If you've been looking for love during quarantine, then you already know the coronavirus pandemic has greatly complicated the already chaotic and confusing landscape of modern dating. In 2020, agreeing to go on a first date comes with a host of potential health risks that leave many people wondering how to deal with the elephant in the room. Unfortunately, being in a situation where a first date isn’t respecting your pandemic boundaries can lead to some massively awkward vibes. However, knowing how to stand your ground when a date is making you feel uncomfortable is key to keeping yourself and the people in your life safe.
According to Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, how you choose to navigate social distancing measures on a date is completely up to you. "A pandemic is not a political, social, or philosophical topic for debate," Dr. Klapow tells Elite Daily. "It is a virus that has spread across the globe, and a first date should respect any or all boundaries."
Make sure that before you meet up with your date, you let them know what you're comfortable with. A text saying, "BTW, I'm excited to meet you, but I'd be most comfortable if we sat six feet apart and kept our masks on," is a great first step. Although it isn't always easy to stay firm on the boundaries you've set for yourself, especially in social situations where alcohol may be involved, anyone whose intentions are genuine should have no problem honoring your wishes.
"Boundaries are a sign of respect," says Dr. Klapow. "During a global pandemic, it's not only important — it's a requirement to respect personal boundaries during the date. Anything less is a betrayal and a sign of disrespect." You and your date may have different outlooks on the pandemic, but if you get the feeling they're being resistant to your desired level of caution, then it's definitely time to speak up. It's also important to remember that pressure can be applied in both direct and indirect ways, and you shouldn't have to accept either.
If you're not exactly sure what behavior warrants a conversation, Dr. Klapow outlines some red flags that could mean your date isn't respecting you. "Trying to convince you to compromise your boundaries regarding pandemic protocols, or telling you that the virus is not 'that bad' (even if they are a medical doctor), are both signs that your date isn't taking your pandemic boundaries seriously," explains Dr. Klapow. Additionally, comments about when you do or don't need to wear a mask while on the date can also be problematic and uncomfortable.
There are also subtler ways a date might try to manipulate you into letting your guard down. "Allowing you to engage in whatever protective behaviors you choose but not engaging in those same behaviors themselves, or making snarky remarks regarding your preferences for pandemic safety," are also signs of disrespect, says Dr. Klapow.
Once it's become clear that your date isn't taking your concerns as seriously as they should (especially after you've already made them aware of your wishes), the best way to handle the situation is to remind them of what you are and are not comfortable with. Depending on how they overstep, try saying, "Could you put your mask back on? I'm really enjoying our conversation and want to keep hanging out, but I'd love to do it as safely as possible." That alone should be enough.
If they continue to display behavior that makes you uncomfortable or challenge you on the subject, do not give in. "Instead, ask them why they refuse to take your boundaries seriously," suggests Dr. Klapow. "After that, leave. Anyone who can’t respect boundaries and preferences for safety during a global pandemic is showing they care more about themselves than they do about you, and aren't worth your time."
Navigating safety measures during a pandemic can lead to some uncomfortable conversations, and this is even more true while spending time with a romantic interest. However, with the right person, honest and direct communication shouldn't be a problem. So, if you find yourself on a date with someone who isn't making your safety and comfort a priority, don't be afraid to put your foot down. And if they breach your agreed-upon boundaries without your consent or belittle your concerns, then it's time to remove yourself from the situation.
Dr. Joshua Klapow, clinical psychologist