The pandemic has been debilitating in more ways than one. While everything else can be worked around, the block that has been put on relationships, is kind of, well, frustrating. Most of us would not risk a COVID-19 infection, merely for a few hours of pleasure spent with an exciting date. Excitement cannot take the place of health, though I suspect many would disagree. But then what’s to be done? Love lives cannot be put on cold storage indefinitely!!! Whatever the risk, humans are hard wired to connect with other humans, specially those that they find sexually attractive. Its is tough to go without that connect. Says Jennifer Berman, MD, MS, former co-host of the CBS television show The Doctors, “completely abstaining from dating may be tough for many to do. We are hard wired to connect with other people. It is in our DNA to connect. Research has shown that the single most important factor for people who live the longest was connections to other people.” Here are some ways that one can go for satisfying dates, while observing the precautions that the pandemic has forced upon humanity. The good part is, after the lockdowns ease, dating will have changed in subtle ways- and the new normal in this area will also need adjustments and workarounds. 1. Choose with caution- for best options: This may not be the best time to go for casual dates for a fling or try to be closer to a person just because everyone else has a date. The criterion can no longer be “he or she is better looking than most others I have dated”, or “at least she is not hirsute”, or “I think he is not very smart, but I can let my guard down”. No. The reasons or looking for a date have to be far more compelling. While being too picky may also not be smart, its not wise to settle for a less than perfect experience, especially since they will be far and few in between. 2. Connect online first: This may not be the best dating advice for everyone, but in these times of limited opportunities, its best to not jump into bed first-ask questions later. It is very critical to take the time and effort to really get to know the other person before getting physical. In fact, it is important that an online, long distance relationship can make an emotional connect first. Thereafter, the drive to meet and maybe take the relationship to the next level will be stronger, and firmer. On a video, or zoom, or plain chat- it is better to know a person before you meet them on an actual date. Lot of time and effort will be saved if that zing seems to be missing on an online connect, right at the beginning. And God knows everyone cannot take too many chances today. 3. Be Clear on Your Objective: Expressing clearly what you are looking for in a relationship is the best way to get what you want, without any diversions or beating around the bush. This is a time of sparce opportunities, clearly not the right time to be bashful or indirect. Set your own standards and choose people with similar standards- no waste of time at all! In fact, in addition to making your intentions clear, ask questions about the other person as well. Fundamental questions that can make or break a relationship later on- should be asked first up. Investing emotionally, physically and maybe even financially in a relationship makes it difficult to walk away at a later point. So, ask clear questions, soliciting clear answers to uncomfortable questions - do you plan to marry again? Have children? How about other relationships? What is it that makes you tick? What is your vision and plan for the rets of your life? How important is money for you? What does a second chance mean to you? Do you have any hesitation in taking another chance at love (if you are looking for a second chance after a divorce or death of a partner)? What is the one thing that you want to accomplish in your life? What do you think of sex, and how important a role will it play in your relationship? There are many questions that will give you clear answers to move ahead or abort the date immediately. That being said, never ignore early warning signals. 4. Set expectations before meeting Conflicting expectations can create more trouble than pleasure, so get clarity on what will be expected in that first, precious, legal date! If your date is expecting wild sex and you are expecting a quiet Mac n’ cheese on the couch type of evening- well, sparks of a different kind could fly. 5. Choose a ‘Safe’ location Choose a date spot which can allow social distancing, ventilation, cleaning procedures, and access to soap and sinks. There needs to be complete clarity on that each of you are infection and symptom free. An outdoor space is better in these times, and so is using safe transportation to get there and back. 6. Enforce a mutual check-in system. Both the people need to be able to trust each other for security. This could be safety of mask sincerity kind, or plan safe sex. There need to be checks on each of the people staying safe and infection free. Therefore, you’ll need some way of making sure that both of you are staying faithful to being safe. All these being in place, the bigger and more alarming issue is, this pandemic is not going away anywhere or anytime soon. Says Liana Chaouli, CEO and Founder of Image Therapists, “This isn’t going away, so you can either regress or adapt to the new situation.” So, it’s not like a couple of weeks, and we can be out on candlelight dinner dates. The infection is here to stay and alike all things, dating will need to be planned around its functionalities- social distancing, masks, lockdowns et all.