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Heartbeat

Dating is a complicated, messy, weird thing in a normal year. This is anything but a normal year, and there’s a lot of COVID-19-specific dating recommendations going around. The advice is very good, and you should read it, but I think it’s easy to lose sight of some of the more basic aspects of dating. We’re anxious, probably a little touch-starved and could all use some advice on how to make sure we don’t sacrifice the quality of our romantic relationships. I’ve (pretty much unilaterally) decided I’m in a place to offer that advice.

First, communicate! Mutual understanding is always a crucial part of making a relationship last. Talk about your boundaries and your feelings, and listen when your significant other talks about theirs. Half of communication is listening, genuinely and actively, to other people. Communicating is more important than ever because of COVID-19. If you’re dating someone, you need to be up front with them about potential risks and set healthy boundaries right from the start. If the person you’re dating isn’t comfortable with something you’re doing, or vice versa, you need to have a conversation about it.

You also have to talk with the other people in your life. Make sure your roommate(s) are comfortable with you dating someone, especially if they’re going to be in your shared space. Tell the people with whom you live  what’s going on, and respect any concerns they might have.

With all this communication talk, even a brand-new relationship can start to feel pretty serious. It might be a little overwhelming to sit down with someone and talk about not-so-fun things like boundaries; it implies a lot of commitment to the person. You could feel like once you’ve brought someone into your circle, you’re obligated to a certain level of commitment. But remember: Under no circumstances are you obliged to a more serious relationship than that which you are comfortable.

Don’t be afraid to go slow and take things at your own pace. Obviously, you should think carefully about the risks involved, but that doesn’t mean you have to leap into a level of commitment that you’re not ready for quite yet. Only do what you and the person you’re dating are comfortable with (that means you have to — wait for it — talk to them about boundaries).

The most important piece of advice I can offer you is this: Don’t let dating become a chore. There will be days when you’re exhausted and not in the mood to talk to anyone, let alone your significant other. They’ll have those days too — you’re only human, after all. But dating should be a thing that brings you joy. If the relationship starts to constantly stress you out or make you miserable, that’s a problem.

Try not to forget that dating is supposed to be enjoyable. If the bad parts outweigh the happiness  that a relationship should bring, you’re under no obligation to continue it. Sometimes it will be stressful, sometimes — often — it will require you to invest genuine time and work. But above all, dating someone should bring you and that person joy. Make sure that it does.


klinef1@stolaf.edu