Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you're listening to the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast.
Dr. Lisa: Very cool atmospheric tune there by Dasia May called Will I Ever Be. I thought it was a nice combination of sort of wistful and hopeful in tone and topic because that is kind of our theme for today. We are talking about dating and not just any kind of dating, but a special kind of dating because there is a new sort of circumstance, a new set of both opportunities, and potential pitfalls for singles these days in the era of Coronavirus and dating during quarantine.
So, just in time for cuffing season 2020 we are going to be speaking about the new reality of dating. And I have to tell you too, the impetus to this whole topic came from a story written by an acquaintance of mine who's a writer named Michael Stahl. Michael's actually been on this program with me before and he recently wrote a couple of really great pieces about his experience of dating recently. One was published in narratively.com another one was in mel.com.
And his story actually got picked up by like the Guardian, it's been all over the place. So if you google Michael Stahl dating, you'll get the scoop. And I interviewed Michael to participate in this with us. And unfortunately, the audio file was corrupted, so we cannot include it. But here is the punch line, Michael, like so many people who are out there dating these days connected with someone online, and over a period of weeks established a relationship that felt very emotionally intimate over zoom, only to have it falter when they met in person. The dating coaches on my team have been hearing a similar story over and over again that the way that people are coming together and connecting particularly since there's so much online involvement can create really interesting new opportunities, but also some pretty major pitfalls that need to be navigated in a very kind of conscious and thoughtful way.
So to help us with this, I have invited my dear friend and colleague, Markie Keelan, who is also a licensed therapist, as well as a dating coach here on our team to give us the her inside perspective, and the things that she shared with Michael for his story.
Markie, I know that you contributed to Michael's piece about the strange reality that is dating these days. And I'm curious to know, from your perspective, as a dating coach, what kinds of things you've seen struggle your clients, struggling with? It's maybe a little different run of the mill, dating concerns?
Markie: Right. I mean, I think there's a few different factors involved in dating during the Coronavirus that has added extra layers of complexity to an already complex dating environment. One of the main changes that I've noticed are people highly investing into relationships pretty early on. And I spoke with Michael about this. But just to kind of share with your listeners, if you know, haven't already talked about this. This idea of connecting online through video chatting, feels very safe for multiple different reasons, right?
You're not going to contract a disease when you're facetiming or zooming in someone. But on the same time, the level of vulnerability that occurs on a video chat versus in person over coffee is different. So you might feel much more comfortable sitting in your house with a glass of wine talking about you know how, your struggles in life have come, you know full circle to successes, then you would you know, at the first meeting with someone at coffee, you might feel a little bit more hesitant to share things. And then the ease of meeting online and texting. We'll find out really quick.
Dr. Lisa: So you're saying that people if they're sitting in their living room talking to somebody’s face on a laptop, that they're actually sharing more, more personal things feeling less vulnerable than they would if they were like, you know, in a restaurant or something having a similar conversation, but people are less careful. Is that what you're saying? Right?
Markie: Well, I believe. I kind of— now that you say it out loud. There's two things is the more careful or less careful,
Dr. Lisa: Less careful..
Markie: Yeah, less powerful to share with them with their potential partner on zoom. Partially because of just the similarity of, you know, being at your living room with a glass of wine with a friend, right? Like you just feel more comfortable in your own surrounding whereas when you go to a new surrounding, you're already feeling a little bit anxious, but good anxiety. If you know you're excited to meet someone, and all those things come together and maybe slow you down from sharing every single thing about yourself or—
Dr. Lisa: Got it
Markie: —have kind of catching you in. Hey, this is a first meeting.
Dr. Lisa: You know, and just what else I thought of like. If you go to a restaurant, at a certain point, the waiter brings the check. And like if you don't pay it, like..
Markie: Oh my gosh, right!
