VUMC staff member, Allie Bell, shares her experiences of relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic. This wellcast includes suggestions for healthy dating.
Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast. I'm Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections. Our guest today is Allie Bell. A graduate of Austin Peay University, Allie is the Research Coordinator for the PRO Employee Health Protections Program. Today, we are exploring dating in the age of corona. Dateable podcast host, Julie Krafchick says, "We can't have amnesia that dating was perfect before. Before all the dating apps, well-intentioned friends and chance meetings, dating has always presented itself with challenges. "I think this time has given people a lot of clarity into what they want in life," Krafchick says. It has shown life is short, and at the end of the day, relationships are what matters most. A lot of people have used this time to do self-work, especially in the dark middle period of quarantine where it didn't feel like there was any way to meet someone. Allie, as a single woman, generally, what has been your experience in trying to meet suitable dates in the last six months?
Allie Bell: It wasn't until this past two months that I really felt ready to start dating. When corona started, you think about isolation and safety and things, and I was about three or four months out of a long-term relationship at that time, so in no way was I ready. I think being isolated with coronavirus helped me to process that a little faster, all that time alone. It was good use of it. So, my experience started when I took a leap and opened up a Match.com profile.
Rosemary Cope: Well, listeners, before you freak out about dating during these times, or freak out about thinking about opening up that Match app, keep in mind that thinking about risk and dating isn't a new thing, given that there has always been a risk of contracting an STD, the cold, the flu and a slew of other infectious diseases from the people you date. It's just that the stakes are a bit higher with COVID-19. So, Allie, what kind of guidelines do you think are important to consider when starting to date?
Allie Bell: I think it's very important now, and probably always, to spend a lot of time with that person voice-to-voice. People like texting so much and I think it loses a lot of intention and tone. So, if I have a match that is not willing to speak on the phone, that is not going to be right for me, because I need that time to get to know them, because you're not only deciding to expose your heart a little bit there, but if you choose to get together, opening up your social circle poses risks to yourself, your family, your co-workers, and so, these are things you have to really be mindful of.
Rosemary Cope: Makes good sense to me. It also makes good sense to Dr. William Schaffner, who is an Infectious Disease specialist and Professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, because he tells us, no matter what your dating situation or relationship status, it's important to make sure the person you are seeing is on the same page as you. "You ought to have a conversation about this," Dr. Shaffner says, and he doesn't say "text." He says "conversation." [laughter] . So, if you have been really careful, you probably are interested in dating someone who has also been careful. Even in a relationship, you want to make sure you and your partner are on the same wavelength about safety and risk tolerance. So, here are some questions that you should consider, listeners, that you should ask before making an in-person date, and Allie, some of what's on this list is exactly what you already had mentioned. So, number one, what's your COVID-19 status? Have you been tested? Although this feels like it goes without saying, it's important to ask people what their exposure level has been. Have you been tested for COVID-19, or have they been exposed? Have they exhibited any symptoms? Number two, what have you been doing the past 14 days? You should also ask both - what they have been doing and who they have been spending time with. They may live with a family member who has been an essential worker, or perhaps they have been flouting some of the guidelines that you strictly adhere to. You should also be honest with them about your own activity and interactions. Number three, do you wear a mask? The answer to this question will tell you a lot. Wearing masks has nearly become a political statement at this point, and if you are someone who wears masks, but your date doesn't do the same, that will give you insight on some of their views on health and safety. Number four, have you dated? When was your last date? Are you still dating? This borders on that dreaded "what are we" question, but if we have been talking to this person over the course of a few days or even a few weeks, their dating or hookup history is a relevant subject to address. If you have been going on several in-person dates over the past 14 days, this will subsequently increase your exposure rate as well. It may feel a bit less romantic to hit a prospective date with these questions before you have even gone out to dinner, but if you've been cautious during the pandemic, it's important to know if someone you are talking to shares the same values before you consider exposing yourself. So, when you share that bottle of wine, consider sharing that bottle of hand sanitizer. Allie, thank you for joining us today.
Allie Bell: You're welcome. It's very helpful advice and some things that I have been considering, and if I might add, I find that in dating now, more than ever, with COVID, it's so important to be honest and frank and brave to ask people, do you have COVID, and what they are, and while it may be uncomfortable, it's paramount to your own safety and your family's safety. So, it must be done.
Rosemary Cope: Exactly. Thank you all for listening. If you have a story suggestion, please use the "Contact Us" page on our website at www.vumc.org/health-wellness.