Updating my dating strategies
November 16, 2020 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Help my figure out my best approach to dating through apps these days, not just due to the pandemic, but also changes in my schedule and availability and what I want from a possible relationship.

I'm a 40-something cis straight woman in a city in the US, parent of two teenagers, divorced for a few years. When I first started dating again, my kids lived with me full-time and my ex would come to my house 3-4 afternoons/evenings a week to be with the kids. I took advantage of this time to socialize with friends, renew some old hobbies, and go on LOTS of first dates, via Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid.

I realized I couldn't judge chemistry or connection via messaging, so I finessed my dating app strategy: match with men who look interesting; keep messaging to a minimum to avoid developing unrealistic expectations; go on low-key first dates (like a drink after work) pretty quickly after matching while there's still momentum; end the date soon if it feels like there's no chemistry. I wasn't looking for anything serious and usually had a good conversation even if I wasn't into the guy. I dated a few folks longer term, slept around a bunch, got my heart broken, etc. It was a grand adventure.

Now things are different, even aside from the pandemic, on a few fronts. At this point, I'm more interested in connecting with men who are open to the possibility of a longer term relationship (before, casual was just fine). I also don't have the same schedule flexibility. One of my kids now goes back and forth to their dad's weekly, and while I sometimes make plans when they're with me, being home and present with my kids those evenings is a priority.

So, my old approach doesn't work; I just can't go on as many dates. This means I need to be more thoughtful about who I do meet (via video or phone or social distance; I'm not pretending there's not a pandemic, and my plan is to take anything slow). I generally try to match with men roughly my age (about 7-8 years on either side) with a similar educational background. Sometimes it seems to work to date other parents, but I'm open on this. I don't match with folks who are explicitly only looking for casual. Based on photos and profile info, I look for interests and political leanings and values and try to find alignment there.

Right now I have about 25-30 matches on two different apps I've only been back on a few weeks. I can't hold extended conversations with all of these men. They might all be lovely people. How do I adjust my approach to dating now? How do I decide whom to message or make plans with? What's a good way to approach dating when you can't go on as many (Covid-safe) dates?

(And again, please presume that I believe in science and am not going to be sharing breathing space with anyone wantonly.)
posted by woolsocks to Human Relations (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would try to see how COVID-aware these guys are as an additional criteria before making plans with anyone. Once you can get in a COVID-safe walk/talk in the park with someone, then you can concentrate on developing some rapport via phone calls and decide when you're comfortable doing something that is less-COVID-safe (which will eventually come up if you are trying to date right now). You're going to be limited and you're going to have to invest in one or two people time-wise and try to be smart. It's going to be weird.

No shade - I met my boyfriend at the top of the pandemic on a dating app, we talked intensely for a while and then cut things off because we weren't sure how to proceed, but we came back around in a few weeks and decided to take the in-person date plunge given that we had similar risk tolerance and behavior profiles. No matter what you do there is going to be risk right now, but I mean, I guess I decided I preferred seeing him over going to Target, and at least I know he's being careful within the same sort of tolerances I have, whereas people out in the world behave like horrifying plague demons, so. Clearly, YMMV.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:01 AM on November 17 [2 favorites]

Lady, oh wow do I hear this. I was single at the beginning of this year, and my dating strategy was identical, low-pressure and easy. Lots of fun. I think you are approaching this well enough, given the circumstances.

Honestly, I started video dating as casually as I did a low-key beer at the dive bar down the street. As soon as I felt there was that text-chemistry, I'd suggest it as a preliminary step to meeting for a walk/park hang. Anyone COVID-sensible is going to be totally happy to agree to those things. Anyone regular-sensible is going to agree that dating has to happen, albeit a little differently.

Video dates are shorter and way easier. You don't have to leave your house or put on pants. Nice shirt, mascara, lipstick, glass of wine. Have something that is scheduled (real or fake) about an hour or so into the date so you can leave it if you hate it. If you like someone over video you LIKE THEM.