Dr. Lisa: Hover, and I start refilling your water every 17 seconds, until you leave. Right? But like if you're sitting in your living room with a zoom call, you could seriously have like a four hour conversation that isn't like — Okay, everybody time to go, like by the server. I mean—
Dr. Lisa: —little logistical things. That's interesting. Yeah.
Markie: It's the structure that's different. Now, I say that there's this other piece too, that I want to bring up, because it's kind of counterintuitive to what I just said. And that is also the person that's judgmental — that dates around. And you know, no one's good enough. They're also going to be more likely to judge much quicker rather, the person that you know, sits back on the zoom call, and is talking in this trying to get information from them and doesn't have that investment. So they'll be much quicker to judge then if they're at that foreign restaurant. They're also feeling a little bit off kilter, because it's their first experience. And then there's also some normality. And, you know, I'm vulnerable, you're vulnerable and kind of reducing some of that judgment, because you might feel a little bit uneasy.
Dr. Lisa: At a restaurant, right?
Markie: Exactly. So I think it depends on what you're kind of bringing in already—
Dr. Lisa: Okay
Markie: —to the dating scene, like what was going on before coronavirus, I think is just kind of, you know, exploded a little bit now during coronavirus.
Dr. Lisa: So Markie, I think I'm hearing you say that, um, someone could actually literally have a checklist next to their laptop on the coffee table and be ticking things off on the list, but that's not actually in your head. And that would not happen in a restaurant.
Dr. Lisa: Like maybe, not quite that literally, but like that it feels like that more to people. There's a like, okay, let's talk about financial solvency, like that kind of conversation with the first online zoom date.
Markie: Yeah. Right! Exactly! Or it could be the second or third because they're happening, you know, two days apart. Versus logistically again, the lack of logistical planning that goes into planning a date in person versus date actually matters when it comes to connection because these conversations around financial planning happen on day three maybe. Right like oh, what do you know? How much money do you make? You know, what, those aren't great date questions in general right? But you know you might..
Dr. Lisa: Fell off the checklist, right?
Markie: Or reasonable to you know—have these three hour long dates, you know, three you know, in a row in one week, and then all of a sudden you're disclosing this information after knowing someone for one week or asking that of someone after one week.
Dr. Lisa: What is so hard right now because like if somebody texts you in the afternoon is like what are you doing like the answer for pretty much all of us is absolutely nothing would you like to hang out because I'm here in my house and that is almost like whereas normally it would be like yes, you can schedule an appointment with me five days from now that's going to require more advanced notice than it does right now. When…
Markie: Totally I'm so glad you bring that up because I actually think that is a topic to talk about really quickly that overly available. You're the people that you're texting that you're talking to — it's never necessarily like the best idea. But because of what you just said, like “What are you doing?” “Yeah, I'm at home alone not doing really anything.” Then you know one that creates that boundary of, “Oh yeah, you can you can access me at any time.”
And then all of a sudden we feel guilty if we don't respond right away because before that whole like, “Oh, there they left you on read,” narrative was actually quite rude. Right? Hey, I know that they could text me back. Well, now that's even more solidified they can text you back and so the expectation is now respond quickly and I think if possible to get that out of the way in the beginning would be really helpful for people to say you know, I do have all of my day kind of like open and free but I really value structure and so even though like I'm not doing necessarily anything work related or anything, you know, creatively related whatever it is that would structure you pre-coronavirus still have structure.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Markie: Don't be available 24/7 to someone that you're getting to know.
Dr. Lisa: That is such good advice, Markie. And also just like when you think of it in terms of like almost power dynamics, being overly available communicates a, I think, level of vulnerability — that people that you're just getting to know they probably don't need. Don't need access to that, like there's almost a power thing to be able to say, “I probably won't text you back immediately. Don't take it personally, I just have a lot going on to communicate that to someone who's getting to know you.” They'll be like, “Oh, she has a lot going on.”
Markie: Right! Yay. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Regardless, that is a good place to start communication from boundaried understandable seeing if they can also respect that boundary. But also that you feel that you can assert that boundary and good in the relationship.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Yes, that boundary is respected. That's right there. Yeah.
