Making it Work: The Rise of Virtual Dating

by Anna Poulson

Susan Trombetti on how to keep relationships “thriving”

We’ve all met the extreme circumstances kind of dater. The type who says they won’t stop loving you until the day it snows in July. Well, for anyone who used the “until there’s a worldwide pandemic” one-liner…it might have come sooner than expected.

Relationship expert and Washington matchmaker Susan Trombetti is here to help with the coronavirus curveball that has been thrown at singles and couples alike. Her coveted advice has landed her national recognition on ABC, NBC, The Today Show, where she has discussed the ins and outs of successful romance. With conventional dating being one of the many aspects of everyday life reimagined in the Covid-era, there are many questions and conundrums that need to be addressed.

For individuals who have spent years decoding the best approach to romance, this complete reversal of dating norms may be daunting to navigate. Luckily, Trombetti supported virtual dates –well before the pandemic hit– as being a more effective method for first dates than in-person meetings. Whether it’s quarantined couples continuing to make the effort for a special date night or singles mastering the art of first Zoom dates, Trombetti has the tips and tools for this new era of dating.

Washington Life: Covid-19 has changed the way we communicate and spend time together. In what ways has dating changed most for singles? For couples?

Susan Trombetti: The dating landscape has been altered at least for the foreseeable future, and hopefully for the better in the long term. At the start of the decade, I predicted people were going to be having first dates that were virtual instead of coffee dates. Never did I imagine Covid-19 would cement virtual dates and make them even more popular. I think virtual dates are here to stay.

Previous to the quarantine, singles were more focused on appearance when it came to first impressions and dating criteria. Now, many seem to be connecting for the right reasons. Many relationships sparked and took off during quarantine. It’s like whoever you were dating when the music stopped suddenly made you see what you needed, even if that person didn’t seem like your “type”.

When it comes to couples, you can see already Covid babies (pregnancies), Covid breakups, and Covid makeups after all the quarantining together. Communication has really improved between many couples because it has been a necessity. Couples have fears and concerns and have had each other’s back.

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They have negotiated communal space, love, child care duties, and their relationship issues due to cramped quarters. Every couple needs improved communication and relationship skills, and more creativity to get through. We had that in spades during this time.

WL: Your clients range from individuals looking for love and those in relationships seeking answers regarding trust or opening up.

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How have your clients’ needs and concerns changed during Covid?

ST: Clients are looking to be safe during this time. The biggest thing that has changed is the priority to connect them with someone who is as safe and cautious as they are. That’s really important and part of the new screening protocol.

WL: We’ve all heard of the infamous Covid-19 break up in recent months. What are the best ways to keep your relationship thriving for those quarantine together?

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For those kept apart?

ST: Yes, the Covid-19 breakup is real. I think it mostly happens to people who could have been having problems to begin with and were suddenly thrown together, unable to have time apart to think it through, or people who weren’t meant to be together anyway and are now under the spotlight. Let’s face it, when you are going through a rough patch and tempers are high, being in cramped quarters only makes it worse. You really need time apart as a couple. There have also been breakups due to a difference between the couple in safety protocol. I have had new clients come to me looking for matchmaking and cited that as the reason for their breakup with their significant other.

Your relationship can also thrive during this time. You just have to remember to put in the time and address each other’s fears—which are part of the communication. The biggest things are to get off the couch, get out of the sweats, brush your teeth and hair, schedule date night, and get out of your funk. Cooking together is sexy and romantic. Pull out the candles for dinner. Learn new ways to date from movie nights to taking long walks together. It’s still possible to thrive.

WL: Are “summer flings” cancelled this summer? What are the best ways to meet new people in this virtual, socially distant environment?

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ST: Summer flings in the traditional sense are still going to be there. I just think it’s not going to be as much of that going on, and there might be more of a romantic textlationship and flirting-over-text type of thing. I think more people are trying to lock a relationship down right now which is similar to cuffing, but I don’t think that’s the intent.

The best way to meet people is through matchmaking and online dating. You can’t give up on dating. There are also lots of virtual things going on and you need to search the web for something that is appealing to you.

WL: Online platforms like Zoom have become the new norm for face-to-face conversation. Do you have any tips for a successful Zoom date?

ST: Yes, have great lighting and get ready like you would for a date. View YouTube videos on this first. Make sure the camera is at eye level. Wear colors that pop like navy, pink, and reds.

WL: How does virtual dating change the timeline of a budding relationship?

ST: Virtual dating can help a budding relationship because it adds a level of excitement and anticipation for when you meet in person. It can really help to spark a relationship if you master flirting over text.

WL: What does a “new normal” summer date look like?

ST: Aside from the virtual dates that are probably going to define the start, summer dates involve doing things outdoors that are less crowded than before. This is good for new relationships because you will get to know each other better. It’s more like a walk in the park, takeout food or patio dining, and maybe a bike ride. It could be a picnic or whatever, as long as there is room for social distancing.

WL: What are the biggest mistakes you see people making in virtual dating and how do you suggest avoiding these obstacles?

ST: Some of the biggest mistakes I see are not mastering the technology—which then takes over the date and makes you nervous. You have to practice to have it down, so that you can focus on your date. Also, you do need to have great lighting. Having a window behind you with bright sunlight is another common mistake. Lastly, they don’t dress nicely for the date. You have to look your best. Most people are getting this down the longer the pandemic goes on.

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WL: Have positive developments come out of dating in the coronavirus era that you hope people will bring into future relationships?

ST: There have definitely been positives. People are realizing what qualities are more important to a relationship, and people are having more success—whether online dating or in matchmaking. Relationships are sparking and igniting because there is more focus on them since people are lonelier than ever. Communication has improved. People are looking for the right qualities that sustain a relationship during difficult times instead of where you went to school and what you do for a living.

If you are interested in reading more on Trombetti’s dating and relationship advice, visit her blog. 

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