Back in April, about 3 weeks into stay-at-home quarantine and lockdown orders, we began discovering, uncovering, and rediscovering ways to connect, date, and be intimate while also social distancing. We may have discovered that online partnered sex now had a lot less stigma attached, and that we were able to explore our sexual fantasies and desires from the comfort of our own homes, with new partners we’d met online without the pressure of meeting in real life, just yet.
Quarantine gave us the opportunity to rediscover our connection to our own sexuality (read: masturbation) as a path to our self-care. Many of us had more time to explore and deep dive into the things that we had lost during our busy lives, like enjoying people for who they were, not what we hope they would become. We possibly tried to uncover what it truly means to be sexual, intimate, and with another person, without really having the ability to “take it to the next level.” And, if we wanted to, it would have to wait. We worked at relearning the art of staying present and not having any expectations.
But now, we are four months into stay-at-home. COVID shows no signs of slowing down, but rather is increasing across the country, and with restrictions coming back firmer than before. People are feeling stuck and antsy and simultaneously beginning to feel lost, sometimes even hopeless. Struggling and wanting connection, we need some other tools to hold us safely but realistically, as we shelter-in-place.
Meeting up and (safely) finding an intimacy buddy is a small suggestion for those who are struggling with loneliness and isolation.
Long-term involuntary loneliness and isolation can be detrimental to one’s emotional and physical health. If you are happy with online dating, then feel free to continue, but many are seeking connection and finding online connections falling short. Have you met someone online that you trust? Maybe you have an old flame or good buddy who is also sheltering alone? If so, one idea is to shelter safely together. Maybe meet up a couple times a month, or more if you are sure all parties are being as safe as possible.
The idea is to find an intimacy buddy, or as the Washington Post called it, the support bubble. Meeting up and (safely) finding an intimacy buddy is a small suggestion for those who are struggling with loneliness and isolation. If we can safely introduce a new partner or buddy into our bubble, this can help stave off some of the long-lasting psychological effects of extended isolation.
Please note that this is different from feeling pressure around meeting up. I have heard that there is a lot of that going around on dating sites. If you are comfortable staying at home, and not feeling the need to bring anyone else into your bubble, then you most certainly should not. Do not to fall prey to peer pressure around meeting up.
Here are some tips to follow with non-bubble people, so you can keep your bubble safe:
1. Always practice social distancing while being social with someone outside your bubble, especially in the beginning.
2. Always wear masks when within six feet of each other.
3. Meet in outdoor spaces as much possible. This obviously depends on the weather, because you can socially distance better outside. Think parks, beaches, back yards, porches, and open spaces.
4. If you must meet inside, do so for short periods of time only. Maintain six feet distance as much as possible. Wear your mask. Wash and sanitize your hands frequently. Don’t touch your face if you haven’t just washed your hands.
5. Don’t use small spaces where air can stagnate— small rooms, cars—if you must do so for very short term.
6. Use separate bathrooms and bedrooms, bed sheets, towels, dishes, drinking glasses, utensils.
7. Clean and sanitize kitchen, bathroom surfaces. Common areas, door knobs, sinks, faucets, toilet seats.
8. “If you don’t talk or cough while hugging, the risk should be very low.”
9. This could be true of holding hands, or walking arm in arm. Do it side by side, not face-to-face, and you wear a mask. Wash your hands before touching your face.
10. Washing or changing clothes if they have come in contact with another mask, face or clothing.
And, for the people in your bubble:
1. Discuss what safety practices you are using with others, where you’ve been, and who you may have been exposed to. Clarify who else you are buddying with and what their practices are.
2. Discuss and let potential partners know if you are having any symptoms or someone you have been near is experiencing any symptoms.
3. Excluding the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems and their immediate family members, is a good idea.
4. Remember that support bubbles must be exclusive. Trust and the honor system is key here!
This piece was originally published on Medium.