I met my boyfriend at the beginning of this. We clicked really instantaneously over chat, did a video date a few days later, then met for an outdoor hangout that ended up with him coming for drinks. Summertime did make it easier, because outdoor hangs were easier.

The weirdest thing was having the "are you seeing other people" conversation before we even kissed. That is strange. You have to really take a leap. And decide that someone is worth focusing on. We were "going steady" right away... and its been honestly the best relationship of my life. Go forth and date!
posted by dazedandconfused at 8:08 AM on November 17 [7 favorites]

I also met my boyfriend during pandemic, so just another data point to encourage you that it's possible.

It sounds like you're doing a good job of filtering the men you choose to match with based on what you're looking for. That's great! The only other thing you really have control over in the matching stage is how you present what you're looking for, as well as your values and lifestyle. You don't really go into this, but from your number of matches it seems that your profile is very approachable for potential matches. If you're looking to narrow your pool, consider being more explicit about some of your expectations and limitations in dating. This doesn't have to come off as negative or rigid - you can just talk about how you're interested in a serious relationship, about your great kids and how you prioritize your time with them, and about your rich, full life that puts some limits on your availability. This may weed out some future incompatible matches.

I'd also recommend being attentive to incompatibility in your early conversations with dates. I've also done most of my dating like you have, being very open and meeting people where they were with the intention only of having fun. It can seem unnatural to go from that openness to a more selective approach. I worried I'd feel like I was auditioning men for the role of Future Husband. But it wasn't that big of a deal. I just brought up topics that were important to me a little earlier on and I listened closely to how they responded. I detached myself quickly when incompatibility was clear. I simply spent less time with men who didn't seem aligned with me, and more with those who did.

Other than that, you can pretty much maintain your old dating strategy, just swapping the first drinks date for a video chat with a match that seems high quality. You'll probably miss out on some lovely men and you'll probably (virtually) meet some that aren't that great, but that's just dating. And I think a lot of people are in your boat right now, looking for something more stable in a chaotic time. It may seem like a strange time to date, but I actually think there's something special about meeting people right now and you might have some good luck.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 8:44 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

I met my current boyfriend on an app (hinge) last year. This was before the pandemic so my experience isn't a perfect corollary, but I was in a situation where my life was unusually encumbered due to being in a very demanding caretaking role for my mother at the time, so I feel like there are parallels. I was living in her house and couldn't leave her alone for more than an hour or two, so our ability to meet face to face was very limited. Plus, being in my childhood home with a strange artificial curfew added an element of restriction that was both awkward to communicate and navigate between adults, and it forced us to get creative.

First things first, I was approaching online dating almost exactly like you prior to this moment - short text conversations and quick meetups. I couldn't do that here, so it was already different out the gate. Other thing to note - our text messaging honestly wasn't very good. I was sort of half out of it and he was inexperienced and not particularly good at it to be frank. If I had stuck to my previous rules, we probably would not have made it past go, but luckily for me being trapped made me a bit more flexible. Plus, he seemed just NICE, if a bit awkward/flat. Then he suggested we talk on the phone one night, and it was EXCELLENT. Total game changer. After that, we met in person in very restricted short windows, and it quickly bloomed from there. Soon my mom was doing better, and we then dated normally.

So recommendations? Like others suggest, utilize phone and video calls to assess at least personality chemistry. You might have some false starts with people who are better suited to friendship, but if it's truly that good, it's a friend worth having. I also can't stress enough just how essential the strange circumstances of my practical and emotional life were to my meeting my partner - I truly believe I would have missed him if I hadn't been going through it and therefore pulled out of my old patterns/more clear on my needs/more emotional open and honest about what I want. So, while this whole situation is weird, it's also clarifying, and you may find it helps you better identify and focus on the right type of partner for you. That was definitely my experience!
posted by amycup at 7:04 PM on November 18

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