'You can still date online': How to maintain relationships during the coronavirus outbreak

WATCH: Dating tips and advice for those practising social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephan Petar has a first date tonight with someone he met on the dating app Hinge — but it won’t be a typical first date.

Instead, the Toronto resident and his date will have a cocktail over video chat because they are both practising social distancing amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Just because you can’t meet up at a bar or movie… it doesn’t mean romance is dead,” Petar, 30, said.

“There are things you can do to keep the normalcy in life and keep a date going.”

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Meeting new people and dating during the COVID-19 outbreak can be complicated, said Toronto-based relationship expert Jess O’Reilly.

Health experts are encouraging social distancing, which includes maintaining a distance of roughly six feet from others.

“If we’ve been told to stay home, that includes dates,” O’Reilly said.

“They’re telling us to stay home with the exception of essential meetings; I don’t think going on a date is essential.”

But O’Reilly, who is also the host of the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, said this doesn’t mean romance has to end.

Date ideas while in quarantine

Whether you’re just getting to know someone or you’ve had a partner for years, there are many ways to date using technology while practising social distancing or self-isolation.

O’Reilly recommends watching the same movie or cooking the same meal and eating together over video chat.

If you’re in the early stages of a relationship, you can also send voice notes instead of text messages so you can hear each other’s voices.

“We will survive without kissing,” O’Reilly said.

“We will have plenty of time in our lives to get to those things. It’s time to think about the greater good as opposed to instant and personal gratification.”

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What are dating apps doing?

Dating apps are helping users find creative ways to spend time together amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rather than introducing people in person, dating app Here/Now, which typically brings singles together at events, is instead using a video app called Zoom for users to meet.

Tinder has also added a pop-up ad reminding users of best COVID-19 prevention practices, including handwashing and social distancing.

Many people who are online dating also took to Twitter saying these apps have been buzzing with people wanting to connect.

“If world leaders can run countries using video services, we can certainly and maintain connection online,” O’Reilly said.

Sex and social distancing

While O’Reilly’s date night ideas apply to any stage of dating, some couples who crave deeper intimacy may want to take it one step further.

There’s not much evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through sex, Dr. Alon Vaisman, an infection control and infectious diseases physician at Toronto’s University Health Network, previously told Global News.

“It would be very unlikely, because most respiratory viruses only can infect the respiratory tract, so it wouldn’t likely be secreted in the genital tract,” he said.

However, it is possible to catch the virus if you kiss someone who is infected.

So to play it safe, O’Reilly said, turning up the heat over video chat is an option.

“Video sex can feel extremely intimidating for people,” O’Reilly said.

“Maybe you just talk about what you want to do. Maybe you do something in the dark. Maybe you take turns with it.

Stuck in quarantine with your ex

For some relationships, social distancing or self-quarantining can be challenging in a different way.

Andrew, who asked that his name be changed for privacy reasons, broke up with his partner just days before they both had to go into quarantine.

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The problem, though, is that they live together and now have to both remain in their shared home.

“There are very real reasons why we decided to stop dating,” the Toronto resident said.

“Those reasons are still very much present. For the sake of my sanity, his and our roommates’, I’m trying to stay level-headed.”

Fortunately, Andrew said his apartment has four bedrooms so he is able to have his personal space. To get through this tough time, he said he is focusing on activities he’s wanted to do for a long time, including writing, drawing and learning a new digital software tool.

“I’m reaching out to friends and family and just trying to be present in my own space,” he said.

O’Reilly said having privacy is not only beneficial for couples in crisis, but also for happy couples living together, roommates who aren’t getting along, or family members who annoy you.

But even though alone time is important while self-isolating, it’s crucial for your mental health to maintain connections with people outside of your home using devices.

“It’s the way we use technology that makes it positive or negative,” O’Reilly said.

“This is an opportunity where we’re seeing that technology really enriches our lives and can enrich our relationships. So use that technology to your advantage.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

With files from Global News’ Leslie Young

amanda.pope@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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