Let's be real: Dating with roommates has always required some discretion, like keeping the volume down during a hookup when you know they're home, being careful about not monopolizing common spaces, and being considerate when it comes to bringing a guest over on a school night or work night. Thanks to the coronavirus, though, you've got a whole slew of other issues to take into account. If your roommate is making dating impossible during the pandemic, don't worry. Experts say it's totally possible to keep everyone comfortable without compromising your love life completely.
Living with a roommate during the pandemic means that both of your decisions and actions affect the other — and when your health and safety are involved, that's obviously not something to take lightly. Maybe your roomie insists you can't bring people back to your apartment, or maybe they aren't OK with you going on dates with randos you met on apps. Either way, as frustrating as it may be that their feelings are hindering your search for a quarantine boo, it's important to first acknowledge that their feelings are valid.
"These are crazy uncertain times," says psychotherapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW. "I actually think it’s fair for a roommate to have some concerns about who you might be bringing into their orbit and exposing them to."
Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist, friendship expert, and producer of TheFriendshipBlog, points out that socializing with others does put your roommate at risk.
"You and your roommate have no way of knowing who else your dates or other friends have interacted with," she explains, "and people carrying the virus may be asymptomatic."
Basically, your and your roommate's individual risk tolerance is at play here — but so is trust. Can they depend on you to take the proper safety precautions on dates?
"My roommate hasn't really been holding me back from going on dates, I think because she knows I'm super cautious and she trusts me to wear a mask and plan meet-ups outdoors," explains Taylor, 26. "But she made it pretty clear back in June that she definitely doesn't want anyone coming over. And now that it's getting colder (and I've been on a few dates with someone I'm excited about), that's going to be tough."
Of course, your roommate has the right to feel safe in their own home — but Hartstein says you also have a right to have a fulfilling love life as well. That's what makes this situation so challenging.
"There is still so much we don't know about indoor transmission so it ’s understandable that your roommate might not want a third party in your space where more germs can be exchanged," she tells Elite Daily. "At the same time, it's also unreasonable to expect that you never date or have any romantic experiences until there is a vaccine."
If your roommate has loved ones they see in-person who are immunocompromised, that will obviously factor into their attitude about your dating life. Or, if your roommate is immunocompromised due to an underlying condition, then experts agree that one of you may need to consider alternative living arrangements if you plan to continue dating during the pandemic. If they're not, though, Hartstein asserts it should be possible to strike an agreement that's acceptable to both of you.
So, how do you strike a compromise? Experts say the only way to come up with a situation that will work for both of you is to have a conversation in which you can both be honest about your needs and concerns.
"The basic idea is that you and your roommate have to communicate openly and reach some agreement about how you both will treat your social relationships in and out of the apartment," says Levine.
Elizabeth, 28, lives with two other women (one single and one with a boyfriend) — and when they all sat down to discuss ground rules earlier this summer, they collectively decided they were OK with including the boyfriend in their "quarantine bubble."
"As far as dating, everyone was comfortable with the idea of outdoor settings, so that kept first (and second) dates pretty easy," she explains. "It was to everyone's benefit that we were communicative about our expectations. For better or for worse, no one's dating life took off, and there wasn't much reason to discuss further guidelines."
However, conditions changed for Elizabeth a few weeks ago after she went on a successful first date that led to a second.
"We've talked about seeing each other again and I'm realizing that I'm going to have to renegotiate guidelines, both with my roommates, and my date," she tells Elite Daily. "I don't know where to start, and it all feels demanding for something that may ultimately just be a casual hookup. I certainly intend on being forthright — it just feels like I'm inviting a consultation board into my bedroom."
If it feels a little awkward to approach this topic with your roommate, Hartstein suggests starting by asking them what they need to feel safe and comfortable. Do they feel better about you staying over at your date's place rather than bringing them back to yours? What about if your date has roommates — does that change things? Would they be more OK with you bringing a date over if they otherwise practice social distancing and work from home? According to Levin, you'll want to get as specific as possible about boundaries and ground rules. For example, you may want to discuss whether there are any conditions that might make them feel OK about you bringing a date home — for instance, if they're away with family for the weekend. Making a pact to keep the windows open to circulate the air and to disinfect surfaces after your guest leaves may help your roommate feel more at ease.
"The two of you might also want to consider the idea that you become much more prudent about who you are bringing into the apartment," adds Hartstein. "Maybe in the past, you'd bring someone home who you went on a few dates with. During these times, you might not want to bring someone home until you're sure you feel more strongly about them. This prevents your roommate from having to adjust to a new person every few weeks, which seems reasonable."
As Levine notes, it's important to reassure your roommate of all the safety measures you'll be taking on dates — but it's also worth reminding them of how much your relationship means, too. Reassuring them that their thoughts and feelings are valuable to you and you care about their safety can go a long way.
"Explain that you, too, want to stay healthy — and you might add that having a roommate has made it easier for you to cope with the social isolation of the pandemic," Levine says.
Whatever you discuss, Hartstein advises making sure you end the convo with a clear plan in place — or at the very least, a plan to check in again soon if you need some time to process and think about what will work for you some more. That way you can avoid any potential misunderstandings that lead to stress and anxiety (or compromise their safety).
Above all, keep in mind that you should never try to hide or lie about your dating activity for fear of a confrontation — your roomie needs to know that you'll be upfront with them about what's going on since your dating decisions could impact them as well.
"Tell them that you will always be honest and expect the same of them," adds Levine.
Having a roommate can be tough even during the best of circumstances — but during a life-threatening pandemic, it's a whole new ballgame. That said, provided your roommate is not at higher risk for COVID-19 and you're following local guidelines for socializing to stay as safe as possible, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to continue your quest for love in quarantine. At the very least, you know that virtual dates are always a safe option — especially as temperatures drop and it becomes more challenging to meet up outdoors.
"There clearly needs to come a time when we all start dipping our toe back in the water dating-wise — and there are ways to do it so we all feel safe," says Hartstein.
No matter what kind of understanding you reach, the important thing is that you both feel heard and respected. After all, your relationship with your roomie is just as important as any potential romantic one that sparks during the pandemic.
Aimee Hartstein, psychotherapist
Irene S. Levine, psychologist