Alexandra H Solomon is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. Author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, she is perfectly placed to give advice to twenty-somethings on dating during lockdown. Here she is answering questions from Kaveree Bamzai on email:
Why is there tedium with conversations—have we forgotten the art of listening and talking?
In the era of technology, there’s quite a bit of concern that we’re having a hard time with presence. We’re everywhere and nowhere all at once, more comfortable with multi-tasking than uni-tasking. I think that’s part of people’s hesitance with dating during lockdown. Another part is that many of us are experiencing Zoom fatigue. We’re on video and phone call all day for our jobs, so a video-date feels like more of the same. There’s something quite cognitively dissonant about video calls. It is this sense of being together but not quite together that feels unsettling and exhausting for many people. It’s also very hard to generate chemistry when you are looking into a webcam instead of looking into each other’s eyes. I do think that for people who value building relational connection before layering in sexual connection, this new pace feels like a welcome respite from the hook-up culture. For other people, the interplay of conversation and seduction is vital, so video-dating is an exercise in frustration. So perhaps it’s a sense of tedium with conversations, but I think it’s more than that.
Have we taken instant gratification to heart and can’t really function in a world where it isn’t, well, instant?
Yes, that’s likely part of it too. I have had students tell me that they can’t imagine having a first date be a dinner date because what if they decide in the first five minutes that they aren’t interested and then have to endure a full meal with this person! Part of me surely respects the power of chemistry and intuition, but another part of me knows that it takes a while for any of us to unfold. We cannot be known quickly and we cannot know someone quickly. But it’s really hard to sit in uncertainty. Dating requires us to tolerate uncertainty which evokes tremendous vulnerability—Am I enough? Do they like me? Can I trust what I’m feeling? And then you layer in a pandemic which is all about uncertainty—Will my loved ones get sick? Will I lose my job? Will we ever go back to life as we knew it? What will happen next?
If you have five tips to give to those looking for love in the lockdown, what would they be?
– Dating is a crucible for self-growth. You are going to learn about yourself—how you handle anxiety, how you manage your boundaries, how you pay attention to the ‘data’ of your thoughts and feelings. Practice self-compassion and be open to learning.
– Make sure you’re practising self-care: nourishing your body with good food, getting fresh air each day, exercising, connecting with friends and loved ones, practising meditation and mindfulness for your emotional health. The quest for love is as much about becoming the right person as it is about looking for the right person.
– Practice self-awareness by asking yourself, “Why am I trying to date right now?” If you are yearning for connection, proceed. If you are craving an escape from reality, pause. In the latter scenario, the risk of harm (to self and other) is too great. There are plenty of other ways to distract ourselves!
-Expect a bit of awkwardness when you transition from screen-to-screen to face-to-face. Don’t judge yourself or the other person for it. Be patient and let it pass.
– Get a ring light to use for your video dates and position your screen slightly above you.