An expert on dating in the age of COVID: 'When we're feeling isolated, we want connection'

Dating is a different world in the age of coronavirus. People are more cautious about meeting new partners with distancing guidelines in place, but with feelings of isolation brought on by the pandemic, the urge to connect with others is stronger than ever. Jen Hartstein, Yahoo Life’s Mental Health Contributor and practicing psychologist in New York City, says that people need to be aware of how the current climate has impacted our desire for a relationship as cuffing season approaches. “Cuffing season is a time when single people are often looking to get into a relationship to get them through the cold winter months,” Hartstein explains. “It frequently starts around October and ends about March, April as the spring starts. We tend to be more lonely in the colder months. We don't go out as much. We aren't in the world as much. It motivates us to want to find that partner, even if it's a short term one so that we have some companionship and we have someone that we can spend time with and not be alone when we tend to be inside more often.” With winter and the chance of a second wave of COVID cases coming, people are putting more pressure on themselves to find someone to spend time with. “When we're feeling isolated, we want connection. And during this period of time where we have been isolated from people we might care about, many of us are also touch deprived and we're really desperate to just have connection,” Hartstein continues.

Video Transcript

JEN HARTSTEIN: Cuffing season is a time when single people are often looking to get into a relationship to get them through the cold winter months. Cuffing season looks different in the age of coronavirus. In this time where we are so distanced from people, it's forcing a lot of us to think about what we want in a relationship, but even those in relationships to consider. So we have to really think about what are our priorities, what matters to us as we head into cuffing season and are looking for someone to spend our time with.

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Cuffing season is a period of time, it frequently starts around October and ends about March, April, as the spring starts. We tend to be more lonely in the colder months. We don't go out as much. We aren't in the world as much. It motivates us to want to find that partner, even if it's a short-term one, so that we have some companionship and we have someone that we can spend time with and not be alone when we tend to be inside more often.

When we're feeling isolated, we want connection. And during this period of time where we have been isolated from people we might care about, many of us are also touch deprived and we're really desperate to just have connection. So we might jump into relationships that aren't right for us just because that's present. Although we all want to have somebody in our lives and have a relationship, we really want to be able to enter the relationship for the right reasons.

So if you're feeling unsettled, and anxious, and overwhelmed, and looking to the relationship to fix that, it's kind of like putting a Band-Aid on a big cut. It's not going to fix the internal problems you're having, and in fact, might cause more for you. So it's really important to slow down, pay attention to what it is you're looking for so that you don't compromise what you want just because something's in front of you.

There's an added obstacle during cuffing season this year. We're not going to bars, we're not going to parties, we're not going to concerts. So where we might normally meet people is a little more challenging. Even if you're using dating apps, it's hard to meet up with someone and do the normal dating things, holding hands, first kisses, because do we know that everybody's practicing the same kind of safety techniques. And then all of the kind of dating rituals we're used to are a little bit segmented as well. Dating is harder in this time. Be smart and be safe, most importantly.

Be able to talk with someone with radical honesty. Ask them, what are they doing. Make sure that your safety protocols are lining up together because you don't want to be making each one another sick, and then weigh the pros and cons of getting involved with someone. Can you spend that time with friends and family that are really close to you versus cuffing up with someone, will that bring more to you than cuffing up. Figure out all those things and then embark on that relationship journey.