Quarantine has had a major impact on dating culture and how singles approach new relationships. Although first dates at bars or restaurants have ben pretty much off limits since March, thousands of people are connecting virtually. But navigating online dating during a pandemic may also mean that feelings can blossom slower than they would IRL. So if you've started to develop deep feelings for someone you haven't met in person yet, and you're even considering using Zoom to say “I love you” for the first time, it's important to ask yourself whether or not you're rushing into a relationship. According to Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, video-chatting is a valuable tool when getting to know someone new, but it can't replace face-to-face interactions.
"While using video to connect with someone definitely offers more intimacy than texting, emailing, or writing, there are still limitations to the senses we need to bond with someone," Dr. Klapow tells Elite Daily. "Not being able to touch or smell someone limits your sense of the other person." When it comes to falling in love, touch and smell both play a big role in the process. Dr. Klapow acknowledges that while it may be possible to love someone you've never physically met, chances are, you won't know for sure until you've spent some time together IRL. "We can love what they are saying, how they are saying, it, how they look and act while they are saying it, but the chemistry involved in touch and smell are two of the most powerful markers of connection, intimacy, and bonding."
It's also important to remember that the isolation many people have been experiencing due to social distancing can also affect judgment and emotions. "With the pandemic, our basic human need for touch and physical contact is greatly restricted," explains Dr. Klapow. "The combination of stress and the need for physical intimacy can absolutely create a false sense of love. So be careful, what you are experiencing on a video call could be attraction, friendship, flirting, or infatuation, but it may or may not be love."
Sharing your feelings for someone new is a big deal, and Dr. Klapow warns against rushing into it. "Saying you love a person is the deepest form of verbal commitment and connection we have available to us," he says. "If you have never been together in person, then telling the person you love them should really be held off until a time when you can be together and talk in person." However, every relationship and connection is different, and there are exceptions to every rule. "If safely meeting in-person won't be possible for months and you don't want to wait, saying 'I love you' virtually should be backed with commitment."
If you can wait to say those three little words, it may be a good idea to subtly hint at your feelings until you can be together in person and make plans to spend some socially-distanced time together somewhere outside, like at the beach or park. "First, let the person know about your growing feelings of attraction and connection for them," recommends Dr. Klapow. "Remember, there are many words to describe romantic feelings without saying 'I love you.'" For example, you can talk about how you "...feel connected to them, deeply care for them, feel attracted to them, or that your feelings are growing for them with each passing day," he says. Someone who shares your intensity of feeling will hopefully get the message and also want to see you IRL too. "If you truly think you love them, then you should safely make arrangements to meet in person," confirms Dr. Klapow.
Love can invoke some deep and complex emotions in people, and it's tough to experience them toward someone without ever having been in the same room as them. But, if the connection you have is truly love, holding off on saying it until you know for sure may be for the best. "Waiting to look them in the eyes, hold them, and then tell them you love them is going to have the most meaningful impact possible," says Dr. Klapow. Even though keeping your feelings to yourself for a while may be hard, being patient could also help you avoid disappointment later on. Remember: There's no need to rush.
Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show