In general, the early stages of dating can be difficult to navigate. Add in a pandemic and getting a relationship off the ground becomes even more complicated. The old rules of dating don’t seem to matter anymore, and it’s easy to want to put things on hold when there’s a lot of uncertainty. But take a step back, says psychotherapist Marcy Cole, PhD, and this can also be a time of opportunity for people wanting love.
Cole has coached couples for more than twenty years, and she helps people navigate through emotional blocks by helping to flip old narratives that spin in our heads. She says that now, maybe more than ever, people are seeking companionship. Although a pandemic introduces a new set of challenges, Cole ultimately sees dating as a process of reframing past scripts and reaffirming our worth. Here, she explains what it takes to find love and the different scenarios that people might be facing right now—with guidance on how to move forward for anyone at any stage of the dating process.
The Dating Advantage during COVID
Turbulent times are often an equalizer. The static of life quiets, the frenetic pace slows down, and the trivial and mundane become obvious. Greater awareness surfaces in times of silence and surrender, becoming more visceral and accessible. Rather than sinking you into a vapid abyss of isolation and hopelessness, waves of loneliness and longing can serve as an impetus, revealing more about who you are and your deepest desires.
During this time of uncertainty, countless single men and women are experiencing an increase in acute loneliness. Many express worry, doubt, and fear that they’ll never find someone. But the truth is that the potential for connectivity does not have to decrease during challenging times. The potential to find love and connection can increase, not in spite of what is going on in the world right now but because of it.
The ideas shared here are for those hopeless and hopeful hearts seeking romantic love. May the hopeless gain greater optimism and the hopeful receive confirmation that wonderful things await you. Dating is happening and can happen for you, too.
At our core, everyone wants to love and be loved. Romantic love is where intimate partnership is born, along with the hope that it grows and thrives. These dating tips integrate what I call interpersonal IQ, which I’ve written about before for committed relationships. Here, I’ve identified perceptional blocks when it comes to dating, as well as how to pivot those blocks to open the portals to love.
Are you ready to turn this time of hardship into a dating advantage?
Have you struggled with how to take action and stay true to your heart’s vision and desire?
During this period of increased solitude, it’s important that before you venture out into the world of dating, you have turned within to inquire, explore, and connect more deeply with your authentic self. You have discovered, dissolved, and released former misguided assumptions, projections, patterns, and hidden roadblocks that hijacked and sabotaged your love life. You now know more about who you are and your innate worth, and you have named and claimed what and whom you are seeking.
By tuning in to your heart’s desires, you have opened the portal for the possibility of your true love to find you. Now the fun begins, as you are now ready to interact on the interpersonal field, with the intention to find your person. Any prior resignation is replaced with hopeful anticipation.
How do you commit to your intention of finding the love of your life? You take action. How do you stay true to what your heart truly desires? You assess your potential partner prospects, by keeping your vision of what your heart wants in focus and at the forefront of your attention.
Perceptional Blocks, Pivots, and Portals to Love
There are factors that can hold you back or propel you forward on the path to finding a love that lasts. This section is divided into categories related to the dating experience. For those blocks that resonate, direct your attention on the perceptual pivot recommendations. Once you do, very green pastures on the road to love await you.
1: Deliberate Action on the Dating Field
Perceptual Block: “Dating is so intimidating and overwhelming. Where do I even start?”
Perceptual Pivot: Your person could be anywhere (at work, in cyberspace, on a matchmaking service, at a singles event, on a blind date, in an elevator, etc.) Keep all doors open for them to walk through.
Perceptual Block: “I feel like a loser asking people to look for possible dates for me.”
Perceptual Pivot: Quite the contrary. One interpretive lens says that you are desperate, can’t be alone, and need help finding someone to rock you to sleep. The other perspective conveys clarity, confidence, and enthusiasm that you are ready and available.
Perceptual Block: “I’m not an ‘online’ person and am spooked by stories of people misrepresenting themselves.”
Perceptual Pivot: Consider joining the digital age, where thousands of daily matches are made, and the next one could be yours. Be willing to be transparent about your desires and observant about what people choose to share about theirs.
Perceptual Block: “I don’t have time to date! It sucks the life out of my life!”
Perceptual Pivot: Depending on your perspective, it could be a burden or blessing. If it’s important to you, make the time. Staying in balance, along with an optimistic mindset, will fend off feelings of dating futility or fatigue.
