Therapist Amanda Stretcher suggests how to meet people during lockdown and then safely date

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Amanda Stretcher from Taylor Counseling Group in Dallas has ideas for dating while staying at home during COVID-19. She said dating apps, texting, Zoom and Facetime all enter into the mix.

And in addition to staying at home, there’s safe dating. “Go on a walk,” Stretcher said. “Go to a park.”

She said understanding your comfort level is key. Some people aren’t comfortable starting a conversation on the phone and would rather text. But however it happens, when you find someone online you might like to meet, start a conversation.

But how do you do that? Well, does something stand out on that person’s profile? If so, ask a question about it. It’s always easier to get a response to a question than to a comment.

“Is there a photo that drew you in?” Stretcher said. If so comment on it. What did you like about it? Is there a pet in the picture?

She had other conversation starters, too. Such as, “Tell me what you like to do?” she suggested. Or address the stay-at-home times we’re living through with a question like, “What are your pre-quarantine likes and favorite things to do?”

Adapting to life under lockdown is enough to start a conversation. As things like, “Are you still working? Working from home?” Stay positive, Stretcher said, but talk about how it’s all making you feel.

“I’m enjoying doing my sessions from home,” she said. “But things are heavy.”

Stretcher said it’s OK to acknowledge loneliness or sadness, but at the same time, acknowledge that there are there things you’ve enjoyed about staying home. Saying you’ve enjoyed the break from the normal routine or getting away from the people in your office is not necessarily a bad thing.

As the conversation continues, if you’d like to meet, “take it to the level of the person most anxious,” she suggsted. Don’t pressure a meeting, but suggest something safe.

For example, you can safely plan a picnic in an open and uncrowded park. Or suggest a tailgate date, where you meet at a drive-in, like Kellers or Sonic, then pull into adjoining stalls and order, then open the windows and chat. Or sit safely distanced on a patio together at someplace like Hunky’s.

Depending on your level of comfort, once more bars reopen, meet at one and share a table. You’d be distanced from others, but not from each other.

Just be careful not to pressure the other person about meeting, no matter what their reason, Stretcher said. Reluctance to meet may have to do with having pre-existing conditions or it may come from a simple abundance of caution. It might not be a good match if you’re not at ease with each other’s comfort level.

Another type of date might be doing something together on the phone. Prepare a meal together and comment on what you’re doing. Make the same thing, or make completely different dishes.

Go for a walk together but separately. For safety reasons or even just because of living across the DFW area from each other, each of you can go for a walk on trails or streets near where you live. This is a great time to use Facetime to show each other features of your neighborhood or local park.

The key to any of these suggestions is to talk about things that interest you.

A conversation starter for two people staying at home could be, “What are you binge watching?” Then watch a show together but apart. Comment on what you’re watching while you’re watching.

Talk about work. Ask, “How is working from home affecting you?” Or, “How is it going into the office with a reduced crew. If they are working in a front line position, ask them what’s that been like.

Do a Google search for good questions to ask — or bad ones. Stretcher suggested a get-to-know-you conversation where you both download a list of random questions and go back and forth asking from the list.

Not comfortable using a dating app? Stretcher suggested another way to meet people while staying at home is to ask friends who they know. Or join a virtual happy hour group. While a large group is talking on Zoom, send a private message to someone you are interested in and ask to chat privately later.

And if none of this appeals to you, Stretcher said, it’s OK to to tell yourself, “There’s a lot going on right now.” Put dating on hold, if that’s what you prefer, and take care of yourself.

More comfortable meeting people at the bars? With current rules requiring people to only be served when seated and requiring that tables must be six feet apart, preferably separated by an empty table, meeting someone in a bar is less likely than usual.

“Dating requires a lot of patience right now,” Stretcher said. “Things will go slower, and that’s OK.”

Her final suggestion is to simply cultivate relationships you already have. Find out if groups you belong to are having any virtual meet-ups. Or just keep in touch with friends.

Take it slower right now. It’s OK to take a break. And maybe you’ll meet someone when you’re really not looking.