Dating, Relationships, and the Pandemic: Addressing the Fundamental Issue of Effective Communication

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The pandemic has disrupted the world. It’s taken a toll on lives and jobs and sent our economy into a recession from which we’re still recovering. And yet for a lot of people, the most significant impact will be personal. Our relationships, including the ability to meet new partners, can suffer much.

Some couples don’t mind spending more time cooped up together at home. Date night can go the DIY route with home-cooked meals, online streaming for entertainment, and color morph LED strips providing some mood lighting. And in modern times, singles are spoiled for choice when it comes to online dating platforms.

Still, many people aren’t ready to handle the added challenge of observing safety measures, such as distancing or wearing face masks, in their efforts to find romance. Is there something you can do to overcome that barrier?

Existing difficulties in socializing

No matter where you live, the threat of COVID-19 has made it difficult to socialize. Concerns for public health and safety make it harder to justify going out as worth the risk of exposure. At the same time, many businesses that provide entertainment and leisure are still figuring out how to resume operations.

Thus, despite the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions, we’re still quite limited in what we can do and where we can go. And that can easily have a negative effect when it comes to striking up or further developing a romantic relationship.

Yet even before the pandemic, America was dealing with a crisis of loneliness. Many factors in our modern lifestyles can prove detrimental to our relationships.

Juggling multiple jobs and responsibilities means we have few opportunities for socializing. When we do spend time with other people, our minds can be elsewhere, thinking of other concerns or distracted by our devices. The pandemic only adds another layer of difficulty to this scenario.

Online channels provide partial relief

Just as technology has provided solutions to work-related challenges, allowing many people to carry out their jobs from their homes, it can help us with social interactions. The ubiquitous smartphone and widespread access to the Internet make it easy to stay in touch with our loved ones.

We can be spoiled for choice when it comes to how we shift our interactions into the virtual realm. You can use video calls or chat through various social media and messaging apps. For those who prefer a lengthy correspondence, e-mail is still an option. And the surge in user activity on Tinder and similar platforms since the pandemic suggests that online dating is ready to fill the void in physical interactions.

Yet online communication might be only a partial solution. If you’ve ever tried to carry on a conversation using online channels, you’ll notice that something’s missing. Even on video calls, we miss a lot of body language and nonverbal cues. The effects are even more pronounced when visual information is absent.

Online communication has a disinhibiting effect. People tend to behave differently online compared to when you’re talking to them in person. They could be multitasking or chatting with many people at the same time; you can’t see what they’re doing.

But you can perceive the difference in communication quality. It creates a general sense of disengagement. We’re less present when we interact with others online.

Addressing the fundamental communications challenge

man using smartphone

Even under normal circumstances, effective communication is challenging yet necessary for a successful relationship. And in the new reality, with limitations on social activity amplifying the existing obstacles of modern living, it’s imperative to renew focus on our communication skills.

Don’t stress out over updating your online profile or how you might be able to safely establish physical intimacy in a world threatened by an infectious disease. These are legitimate concerns, but they don’t present the opportunity for you to impact and influence the quality of your current or potential relationships.

If you’re in a relationship, this is the perfect time to increase your awareness of online communications can be limited. Work on expressing your needs to your partner without blame, judgment, threats, or negativity. Practice the skill of empathy. Seek to understand and clarify, even amid a culture of brevity and text-speak.

And if you’re single, you can work on improving your conversation skills. Make better small talk by expanding your interests and acquiring a greater breadth of knowledge. Learn how to sustain better conversations by keeping up the back-and-forth flow and avoiding conversational narcissism.

By devoting your time and energy to improving the way you communicate, you’re laying the groundwork for successful relationships. Rather than obsessing over the particulars, be a more friendly and expressive human being; it will put you in a better position to succeed romantically in an uncertain future.

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