2: Connecting during COVID
Perceptual Block: “It’s as if we’re suspended and in limbo. It feels impossible to date during this crazy time.”
Perceptual Pivot: You do not have to keep your heart on hold. It could be the perfect time. Cupid’s arrow has a place, mind, and time of its own. Imagine the slow and steady pace as the new sexy. Our modern world of dating life has been frenetic and fickle. Social distancing, with fewer external distractions, may offer opportune time for successful discernment. Love is possible anywhere, anytime. The “when” remains a mystery. Don’t worry or waste mental energy on the “if” or the “how.” Just stay open to the possibilities.
Perceptual Block: “So many people are shut down and stressed. I can’t imagine meeting someone under these circumstances.”
Perceptual Pivot: You can learn a lot about people from how they perceive and react to turbulent times. Seek a partner who has a positive mental attitude and shows the capacity to cope constructively, with you, through life’s inevitable twists and turns.
Perceptual Block: “How can I possibly be romantic during COVID? Along with the health risks, there’s not much to do in a lockdown.”
Perceptual Pivot: Focus on what you can do (video chats, virtual dinners, safe outdoor adventures, twenty-one questions get-to-you-know-you text banter). Romance and the possibility of love are ever present, even in a pandemic. Stay curious, get creative, have patience, express from your heart—and if it feels right, embrace it.
Perceptual Block: “How can I find love through so much uncertainty in the world?”
Perceptual Pivot: There is always a degree of unpredictability in life. You don’t have to hold the potential of love hostage until everything seems calm or clear. In spite of inevitable periodic turbulence, true love stays steady.
3: Reevaluating Dating Requirements
Perceptual Block: “I’m looking for someone younger.”
Perceptual Pivot: Having rigid age prerequisites can keep you from the one who is perfect for you. There can be powerful appeal, palpable chemistry, and a joyful ride with someone whose energy feels ageless and whose values and visions are aligned with yours.
Perceptual Block: “My grandmother always told me it’s just as easy falling in love with a rich person as a poor one.”
Perceptual Pivot: Financial health and alignment are important to share in a healthy relationship. They breed stability, trust, and pleasure. Consider looking for someone who is financially responsible, who’s stable and thriving versus wealthy. Keep your eyes on the real long-term prize: their heart, rather than their bank account.
Perceptual Block: “A friend wants to set me up with someone who lives five states way.”
Perceptual Pivot: Love is everywhere. Proximity is convenient, but setting geographical boundaries can hinder finding the one just right for you.
Perceptual Block: “They’re religious and I’m not. How will we relate to each other?”
Perceptual Pivot: Inquire before making assumptions. With mutual respect, acceptance, and flexibility, there are many ways spiritual compatibility can be found and nurtured.
Perceptual Block: “I’m not dating anyone who is separated or divorced.”
Perceptual Pivot: Rather than project a narrative and assign meaning, pay attention to who the person is in front of you in real time. Are they fully over their former relationship? Listen to what they’ve experienced and learned from that has helped make them who they are today.
Perceptual Block: “I’m afraid that anyone over forty who’s never married could be commitment-phobic with intimacy issues.”
Perceptual Pivot: Marriage is a social construct. It can be a beautiful ride, but it’s not for everyone. Be careful not to assign idealized value to the concept of marriage or devalue someone who has never chosen to take that path. See into the person rather than judging their marital history. If they have had intimacy issues in the past, discuss if and how things may be different for them now.
Perceptual Block: “I don’t want to be with anyone who has kids or pets.”
Perceptual Pivot: Remain true to the preferences that work best for you while staying open to reconsider fixed prerequisites. Animals or children do not have to get in the way of the love, passion, and happiness you can share with a life partner. You may be surprised because they may make the ride even sweeter.
4: Up-Leveling Your Dating Requirements
Perceptual Block: “I’m not that attracted to them, but they’re so sweet. Maybe that’s good enough.”
Perceptual Pivot: Kindness is key and should be included as a foundational characteristic in a wonderful partner. It’s also wise to keep the physical-attribute checklist flexible. When there is emotional connection, physical attraction can grow. That said, physical chemistry is what separates friends from lovers. If it’s just not there for you, considering pivoting into platonic mode. Great friendships can go the distance and last forever, too.
Perceptual Block: “They talk about their ex a lot and seem afraid of getting hurt and apprehensive about getting close.”
