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Finding love in a virtual world

Wed Feb 10, 2021 at 02:04 PM

In March 2020, when so many things closed down and people were urged to keep their distance from one another, those in the dating world had to find creative ways to keep meeting others and inventive ways to get to know each other. So many changes have come to the dating process--many of them for the better, said OU professor of sociology and The Love Doctor Terri Orbuch. To help those navigating the new world of online dating, Orbuch shares tips that can help make the connections even stronger. 

“In general, singles were feeling isolated and were feeling lonely in March and April. I think there was the idea that things would change over the summer. Many singles live alone and I think that created more loneliness and isolation,” said Orbuch. ”

Orbuch said while many people seemed to assume they wouldn’t date until things returned to normal, as time went by and things weren’t returning to normal they tried online dating, and many have found the dating world adapted and had new ways to connect. 

“The whole virtual dating situation, where it is almost completely virtual, has given singles the opportunity to slow the dating process down. As a researcher in relationships, I say that’s a good thing,” said Orbuch. “Regardless of how people were meeting, things (pre-pandemic) were happening really quickly.”

Preparing for Online Dating

Orbuch said it’s important that people pursuing a romantic relationship identify their values, recognize they are ready for a new relationship and know the qualities they are looking for in a partner. 

“If you know the qualities you need, not want, in a partner, you are significantly more likely to pick the right person and it is significantly more likely to last,” said Orbuch. 

In the past, Orbuch said, the dating apps have been used to facilitate meeting up, but now they are not only starting conversations, but allowing singles to dive deeper into important topics and get to know each other better before they ever meet. 

“You really want to ask them key questions now, questions that you might have asked further down the line,” said Orbuch. She said some of the predictors of a lasting relationship are similarities and core values. “However, I’m not suggesting that the conversations be like an interview. Ask things like ‘What did you do over the weekend?’ If the person responds that they bought a new television, computer and an iPhone, that might not align with your values of saving up so then the world opens up, you can travel again.”

Virtually Dating

Once the two people decide they want to spend more time together, Orbuch said even with social distancing, it’s possible to have virtual dates that are actually fun. She said she’s seen couples watch movies together, playing online games, participating in online cooking classes, taking virtual dance lessons and take virtual trips to museums and even far away places. 

“We know that when two people do something together where there is a joint outcome, they start talking more and are more comfortable. You start revealing more about you and your values and interests. It’s a step-by-step procedure for a happy, healthy relationship,” said Orbuch. 

Orbuch said when the weather was nicer, dates were outside, going for walks of even picnics. She said, even now in the colder weather, couples are coming up with unique ways to be together outside like having a bonfire and toasting marshmallows, snowshoeing or having dinner in igloos. 

“They are embracing outdoor activities and that’s good because that wasn’t happening as much in Michigan and the Midwest. They are learning to be creative and slowing the dating process down,” said Orbuch. 

A Lasting Trend

Orbuch said she believes virtual dating, especially for first dates, will continue even once things begin to return to normal after the pandemic. She said getting to know each other online first gives the couple the opportunity to figure out who they want to meet and where they want to invest time. 

“There is so much information from this that those in the dating world can gain. They can see if the person really has the qualities they need from a relationship before they start the face-to-face process,” said Orbuch. 

Tips to Starting Lasting Relationships

Orbuch has tips to help those doing online dating to find success. 

  • Look at your surroundings

Orbuch said a lot of people have clothes and dirty dishes in the background. 

“The first impression is important. It’s hard to undo a first impression,” Orbuch said. “I’m not talking about animals and kids. I’m talking about cleanliness and tidiness. That’s going to be a bias whatever you say.”

  • Wear nice clothes, no pajamas or sweats--and not just on top

Orbuch said sometimes people will forget they aren’t fully dressed and stand up, revealing mismatched clothes. 

“Look nice, do your hair, and brush your teeth,” said Orbuch.

  • Watch your body language

“I’ll hear singles say he grabbed his phone and started texting or he had this frown on his face,” said Orbuch. “Look in the mirror and talk to yourself and see what you look like. What are your eyebrows doing, are you looking at the person, those types of things.”

  • Have some fun questions ready

Orbuch said keep the conversations interesting with questions. She said they don’t have to be long. Ask questions like, what is your definition of success or what does a typical day look like for you, or if you won the lottery, what would you do with the money.

  • Don’t talk about your exes

  • Don’t reveal everything on the first virtual date. 

“You don’t have to vomit up who you are. That overwhelms people and they want to flee,” said Orbuch. She said to share one chapter of yourself per date. 

“It’s all about picking the best partner for you. I don’t think it’s just luck. I don’t think you should sit there and wait for people to come to you. Know yourself and identify what you need in a partner,” said Orbuch.