COVID-19 restrictions could offer chance for deeper romance this Valentine's Day
Caution advised as a priority for those seeking out a partner during the pandemic
Some who specialize in the ways of wooing are advising caution when it comes to finding romance in the time of COVID-19 restrictions, but they say there are some silver linings if you're trying to find a partner during the global pandemic.
With provincial restrictions in Saskatchewan extended until at least Feb. 19, Valentine's Day — a time for some that's usually set aside for intimacy and romance — will be set against the backdrop of social distancing, restricted households and masks.
Amy Rederburg is the founder of DoSask.com, a social events site which, before the pandemic hit, hosted speed dating events for those trying to find a connection. Now, with people advised not to mingle outside of their households, she says it's a different world for those rolling solo.
"It's a very hard time for a lot of singles," she said in an interview.
With private gatherings all but quashed under the provincial guidelines, she says people are turning toward more virtual and online dating, which has its own challenges. Since the pandemic hit, she's been working with some of her clients to navigate the world of online dating, briefing them on proper etiquette and how to set up an attractive profile.
Under the provincial restrictions, households are prohibited from mingling with one another, but if you're living alone, you can meet up with another household of up to five people without worrying about a penalty. And for those looking to find a relationship, the restrictions may bring with them a blessing in disguise.
Chances for a deeper connection
"We are taken back to that regency time in history when you're kind of setting up your suitors, and exploring your options through conversation, rather than just immediately going to the next step," said Rederburg. "So you can really get to know who you're matching with on a deeper level."
Whether it's a few Zoom meetings, a virtual board game or a regular conversation on the phone, Rederburg noted these conversations help people determine whether or not the person they're chatting with is worth an in-person conversation.
She stressed for those who are willing to meet up in person, they've got to take precautions to ensure they're not putting themselves or others at risk of catching COVID-19.
This could include asking someone about the scope of their bubble, whether or not someone has been self-isolating and even going as far as asking for proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. A negative test doesn't guarantee that they are COVID-free — as individuals can test negative earlier in the course of the disease and there is room for error in the timing of test — but a combination of precautions can still be better than nothing.
"Before the pandemic, it would have been completely normal to ask your date for some kind of negative test if you go and get tested for an STI or an STD before you go to that next level in the relationship," she said. "In terms of the pandemic and COVID, I think it should be a reasonable request, I definitely think it's something people need to be comfortable asking for."
She said it's also important to try and set some boundaries before meeting up. Letting the person know if they're comfortable, for example, hugging or going to a restaurant, to ensure there's no awkward moments.
This holds true for time limits too, as with many scheduled events cancelled, there may be some confusion as to when a date really starts and ends.
"There's an assumption that you have all the time in the world to meet with another person and it just drags," she said.
"I've heard stories of someone planning a day-long adventure, and it was their first meeting, and the person was like: 'Whoa. This is too fast. You're moving fast.' So set those boundaries early."
Pandemic removed some social supports
For those who rely on non-romantic relationships in their life for support, the pandemic has put them in a situation where they have limited access to the people around them, essentially removing a network that has become crucial for many.
"Those relationships are really important," said Kelsey Hoff, a counsellor who specializes in marriage and family therapy.
Working with individuals through their issues by understanding their family system, background and overall support community, she says for those who rely on their social circles for support, the pandemic has had a "great effect.
"Especially on people who would maybe consider themselves to be extroverts, that they find their energy from going out and being with people," she said.
"With that, being alone a lot could also spark some skeletons in the closet that maybe they're able to not deal with when they're able to be around people.
"So being home could also cause some emotional difficulties, but then add to that, not having that support to be around people," she said. "They aren't able to bounce off what's going on for them emotionally with people who they trust."
Hoff notes while it's important to maintain connections where possible, there could also be some benefit from situations of solitude.
"I would also challenge extroverts to embrace that time alone. To not run from it or try to change it completely," she said. "There could be some hidden value in learning to spend some time in your own head and to spend some time with yourself."
Romantic traditions continue
Claude Hardenne, the owner of Harden and Huyse chocolates in Saskatoon, says living with a partner or spouse — while under health restrictions imposed by the government over Valentine's Day — is a chance to get creative with the traditional holiday.
The local shop, which has operated for more than 37 years in Saskatoon, is a Valentine's Day staple for those trying to find something sweet for their sweetheart. He says even under restrictions, people are still in pursuit of romance.
"People have their traditions and I think that in spite of COVID and us being locked up a lot of our beloved traditions … they remain the same and they remain just as important as they've always been."
Hardenne says with people having more time at home and spending more time with their partners he hopes there's a flashback to the yesteryears of courtship which may fall by the wayside for couples during COVID.
"Communication in 2021 has become very digital. People texting and using other forms of social media," he said. "But anybody who is of a certain age remembers the old days when there was a lot more face-to-face."
"The type of communication that's involved when you're closer to someone. It is more intimate. It has more impact. So I hope that maybe we're going a little more retro — if you could say that — and people are getting back to having that time together."
CBC Saskatchewan reached out to the Government of Saskatchewan to find out if the Ministry of Health had any official advice for those who are set to celebrate Valentine's Day this year and a statement indicated they'll be releasing guidance in the "days ahead."
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