Perceptual Pivot: Part of vetting potential right matches for you is determining who is at peace with their past. If they are not, stay true to your course and have the courage and faith to let go. You can always keep an open door in the event you are both in a place someday to be fully present to discover what is possible.
Perceptual Block: “They don’t want either of us to stay in touch with our exes. I like how into me they are, but I’m spooked, too.”
Perceptual Pivot: Beware of confusing possessiveness with passion. They may be suspicious and feel jealous with valid reason. Otherwise, it may be old unfinished business. Everyone on the dating front has had a past. Imposing controlling dictates can smother rather than strengthen the potential for a new love to blossom.
Perceptual Block: “I’m tired of the fast uptakes, and then they’re just gone. What am I doing wrong?”
Perceptual Pivot: Remember your end goal is to connect, not chase. If they can’t stay in the early dating phase room with you, you can’t share a home.
Perceptual Block: “I just want someone to take me out, have a good time, and make me feel pampered.”
Perceptual Pivot: More often, we get what we expect. If you are looking for long-term love, you can absolutely enjoy the ride while also paying attention to: Do they seem comfortable in their own skin? How do they treat the staff at a restaurant? Are they forthcoming about themselves with you? Do they ask questions about you with sincere interest and curiosity? Are they a good listener? Are they able to relax and laugh with you? Are they generous in the way they treat you?
Perceptual Block: “They send mixed messages and are not that attentive. I really like them, though, and hope they’ll come around.”
Perceptual Pivot: Potential is often just potential; therein lies the difference between dateable and mateable. Remain loyal to falling in love with your relationship rather than idealizing a person. Sweet talk may sound sweet and feel seductive in the moment, but without consistent action, it turns stale. Continuity is what sustains connectivity. A person who meets your criteria for long-lasting love will show you, through consistent words and actions, that they are available and interested in you.
5: Trusting Yourself
Perceptual Block: “Maybe I want too much.”
Perceptual Pivot: Distinguish the difference between perfectionistic expectations and valid discernment about whom you feel most compatible with and drawn to.
Perceptual Block: “They’re not the typical person I go for. I’m worried about what some people in my life will think.”
Perceptual Pivot: Others are not the one you will be going to bed and waking up with. Stay self-directed versus other-directed. If it feels right, explore it and enjoy it.
Perceptual Block: “How can I trust myself when I’ve gotten it wrong so many times?”
Perceptual Pivot: Notice your physical sensations, your thoughts, and how your heart feels. When interacting with potential partners, listen to what they have to say, watch what they do, feel what you feel in their presence, and tune in to your intuition. Then choose to trust it.
Perceptual Block: “What if I don’t like anyone?”
Perceptual Pivot: Turn your worry into wonder. Perhaps there’s a reason to explore within you. Or perhaps you just haven’t met the one yet. Trust that you will know when you know.
Perceptual Block: “They’re coming on super strong. It’s very seductive but jarring, too.”
Perceptual Pivot: Time will tell if this is a patterned fast uptake and immature chase or a passionate connection with staying power. Tune in to and trust how it feels.
Perceptual Block: “I’m afraid I’ll settle again.”
Perceptual Pivot: Make a commitment to yourself that that’s no longer an option. In these quieter, stiller times, there is opportunity for heightened awareness. Contemplate where you have settled in the past. In the present time, focus on your intention on attracting the trifecta of forever: friendship, passion, and partnership.
Perceptual Block: “I always seem to want things to go faster or slower.”
Perceptual Pivot: Pay attention to the hares (the quick deep-divers) or the slow-motion turtles. Both may be communicating something other than being super available. The hares are often driven by codependent impulsivity with an insatiable need to be filled up by a partner; the turtles may still be burdened with insecurity and can be avoiding intimacy for fear of being hurt again. Trust that when it’s the right time, with the right person, you’ll delight in finding the marvelous middle ground.
6: Staying True to You
Perceptual Block: “It’s hard to be myself on a date because I want them to like me.”
Perceptual Pivot: Redirect your attention to the truth and beauty of who you are. Bid farewell to misguided insecurities and ruminations. When you are with the right person, worry about rejection will naturally be replaced with real and visceral feelings of closeness.
Perceptual Block: “Sometimes they’re intimidated by me. If I share too much, I’m afraid I’ll be too much.”
