The government has said that partners who aren’t already living together have to make a choice during the lockdown – either move in together or face not seeing each other in person until this is over.
If you’ve taken the latter option, you’re probably preparing to stay in touch via video call.
And for people who are currently single, online dating apps are all seeing surges in users, but no one will be able to meet up for as long as this lasts.
With that in mind, virtual dates are going to become a way of life for both some people in long term relationships and those who are just starting to find out more about each other.
We asked dating experts about how you can avoiding awkwardness and keep the spark when you’re just seeing each other through a screen
How to have a video call date with a long term partner
Dating expert Cheryl Muir says that you could see this as an opportunity to really talk and build a connection with your partner.
She explains: ‘While there are obvious differences when it comes to connecting over video, and there is no physical touch, we do have our words, our heart and our emotions.
‘Cut the small talk and truly talk to your partner. How are they feeling? What do they need? How can you connect to their love language despite the distance? Share with them how you feel. Tell them what you miss about them – be as specific as possible. Talk about what you look forward to doing when you see them next. And, plan your first post-lockdown date.’
Ruby Jones, Head of Dating Consulting Services at The Intro suggests continuing to organise ‘dates’ together.
She says: ‘When you’re both available, you can use video calling to do things together that you otherwise might do in person.
‘That can include all the activities you might do together when you would otherwise be together, such as having dinner, cooking, or maybe even brushing your teeth.
‘That can even include quiet time, by having the camera up while you’re both reading at home or working, for instance, to feel the comfort of each other’s presence even while apart.
‘There are more and more activities that can be done virtually, as well. You can play games such as ScrabbleGo or various forms of trivia, watch Netflix movies together, or hang out with your mutual friends on the HouseParty app! There are virtual ways to maintain the rhythm of your normal lives, you’ll just have to get a bit creative. ‘
And while you might not be able to go to a restaurant together, you can enjoy a candle lit dinner together.
Ruby adds: ‘Planning dinner nights, for instance, where you both sit down to eat your respective meals with a glass of wine, candles, and light music in the background may at first seem silly, but will actually be a fun escape!
Sarah Louise Ryan from Lessons in Love also has some suggestions for things you can do together to keep your video dates exciting.
She says: ‘You can have virtual happy hours on Fridays via Houseparty, zoom or skype apps.
‘You could perhaps have picnic dates on your phone over the weekend.
‘It will give the air of being together as well as make sure you connect deeply.
‘You could perhaps learn a new language together and practise in the time you catch up, keeping your brain stimulated and you both excited about the prospect of something new together – it’s time to think outside of the box.’
And when it comes to the date itself, whatever you are doing, Gillian Myhill, owner of BARE dating says it is important to put in some preparation.
‘Yes, you are going to be seen, so choose your outfit – this will help you get in the mood for what is to come. Do your hair and freshen your makeup. Lighting can make us all look like models so play around with what you have available.
‘Make sure you’ve gone to the loo. And if you do need to exit for this or any other reason, politely ask the other person to hold. Do not take your phone to the loo with you – that’s gross!
‘Clean your room: Your date may be cheeky and ask you to scan around and vice versa. You can tell a lot about a person from their personal space and this is an opportunity to take a view into their world, and them into yours. Alternatively, living or dining rooms work well.’
How to have a video call date with a new partner
A lot of the advice for long term partners applied to first dates too but instead of keeping that spark alive, you’re trying to see if there is one in the first place.
Cheryl says: ‘For first dates over video, the key is to make it as normal as possible. Like an in-person date, ensure you know what time you are meeting and where, and what you will be doing.
‘For example, coffee at 10am over FaceTime, or dinner at 6pm on Zoom. Get creative. A friend of mine had a FaceTime date one evening, and her date had food delivered to her home. He had the same food delivered to him, and they ate together. This is also an opportunity to see if your date is creative, flexible and considerate.
‘It also gives you both a chance to observe how you cope in a crisis, and whether or not you share the same values.
‘For example, if you have a huge heart and value altruism, is your date compassionate and helping others during this time? Is this the type of person you would want to whether the storms of life with?
‘We are all stripped back right now and showing who we are and what is important to us. There’s no better time to get to know somebody new.’
With a first date, you might want to do more preparation. This will be their first impression after all.
Ruby Jones has a few tips to maximise your setting:
‘Decide from the outset whether you will use your computer’s camera for the date or whether you’ll be using your mobile.
‘Using your computer gives you the added benefit of being able to access photos, songs, or recently visited sites you may want to reference or share on your date, but either way, just have a think on what is most practicable.
‘Lighting is key – make sure before your date you’ve vetted which set up will be most flattering. Natural light is always a plus! The background and surroundings should be free of clutter and non-distracting.
‘It is almost like inviting someone into your home, or a part of it. Nothing should distract from the main event – you!’
Ruby recommends thinking about what your pre-date routine would be in normal times and following that, even if you aren’t leaving the house.
She adds: ‘That means actually getting ready and dressing nicely (yes, including your bottoms). Hair, make-up, accessories, teeth brushing, mouthwash and a dab of perfume/cologne are all great ways to get into the dating mindset.
‘Make sure you have eaten before the date so you won’t be hungry if you hit it off and end up chatting a few hours.
‘Have whatever you will have to drink ready on the sidelines! That definitely includes water, and may also include having a bottle of wine handy if it’s an evening drink and the video date goes in that direction!’
Expect the date to last between 30 minutes or a few hours if you hit it off.
In terms of things to talk about, Ruby says that you just need to think about real life dates but be aware awkward silences seem a lot worse on video.
Ruby adds: ‘Ask about things on their dating profile (if you’re worried you’ll forget, you can keep an off screen cheat sheet), music taste, hobbies, job, and anything else under the sun. Video dates are not so different from first dates in the pub, after all.
‘Corona chat will be an unavoidable topic. Make sure to stick to what is relevant and keep the tone positive! It’s important to have an upbeat first date to leave a positive lasting impression.
‘Recognize that it is okay to hang up when you are ready to stop chatting. Sure, you don’t really have anywhere to go at the moment, but you’ve still got things to do (talking to family, personal time, reading, work, etc.) End the date whenever it’s right for you.’
Although dating on camera might seem a little out of the ordinary Sarah Louise Ryan says that this is actually a great opportunity for single people.
She says: ‘One of the biggest things I hear which are interpreted as negatives holding singles back in modern dating is that time and finances invested doesn’t reap the emotional return that many would like.
‘So, this moment that I describe as the dating dance may be eliminated as you’ll be able to jump straight to an online date which will help you to have a more meaningful connection and decide quickly if this person for you.
‘If you’re a few dates down the line (online) with the person you have swiped right with, you may find that your courtship will last longer and can be embraced, slow burners are the best and will ensure you aren’t able to jump in between the sheets to determine the difference between if it’s a potential loving connection or lust.
‘Whilst the weight of the world might seem on our shoulders at the moment, if we let go and surrender to the positive opportunities that we can create for ourselves in this time, we will be able to make the most of dating differently and connecting in our couples on a whole new level.’