Markie: Well, I am again, I know people might do testing in relationships, but I always just say, you know, make sure the person knows what they're being tested on. You don't give pop quiz of like, “Oh, you know what, they keep texting me all day long. And they're so annoying. I'm going to move on to the next,” you know, actually verbalize. “Hey, you know, I noticed that we have been texting a lot. Is it okay, if we pull back a little bit, you know, I noticed myself getting really distracted from the projects I do have going on outside. And I really want to see where this relationship goes. And I just want to make sure you're comfortable with that.”
Dr. Lisa: Right. And to say that out loud. But gosh, I mean, what a fantastic piece of advice under any circumstances. I think for particular, for women a lot of times is to say very clearly and out loud. This is what I would prefer. And then to watch what someone does with that, because there can be a lot of information that comes from, you know, whether or not people listen to what you're saying, whether or not they respect the things that you're asking for. And if you could find that out sooner rather than later, that would be to your advantage in a relationship.
Markie: Yeah. I think that brings up there like someone who's communicating that boundary out loud to someone. It brings that also into your own awareness. So I think sometimes we think about boundaries being for the other person. Mm hmm. But it's also for us, in the sense that we're telling them what we need. But we're also able to say, oh, okay, if I do make a judgment on this, if I do notice that this person cannot uphold this boundary, I will feel more validated—to maybe make that a place of judgment for myself to say, you know what, I'm going to have to step away, or I'm going to have to talk about this again. Otherwise, when we don't say it, you feel somewhat uneasy around bringing it up later on down the road, or in general, if we get really upset, and we have an outburst? And they're like, “Whoa, what happened?” And then that's when some of that, you know, gaslighting can come in, like, “Oh, well, you know, I never did that, or I, you know, I never text you that much.” Well, you do, but maybe that person wasn't aware of it. Just communicating in general, I think is really helpful. But it's really important for the person saying and communicating that boundary, I think.
Dr. Lisa: I agree. I agree. And even more, so these days. And then on kind of along those lines, well, actually, no, let me let me get your take on something. So when this was kind of gearing up, you know, March, April, kind of moving into quarantine and the dating landscape really abruptly shifted. You know, changing from having the opportunity to meet someone, in person, have a cocktail potentially have a romantic encounter, at some point. It shifted from, you know, talking on the phone or skyping, or even texting to not having the opportunity as quickly for physical interactions. And the couple school of thought and one is, is that in this time of kind of increased anxiety, people are understandably maybe more motivated to get serious about finding their person and are coming into interactions with maybe a hope of commitment on their mind.
And think that is maybe something that has increased and also that in the early stage of dating a lot more like just talking about hopes and dreams and who I am and who you are and personality and values and life goals. And that is not being — the word obscured is coming to mind, I don't know if that's the right word or not — but by like sexual chemistry or drinking a little too much wine, you know, like you're really like face to face getting to know someone? And do you think that that shift has led to, you know, on the one hand, maybe relationships that start with a stronger foundation around friendship and have commonalities and common goals? Or do you think that that has led to, I say, problems, but like relationship experiences that counter intuitively have kind of arisen from not having had those in-person interactions in the beginning? I know that's a kind of meandering and unintentionally overly complicated question. But what do you want to know..