Perceptual Pivot: Show them all of who you are. If they can’t handle it, they’ll opt out. Show them the door. The right one will desire, delight, and celebrate all of you.
7: Putting the Past to Pasture
Perceptual Block: “I’ve wasted so much time in the past.”
Perceptual Pivot: Regretting the woulda, coulda, and shoulda of the past blocks the flow of your today and tomorrow. That was then, to learn from. This is now, for you to live and love in.
Perceptual Block: “They’ve talked only about their ex this whole time.”
Perceptual Pivot: Sharing past relationship history has its place in the early dating getting-to-know you phase. However, when there’s too much, too fast, it can feel like the opposite of an aphrodisiac. To keep your interest and momentum flowing, you deserve their focus to be on you.
Perceptual Block: “I sometimes string it along because I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Perceptual Pivot: We don’t do anyone any favors by not being real with them. What is true and good for you is ultimately true and good for them—and true in reverse.
Perceptual Block: “I’ve been on a lot of dates and I’m feeling a sense of resignation and detachment from even caring anymore.”
Perceptual Pivot: We’re often just a moment away from something new and wonderful. If you view the fact that it hasn’t happened yet as a failure, then you may go numb and feel weary. If you remember that you are on a journey to find your love, your impatience turns into resilience, fueled by faith in that vision.
Perceptual Block: “I seem to attract people who need and rely on me too much.”
Perceptual Pivot: Along with true intimacy comes mutual reliance. That’s different from looking for someone to fix, heal, or complete you.
8: Lighten Up and Enjoy
Perceptual Block: “I am so ready and feel anxious and under pressure on every date.”
Perceptual Pivot: Each date is an encounter, not an engagement. You are simply meeting another person you’ve never met before in this vast universe. Embrace your readiness, while showing up and sharing, with light-hearted candor, “This is who I am, and this is what I’m looking for. Who are you and what do you want in your life now?” You never know where this can lead: a momentary meeting, a budding friendship, or perhaps with the love you’ve been waiting for.
Perceptual Block: “Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time.”
Perpetual Pivot: Nothing is for naught on the road to finding love. Acknowledge everyone who crosses your path as gifting you a significant message. Receive and appreciate the reflective value in each contact. Every experience, whether it’s a text, a brief call, or a short dating sprint, brings you closer to clarity.
Perceptual Block: “I’ve been dating for a long time. Maybe I’m just fooling myself.”
Perceptual Pivot: Consider changing your mindset from if you will meet someone special to when you will. This transforms fear into faith and resignation into recharge, and it propels you into the field of possibility.
Perceptual Block: “Dating feels like a constant roller coaster from a few possibilities to disappearing deafening silence.”
Perceptual Pivot: Being ghosted means the person disappeared. Believe them and move on with the sobering reminder that dating is not there to make a quick deal. It’s to collect data to bring you one step closer to the end goal of finding your forever love.
Perceptual Block: “I feel like life is on hold until I find someone.”
Perceptual Pivot: Your life can be extraordinary with or without a current partner. Keep the desire alive while letting go of any attachment holding you back from living and enjoying life in each moment. When he or she comes, they are there to enhance your happiness, not define it.
Perceptual Block: “I’ve been single for years. I’ve done the self-development work and finally know what I’m worth. I’m clear on what I want but am still sleeping alone.”
Perceptual Pivot: Now that you feel good about yourself, venture out, vet, trust, and wait for the stars to line up for your cosmic match to arrive. Remember that they are looking for you, too. Until your hearts meet, keep your magnetic love vibe high and enjoy the journey.
Calling forth an intimate evolutionary partnership is what conscious coupling is all about. The more open, active, authentic, and discerning you are about venturing out on opportunities to meet the right partner for you, the sooner you will find them.
I hope these IPIQ perceptual pivot suggestions plant seeds of romantic hope within your heart and good fortune this holiday season, continuing into a new year of bright and passionate possibilities. May it be healthy, happy, and love-filled.
Marcy Cole, PhD, is a Los Angeles–based holistic psychotherapist who works with adults, couples, adolescent children, and families live in LA and virtually across the globe. She is the wellness educator at the John Thomas Dye School in Bel Air, providing support to students, faculty, and parents. Cole also produces life-enrichment events through the women’s group community platform she founded in 2004, First Tuesday Global. Its mission is to build a worldwide community of women dedicated to social connectivity, personal growth, professional development, and social justice.