Suddenly, the dating stakes have been raised, and a hug is the epitome of commitment. Nothing quite says intimacy during a pandemic like sharing germs and body heat.

Match's dating guru, Hayley Quinn, offered her advice for singletons across the UK who are trying to navigate the ever-changing dating landscape.

Hayley recognised that many singletons feel apprehensive about dating in lockdown, and not everyone feels comfortable with the hugging rule. If you are venturing on your first IRL date, it's okay to keep your distance until you build up more confidence to make physical contact.

Of course, communication and boundaries are key here. Never assume that your date is comfortable with hugging or even meeting face to face. Hayley recommends opening up a conversation on boundaries by saying, "I'm looking forward to seeing you! Full disclosure, though, I'm still sticking with social distancing, I hope that's okay with you?" You could bring this up before the date via text or in person.

The transition from virtual dates to face-to-face ones is likely to be a little rocky. After all, you now have to dress your entire body instead of just the top half. Hayley reminds us that dating is a marathon – not a sprint. While you might not feel comfortable talking to a stranger in a beer garden, you could give them eye contact and a smile. Besides, you could also continue video dating until you feel a little more comfortable with in-person meetings.

Intimacy doesn't always have to stem from physical contact. In fact, Hayley says intimacy is usually interpreted as "into-me-you-see" as it stems from a feeling of when someone really gets you. You can show intimacy by prolonging eye contact with your date and really listening to what they say. Emotional intimacy can be just as attractive as physical touching.

Boundaries and respect are at the heart of dating in a pandemic. Try to outline your boundaries and stay within them. Remember – it's a marathon, not a race.

RELATED: How to date after the pandemic: Dating expert Hayley Quinn shares her advice

Lockdown restrictions are lifting, the pubs are reopening, and our dating lives are in for one hell of an awakening. After a year at home, singletons across the UK have mastered the Zoom date, and whatever ‘flu-merang’ means. Dating in the pandemic, otherwise known as ‘pan-dating’, has been challenging and somewhat lonely for many singletons...

tagged in