Markie: I think I understand kind of the root of this question, because I think I wrestle with it too. A bit. What are some of the benefits of connecting in this way? And what are some of the drawbacks, and what I am seeing from that first statement around, you know, developing that really strong friendship as a basis for a relationship. I think that this is really good for people that have done some of their introspective work, and are saying, “Okay, this is really what I am looking for, I'm connecting with this person, on a different level,” you know. Maybe I was too focused on that physical connection. And now I'm being able to, I'm almost forced to be able to prioritize this emotional connection, or intellectual connection. And that is helpful. I do think that physical presence matters in dating. And not being able to have that physical presence early on, I think can kind of rise two, or two drawbacks can arise from that. One is that that emotional connection can be somewhat edited. So again, a lot of these interactions are in settings that we can very much control. Our home.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Markie: You know, what we are presenting the camera angles. You know, that sounds silly. But really, you know, and a lot of this is also still through texting. And we know from texting, it's completely edited. You know, when we are in a conversation in real time, and an unknown location, we really get to see how someone is out and about in kind of our nature.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I was like random things that come up how they interact with the server, what happens if they get agitated when they can't find a parking spot? Like all this kind of stuff that in a very, like, controlled environment, like a zoom call? You don't? You don't get to see the full picture, I guess.
Markie: Right. Yeah. And we're all courting each other, right? So this idea of like, we always present our best selves, when we're starting to date someone, right? We're not going to tell them about all of like, our dirty laundry right up front. And so, you know, it's funny because you bring up a really good point of like, how they interact with the waiter, or like, how they deal with uncertainty or things kind of going amiss. You know, how do they manage that when it's not in, within their control to like, navigate or change. And so you get a lot of information about someone when you're in person with them, that you're missing when it's over zoom, or text. And so I think some of that missing information can lead to some security being built on some unsteady ground, if that makes sense.
Dr. Lisa: Yes, that there are inferences or assumptions being made about who somebody is based on those zoom conversations that might be different, if you weren't with them in person, right? You don't maybe have as much infor— even though maybe like, you have more information about the things they want to tell you about who they are that you don't have the opportunity to see who they are.
Markie: Yeah, absolutely. And like Lisa, you, you know, this from even working with client work, right, like a client talking about a hard situation they had earlier that week is one thing. But seeing a client during like, in the middle of that crisis, is it can be a different person. And so that's the exact thing of when we have so much insulation around how we arrived to the relationship. It's like, we're presenting our best self on steroids. And I would argue some of the most magical parts of a relationship are built off of our flaws, are built off of how does this person deal with the adversity in their life? How do they deal with the unknown? And falling in love for that person for those reasons of wow, you know what, even though they're not perfect, I really appreciate them. But, you know, of course, alluring perfection that can come from an edited version, of course, is also there, too.
Dr. Lisa: Got it. And so what I think I'm hearing you say is that there's, you know, potential, the potential for having a relationship that's established on more friendship, as opposed to sexual chemistry. But the dark side of that is running the risk of having a relationship that is based on an overly curated self image that leads you to believe that you know who someone is. And you don't actually. And so maybe developing an attachment or an idea about who this person you're dating is that is not fully based in reality. Is that an overly harsh way of saying it? Or?
Markie: No, I mean, I think that's pretty appropriate. And I also say that the inverse is true, too. You know, I have some clients that are more on the anxious side. And they're really worried about “delivering” — I’m using air quotes here — on that first date in person, you know, what we made all these connections, you know, over zoom calls, and am I going to live up to their expectation. Maybe I overplayed or overly confident in talking to them about all these vulnerable things, what if they see me and the connections not there. And of course, you know, like, that may be a possibility. But also I don't encourage people to align with that type of anxious thinking, you know, if you are going to be dating during this time, embrace all of it, you know, embrace the fact that you are going to get to know someone through more of a friendship lens first, and treat it like that, you know, treat it in the same fashion, as you're going to be vulnerable to an extent, you're going to hopefully meet in person at some point, and allow that to be your first in person interaction, you know, make it special. Don't put that pressure on it of, it needs to be exactly like, you know, the connection over zoom. It's not going to be, it's going to be different. It could be better, could be worse, but it could be better.
