By: Helen Fisher
We weren’t built to live 24/7 with a lover. For millions of years men regularly set off to hunt, sometimes for days. And women went gathering and often visited friends or family in another camp for weeks. We are a nomadic species—built to leave home regularly for adventures of all kinds. So being cooped up during this pandemic requires resourcefulness, particularly if you are single and used to stepping out.
Oddly, however—this nasty virus has given you some perks: foremost, time to date. Even if you are working at home, you won’t be dressing, commuting or meeting friends after office hours.
And you have something meaningful to talk about: this disease. The chit-chat of most first meetings is gone; instead you are inclined to trade stories of fear and hope. This self-disclosure spurs intimacy, love and commitment. (And psychologists report that men are just as likely to reveal their innermost feelings as women). So during this lockdown, you might get to know vital things about a potential partner fast. That’s a plus.
Moreover, sex is, at least temporarily, out. When you meet in person, you’re obliged to navigate this nether world. “Do I kiss him?” “Should I take her hand?” “What do I do if they invite me back to their pad?” You might have some sexy conversations…but real sex is of the table.
Money is off the table too. On a regular first date, you are required to negotiate who pays: “Should we meet in a cheap café or an expensive bar?” “Should I offer to split the bill?” Nope: who pays is history.
And fortunately, you have a new tool for courting: video chatting. From data collected on 6,004 Match members over the weekend of April 12, only 6% said that they used video chatting before Covid-19 hit. Now 69% of these singles are open to video chatting with a potential partner. And a third already have someone with whom they’d like to talk via video.
But when using this technology, I recommend you do two things:
Foremost: after you have actually seen and talked with nine potential partners, stop. And get to know at least one of these people better. The brain is not well-built to absorb a host of options. Indeed, about nine is max. Then we burn out; faced with too many alternatives we choose none. Moreover, the more you get to know someone, the more you are inclined to like them.
Second: think of reasons to say “yes.” The brain is designed to remember the negative, not the positive. Forget that he likes cats and you like dogs. Focus on what you do like about him or her. But remember: these are not dating apps—they’re introducing apps. The only real algorithm is your own brain. You must ‘show up’ for these video chats.
Oddly, video chatting has another benefit: it’s slowing down the courtship process—accelerating a current trend I call Slow Love. And data shows that the longer you court and the later you marry, the more likely you are to build a happy long-term partnership. In fact, I’ve come to realize, (from my brain scanning studies), that romantic love can be sparked instantly; but feelings of trust and attachment take time to develop.
So this pandemic has created a new stage in the courtship process: video chatting. And I think it will continue after this lockdown ends. Why? Because it has some genuine benefits: With video chatting, not only can you weed out non-starters before you meet in person—enabling you to save time and money, as well as kiss fewer frogs. But you can get to know potential partners more slowly, a natural process in the brain that builds trust and attachment. Now’s a perfect time to let Cupid do his job.