Loving, dating, and talking in the time of COVID

In recent weeks we have received queries from several people asking about how to navigate dating now that the COVID restrictions are relaxing in the Maritime provinces.

We've recently heard questions like: Now that the passport requirements are lifting here how do you navigate dating? Especially meeting someone with polar opposite views on COVID and the restrictions? What's the protocol for talking to someone about their vaccination status?

It's a big discussion and one which a lot of people, not least of all ourselves, are taking seriously. Exploring any topic surrounding someone's health is often a difficult one. Our health and our bodies are very personal subjects. Because they are so personal, a person's views and concerns will run deep, often with strong emotions attached to the topic. Exploring these discussions with someone, especially someone new can feel like a minefield.

So how do you approach the topics of COVID and restrictions with someone new? How do you navigate meeting someone and discovering they have entirely opposite views to your own in terms of restrictions, vaccinations, and precautions? I'm going to try to offer some guidelines here.

Before I get into that though I want to acknowledge that people reacted to COVID and the restrictions and vaccinations in a spectrum of ways. Some people downplay it, some become highly vigilant, some people wanted to be first in line for their vaccinations, others chose to hold back to see how things would play out, some folks welcome the loosening restrictions while others feel the government isn't being cautious enough. I'm not here today to make judgements on whether one approach or another is right or wrong. I'm hoping to share some tips that will work for navigating dating and social scenarios, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of reactions to COVID and the surrounding topics.
Pictured: The range of options people have on COVID.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let's talk dating and navigating these emotionally-charged conversations!

One of the nice things about wondering about your potential partner's views on COVID and restrictions at the moment is that you're not likely to meet someone with entirely polar opposite views. People who are highly concerned about COVID's spread right now aren't going out in public or dating new people at all. They're taking themselves out of the dating pool, so that narrows the field a little. So the people who are willing to meet you in person are probably near the middle of the bell-curve or at the other end of the spectrum and throwing caution to the wind.
This is the home of someone self-isolating.

Of course this still gives us plenty of room for a wide range of views on COVID, restrictions, and vaccinations. So how do you navigate this subject if you're willing to go out into the world and date, but might run into people who are more (or less) cautious than yourself?

With this sort of thing I recommend asking early and with a degree of curiosity. What I mean by that is I think it's important to not only ask the other person what their position is on things like vaccinations, travel, and masks, but also why they hold those views.

Tell me more?

For example, a person might want to wear their mask and only date other people who are vaccinated because they have a job which puts them in contact with a lot of people, or maybe they care for an elderly relative. These are particularly good reasons to be extra cautious. On the other hand, a person who works from home and doesn't have any dependents could understandably have less concern for self-restrictions and strict mask protocols.

Sometimes the answer we get from a person about a hot-button topic is more interesting for its insight into the person and how they view things than or the answer itself. A person might not be vaccinated because they think vaccines are part of a government/pharmaceutical conspiracy, or due to a doctor's advice, or allergies, or remote living situation where they don't come in contact with the outside world. Whatever the reason, exploring that will be more interesting than getting a simple yes/no response from them about their vaccination status. Someone who doesn't feel comfortable being in a crowd of people without a mask might be doing so for a similar variety of reasons, ranging from being immunocompromised, to working with vulnerable people, to being concerned about the amount of cases still being reported.

My point is, asking someone before you meet them (or during your first date) how they feel about COVID topics may produce an interesting dialogue. Maybe you'll learn something interesting about them, maybe you'll disagree with them, maybe you'll find some common ground on semi-related topics! You won't know until you ask, so try to look at it as more of a getting-to-know-you line of questions rather than a touchy, polarizing topic.

"And that's why your mother's a bitch." - Don't be this couple.

As for a protocol, I'm not sure there is any set or common way to approach asking someone about their COVID views or vaccination status. I would, however, recommend trying to make it an open-ended question so the other person doesn't feel trapped or like they need to feed you a specific response to keep the conversation going.

Asking someone something like, "I just want to make sure you're double-vaxxed before we meet?" presents them with two choices: agree they are double-vaccinated (whether it's true or not), or cancel the date. On the other hand, you can probably get the information you need by saying to someone, "Since we're meeting up this weekend, I'd like to hear what you think of the relaxed COVID restrictions? Does it affect where you want to go?"

Another approach is to present your views and see how the other person responds. For example, I might say: "Since we're going to a pub, I'm going to bring my mask. I know we aren't required to anymore, but I feel more comfortable wearing one and being around people wearing them. Do you still wear yours in public places?" It offers them some insight into you and your preferences and gives them a chance to respond. Maybe they usually aren't mask wearers, but would be willing to do it for you. Maybe they do usually wear a mask and will be happy to meet a like-minded person. Or maybe they will reject the idea and you've discovered they aren't concerned about making you feel comfortable on the first date. One way or another, you're learning about your potential partner.

This conversation may be a way to find common ground.

With some luck you'll find you and your date have similar views, or at least enough common ground to feel comfortable with each other. If not, well then you can hopefully let them know politely you don't feel like the two of you are on the same page and move on.

Some people have brought up the question of whether to put information about vaccination status and mask usage on their dating profile. There are two schools of thought on this topic. Some feel that it's important information and they want to get it out there up front, much like they would sexual preference, age, or views on smoking. Others prefer to get to know another person more organically, through conversation rather than a set of bullet points on a profile. Personally, I lean toward the latter option. I think people tend to skim dating profiles and will read the information in their own tone, opening the door to miscommunication. Besides, even if they do read your profile, you'll still want to verify they read it and understood it later, necessitating a conversation about the important topic anyway. Perhaps it's best to explore things like views on COVID, pets, and whether you want to have kids during a one-on-one conversation rather than squeezing it all onto your dating page.

It's possible to share too much.

Whatever your views, whatever your approach, try to keep in mind that a lot of people are feeling uncertain and uncomfortable right now. We've been through something which is, for a lot of people, likely to be a stressful, once in a lifetime experience. Try to treat each other, even people with wildly differing views, with compassion and respect. In short, be kind to each other and good luck in the newly opening dating pool!