Dr. Lisa: It could be better. Yeah. But and also, like, I think to—my takeaway from hearing you talk is like to be reminding yourself that you are still getting to know that person. Even if you've been spending a lot of time talking with them is that until you do have the opportunity to be with them in real life. And you know, getting to know someone over time to maybe keep reserve your final judgment until you have all the information you need. And I, you know, I'm thinking right now. And I think, I don't know if this is true for many people dating, I hope it's not, but I'm thinking of two clients that I have talked to recently, who had this experience. They got to know guys through zoom and calls that seemed really nice. And they wanted to get to know better, and wound up having really, like, actually unpleasant experiences with them in person that surprised them. And like, let's not forget that, you know, there's safety issues still, when you're out there dating, particularly if you're not meeting at a restaurant, where do you meet? Do you go to somebody's house like and to be, and not to be overly, like cynical or darker being it but to be using good judgment and be cautious.
Dr. Lisa: And it’s not making assumptions about based on who you think you have come to learn someone is over zoom calls. Is that fair?
Markie: Yeah. I mean, absolutely no one, no one feels good about being kind of duped by someone, especially on a dating app. And having that interaction, validate some of what you're feeling. And I want to also say, you know, even if you do go on an in-person date, you know, there's the potential to you know, second third date realize they are a different person.
Dr. Lisa: I don't like you. [laughs]
Markie: Right, you know, this is an evolution of our relationship. And it's adding a new layer. That's the way I'm looking at it. It's like, you know, before you know what, for telephones were invented, everything was in person, then telephones were invented. And then you know, we got to call, you know, our crushes and our boyfriends and things like that, and then text and all of a sudden more communication. And now it's this other form. And so we've just added something new to dating, and so make that adaptation, but no one is going to change the landscape, you know. And so that connection that you have in person on a first date is going to be different than when it's a zoom first date. But it's also going to be different when you can meet in person. And so just mitigate your expectations, you know, understand and give grace to the other person too. You know, don't be overly harsh, but also, you know, it's a first in person date, you know, really give it its space that it deserves.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Great advice. And then lastly, before I let you go, I'm curious to know, from, you know, as you kind of scroll through your clients and people that you've talked to that have been dating, have you had any experiences with clients or even people that you know personally, where this has really worked out well for them. And they have been able to form new relationships that feel really positive, and it seemed to be enduring?
Markie: Yeah, you know what, I'm glad you asked that question, because I definitely have, I think that one of the things that this time period is bringing out for individuals in general, is the need to really know what you are comfortable with and what you're not comfortable with in relationships. And so all of a sudden, this kind of landscape that where a lot of people had to go on a first date to know who someone was. Now, this kind of more open access to dating either multiple people through zoom, or being more open to like, Hey, I don't do first meetings in person, I need to like do a zoom call, or I, you know, we can socially distance, whatever that is. Yeah, that is actually. think bringing about a lot of people finding others that are in the same value system as they are. You know. And I think that that is something that I've really seen come out of this that I enjoy as a dating coach, of just seeing my clients go through is, they're really being able to connect with people that are more like minded, because they're also aligning with their values, much more so now. So I think this at minimum has that positive effect for people.
Dr. Lisa: Markie, thank you so much for sharing that. I'm glad to leave things on a positive note. And thank you so much too for sharing all your really good advice and tips.
Markie: Great. Well! No, thank you so much for having me. And, you know, I hope to continue to discuss this topic with you more in the future.
Dr. Lisa: As things evolve. We'll see how it all goes. If you'd like to learn more about Markie and her practice, you can learn all about her on her site at growingself.com. And you can also cruise over to our blog at growingself.com and do a little search for Markie Keelan, or the search word “dating advice.” And you will see so much more from Markie. She's written a number of articles on the topic. And if you scroll back in this podcast feed, you'll also find more great dating advice from Markie as well as others on our team. And also if you would like to get all of the details about what it's really like to be dating these days, again, go to www.michaelstahlwrites.com or do a search for Michael Stahl to find his thoughtful, vulnerable, and oh-so-insightful writing, and commentary around dating these days at mel.com or Narratively.
So thank you guys for tuning in. And I'll be in touch again soon with another episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast.