After almost a year of social distancing and self-quarantining, we all know the common problems plaguing the romantic relationship realm. For singles, connecting with potential partners is trickier than ever, and for those who are already in relationships, the lack of alone time can be suffocating. But this isn’t another one of those depressing articles about how everything sucks right now. Instead, it’s a “how-to-navigate-relationships-and-sex-life-during-a-pandemic” guide featuring sexual health and relationship experts who highlight silver linings and offer solutions to the intimacy issues many of us are facing lately.
Put Yourself Out There
Meeting strangers at a bar or friends of friends at a networking event just isn’t possible anymore, so putting yourself out there virtually is basically the only way to date. Sure, swiping through dating apps is one way to do it, but intimacy coach Dr. Kimberly Pendleton suggests getting experimental by asking friends, family members and peers to set you up with potential matches.
“Whether you’re alone or not, I would recommend infusing more ceremony or drama in your day-to-day,” she says. “It’s for you to feel like you get to have these experiments still and like everything isn’t still on hold.”
Taking It Slow Isn’t So Bad
Asking, “You wanna go back to my place?” at the end of your second date just isn’t a thing anymore. Instead, you’re sitting on Zoom with your date asking the deeper questions like, “Are you one of those people who likes pineapple on pizza or are you normal?”
Pendleton says the lack of hookup culture might actually bring us closer together, and create lasting relationships in the long run.
“I’m seeing that a lot of people are turning more toward connections that would’ve taken a little longer to make in the regular world because the pandemic is slowing down the process,” she says. “For at least one or two of my clients, it’s feeling a little easier to feel like, ‘Dazzle me with what you’re going to say here.’ It’s a little more slow-paced because you have to write back and forth.”
Think Twice Before Reacting
Taking emotions out on your partner is common in every relationship, according to licensed psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Michael Radkowsky, who practices in the District. But based on what he’s hearing from his clients, close quarters brought on by quarantining has exacerbated the issue. Thankfully, there’s a fairly simple solution to this.
“The big question is, ‘How do I want to handle myself in a way that I respect, even given the conditions are tough?’” he says. “You think carefully about how you want to act, and even if the other person is not behaving well, you remain calm. Remember that you love your partner, and work to be generous even if they’re sniping at you.”
Make Room for Alone Time
At the best of times, relationships are like taking a lifelong journey on a boat in a very small cabin with your partner. You’re both tripping over one another and baggage is everywhere, so you have to learn how to collaborate. Radkowsky loves using this metaphor, but now, he sees it’s become less figurative and more literal.
“We’re so isolated nowadays,” he says. “We rarely see friends and family, so our worlds feel even smaller because there’s no one to interact with other than your significant other. Spending time by yourself might seem like a small detail, but it adds up to the same problem where it’s hard to save space for ourselves. And so, we get on each other’s nerves.”
Prioritize Your Pleasure
Reba Corrine Thomas, CEO of Sexpert Consultants, says pleasuring yourself and getting in touch (no pun intended) with what feels good to you is the best way to navigate sex life during a socially distant era. And, “Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate!”
“People think I’m a crazy person because I’m always talking about masturbation,” she says. “Really get to know, what would it feel like for you to seduce you? How can you set the mood for yourself? What can you incorporate into your sexual routine?”
She adds, “When you do masturbate, take orgasm off the table as the goal. The goal is pleasure. When we’re only masturbating for an orgasm, it’s like a snack, whereas focusing on pleasure is like a full meal.”
Experiment with Socially Distant Sex
As someone who used to work at a nonprofit by day and “sling dildos by night,” Thomas loves all of the great app-controlled, Bluetooth sex toys that are on the market. She says playing around with tech is a great way to approach sex from a distance.
“Since we can’t touch, what other senses can we touch on that bring arousal? If we’re doing FaceTime, it might be fun to do mutual masturbation, or a cute little strip tease date. This pandemic is challenging us to be more creative.”
Get to Know Yourself
The thread that ties all of this intimacy advice together is taking time to get in touch with your emotions, wants, needs and desires to bring your best self into a relationship. As the age-old maxim goes, “You have to love yourself before you can love anybody else.”
“The number one thing you can do to make intimacy work better is to know yourself really well, so this time is revealing that more about ourselves,” Pendleton says. “That can ultimately mean that all [of our] relationships from here get to be more authentic.”
Thomas adds, “In this time of social distancing, it sucks because we can’t be with each other the way we want. But we can get in touch with what brings us real sensual pleasure. Once you start to explore this for yourself, you can bring this to your partner.”
Radkowsky points out that the pandemic isn’t going to last forever, so in the meantime, it’s our job to keep calm, behave in a way we can respect and strive to be the best person we can be in a relationship.
He notes, “If you’re going to strive to be loving, kind and resilient in a relationship, it will have a spillover effect into other areas of your life.”
For more on UNCOVERED, visit www.kimberlyrosependleton.com and follow @uncoverbykimberlyrosependleton on Instagram. For more on Sexpert Consultants, visit www.sexpertconsultants.com and follow on Instagram @sexpertconsultants. Learn more about Dr. Michael Radkowsky at www.michaelradkowsky.com.
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