Figuring out what to talk about on a FaceTime date is already a difficult task. Now, add in the fact that a global pandemic is going on, which has led to stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements, and it’s even more challenging. One the one hand, talking about quarantine on FaceTime dates seems almost inevitable — after all, it’s currently playing a massive part in your everyday life, from how you work and socialize to what you’re able to do for fun in your spare time. That said, experts agree that dwelling on the pandemic can actually make your dates much worse by taking you down a dark path that's nearly impossible to turn back from.
The good news? There are ways to navigate this tricky topic and redirect the conversation toward more positive subject matter that better allows you to evaluate your love connection.
The main reason experts advise against talking too much about quarantine is that it can obviously be a downer to talk about such uncertain and stressful circumstances.
“People are looking to date as an escape, not to remind them of the current state of the world,” says Erika Ettin, dating coach and founder of A Little Nudge.
Not only that, but if you focus your conversations around the quarantine, all your dates will start to feel the same.
"'How's quarantine treating you?' has become the new, 'How's it going?' and it's a non-starter,” adds Ettin. “Basically everyone is watching Netflix and cooking.”
As dating coach Jess McCann points out, bringing up this topic can also quickly turn into a venting session — which may feel therapeutic in the moment, but can actually make it difficult to form a happy and healthy bond in the beginning stages of dating someone new.
“Since neither of you is likely a therapist or counselor, you both will probably walk away feeling more down than you did to begin with,” explains the author of Cursed?: Why You Still Don't Have the Relationship You Want and the 5 Cures That Can Transform Your Love Life. “Not a great way to start a relationship.”
Not only that, but the most effective way to attract fun, flirty vibes around your budding connection is to focus on positive things during your FaceTime convos. Obviously, assessing your chemistry and potentially snagging a second date means putting your best foot forward, and it’s hard to do that when you’re lamenting all the ways in which the pandemic has complicated your life. All that being said, experts say it’s totally understandable if the pandemic comes up at some point on your FaceTime dates.
“It’s natural to want to talk about the elephant in the room — COVID-19 — but let it be one small part of the conversation, if it comes up, and then move on to the next topic,” says dating coach and dating app expert Meredith Golden. “Boundaries are still important.”
According to McCann, one positive thing about the pandemic’s impact on dating is that it’s forcing people to dig deep into more meaningful topics as opposed to only keeping things light and surface-level. McCann highly suggests leaning into this by asking your date some thought-provoking questions that can turn your attention away from quarantine. For example, you might ask them to describe the best day of their lives, or where they would travel to right now if they could go anywhere in the world. Asking your date about their hobbies and interests is tricky territory, because some of their passions may have been derailed by the pandemic. Still, experts agree that it’s worth posing these questions, because they get your date talking about what excites and inspires them.
“People are still finding interesting ways to pass the time during quarantine and this is certainly conversation-worthy,” says Golden. “Some themes that are easy to engage in include cooking and baking projects, books, music, and exercise. Even talking about work is still on the table.”
If the pandemic does come up and you want to pivot the conversation, Ettin advises finding a way to respond that leads into an entirely different topic. For example, if your date asks, “How’s quarantine treating you?” you could say, “Well, while I miss getting a Manhattan at The Branch Bar, but I've actually been taking my dog on these amazing walks through parks I had never even heard of! Have you been to Main Lake Park? It's beautiful!" And just like that, you’re talking about parks, dogs, and cocktails. How easy is that?
“Talk about the things or places you can't wait to return to, and why,” adds Ettin. “And if all goes well, you can plan to go to one of them together!”
There may be instances in which your date can’t seem to stop bringing up their pandemic woes. If that’s the case, McCann recommends first expressing some empathy — for example, by responding, “I hear you, that sounds really difficult. I hope things start improving for you soon.” Then, you can add: “I've found that talking too much about the way things have changed actually makes me feel sad or frustrated. Do you find that as well?" Or, you can ask, “Is there anything that's stayed the same in your life despite the pandemic?" This way, you’re steering the convo in a slightly more uplifting direction while still validating their feelings and showing compassion.
Honestly, it’s hard not to tackle the subject of quarantine on FaceTime dates when so much of your life has been turned upside-down by it. The key thing to remember is that you can address the circumstances without letting them take over your entire conversation. If and when it does come up, you can take a moment to acknowledge how it’s impacted you, and then quickly move on. Remember — as Golden says, “happiness attracts happiness.” By choosing to dwell on all the amazing things going on in your life rather than the setbacks spurred by the pandemic, you just may spark up something else to get you through these challenging times.
Erika Ettin, dating coach
Jess McCann, dating coach
Meredith Golden, dating coach