What Coronavirus Means for Your Love Life
What a week…
This crisis is impacting people all over the world to varying degrees. And with how rapidly it is evolving, I have wanted to hold off on wading in with my opinions until I really felt I had something to say.
There is a silver lining I talk about in today’s special message…
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Well, when I said at the beginning of the year that we were going to be covering different subject matter and expanding our vision this year, I have to admit to you it didn’t include talking to people about what they should do with their love lives during a global pandemic. But here we are.
I have been thinking recently, even prior to this whole crisis, about modern dating in general, and some of the issues with it that have been spoken about at length by many different people. But one of the issues with modern romance is the interruption of story.
Any romance, any relationship, requires this narrative that unfolds between two people. And, in the way that we date right now, or the way that we perhaps were dating four weeks ago, that narrative would be continuously interrupted. People would get back from a date and they’d be opening an app to five more matches that they could start talking to. They might be seeing someone casually whilst sleeping with another person. There’s all these ways that it would almost be difficult to get connected to someone because we might be entertaining different options, or speaking to different people, or simply having the FOMO of the buffet of choice in front of us.
And I would liken that to trying to watch five movies at the same time. Imagine you had five screens in front of you, all showing movies, and you finish by saying, “Well, I didn’t really feel connected to any of them.” But of course you didn’t, because it doesn’t matter how great any one of those movies were, it would be impossible to really get into one of those movies while you’re trying to watch four more.
And I think that sort of describes modern dating. So many of the relationships that never come to pass, never happen, not because someone’s not good enough, but because someone’s not actually invested enough in the movie they’re watching. There’s no mindful dating that allows the story to breathe and to develop and to evolve.
A member of my team recently told me that her friend was going to see someone for kind of a casual weekend. When this thing hit was when they were supposed to see each other. And all of a sudden, they decided it wasn’t best that they saw each other. But they started talking and texting, and she actually said to this person on my team, “What was going to be a casual fling for a weekend might actually end up being a real relationship because of this virus.” And I thought, there’s some insight there into what might happen for a lot of people through this, which is that they’re actually going to get more connected to people that they can spend time with and talk to. Perhaps not spend time with physically, but spend time with emotionally.
When we see someone, we either feel pressure from them to be physically intimate, or we ourselves are putting pressure on the situation for it to be physically intimate, either because we’re just horny, or because we’re just very attracted to that person, or because we’re looking for some kind of connection through intimacy and through affection. The irony is that that intimacy can then become a kind of surrogate for real connection. We don’t necessarily really connect with the person, but we have this physical intimacy that’s posing as real emotional intimacy. It’s like a fast food version of connection, which isn’t really nutritional, but happens in the absence of us getting to know someone, and sometimes even can get in the way of us getting to know someone.
I’m not someone who’s ever had a problem with people getting sexual quickly. I don’t mind that. But the problem that does happen for a lot of people is that they don’t realize the connection they’re building isn’t a real one. What we have time and space for now is that we might meet someone and the only option, for many of us right now in quarantine, is to pick up the phone to them.
If you met someone on an app right now… I mean, I had a woman on my Fast Track members call, just now, who had met someone online. He said, “Do you want to get together this weekend?” And actually, this is interesting, because she said, “Well, I don’t think that’s a good idea because of what’s going on, but maybe we can have, like, an online date.” And he said no because he didn’t really care about what was going on and he wanted to live his life – which, by the way, that’s kind of something that some of you will face right now, at which point you kind of just have to say, “Well, that’s not my standard.” And perhaps, depending on what your views are, “I don’t want someone who is ignorant to what’s happening, or is selfish and not watching out for other people in the way they live their lives. That’s not my standard. So this is already a red flag with this person.” You have to decide that for yourself.
But she decided it was something she didn’t want to do, offered an online date, and he didn’t go for it. But there are many people who will, because they’ll have the same belief as you, that, “I don’t want to be out and about meeting strangers right now, or potentially being out and about and infecting other people if I’m infected.” So now what happens, instead, is an online date, is a phone call, is a text exchange. And I would argue that those text exchanges we have with people right now should graduate to phone calls, because that’s where your real power is right now, is on the phone. Your voice is your leverage, your personality is going to come across in your voice. So we should be on the phone right now, or on FaceTime, graduating to these more intimate and connected forms of communication.
But, if dating is a story between two people, I actually think that, from an optimistic standpoint, it’s an interesting world right now, where the story might actually have a shot at evolving in an organic way, where it’s not rushed by physical intimacy, and it’s also not got the strain of the FOMO that happens when people think that they could be out dating five other people, or three other people, or this person over here. They’re not really thinking that, because they know they can’t. So I think what might happen is people might actually get more mindful about the person they’re speaking to. It’s a chance to really evolve the story.
And I would say to all of you out there right now, whatever your situation is right now, use this as an opportunity to actually evolve your story with someone. There’s a lot of people out there right now complaining that, like, “Oh god, I can’t, how do I meet anyone now that this is happening?” And I always think it’s a bit disingenuous because I know that so many people that I coach every month are not meeting people on an average month. They’re relying on social media or dating apps to meet people in general anyway. So for the ways that so many people are meeting people right now, those haven’t been taken away. That remains the same.
I’ve started entire relationships from a long-distance perspective over the years, in normal times, where they all started with a message online, and then a phone call, and then another phone call, and then you started having this Skype relationship where you’re talking to someone every night on Skype for hours on end. Some of the long-term relationships of my life began with weeks and weeks and, in one case, even months, of talking in that manner before getting to a relationship.
Some of you have had the same experience. We can still connect and we must connect with people, whether it’s in a romantic setting, or whether it’s with our friends and family and colleagues, and so on. We must still seek connection during this time because that connection is what is going to allow us to maintain our lives as we know them. We might be confined to our houses, many of us, right now, but that doesn’t mean that we have to confine or limit the emotional connection that we form with other human beings.
If you’re single right now, you still have the potential to form connections.
If you’re dating someone right now but you can’t see them at present, you can still have dates. Have a movie date, pour a glass of wine for both of you, like pour a glass of wine for you, him for him, wherever he is. Pick a movie together. Get like, okay, get sofa-dressed up, right – you don’t have to like get dressed to the nines – but make yourself look pretty, feel good, and then sit on the sofa and point your FaceTime at yourself and he can point his phone at himself, and watch a movie together. Have a date. Like actually book it as a date. Don’t make it just like some, “Well, let’s just, I’ll call you at some point tomorrow.” No. “How about tomorrow night we have a date?” And have a real date with that person. Imagine the bonding that happens from dating someone during this period. That can still be this incredible thing. It’s like you’re going through war time together. You are going to come out of this more bonded. So there’s no reason that something has to fall apart simply because this is happening right now.
For those of you that are in a relationship right now, and some of you will have found yourself thrust into a relationship that is far more down the line than it would have been because you’re immediately now living with each other, whereas you wouldn’t have done that for a while yet. All of a sudden, you’re like a married couple under one roof. The story is going to evolve there too, and you can evolve that story. You can cook meals together, you can create a schedule together. I think one of the most fun, beautiful things you could do with someone is say, “Look, what do we want to achieve over this time? You and I are now living together. Like we’re now going through this thing together. What do we want to achieve during this time? What do you want to achieve? What do I want to achieve? What are the habits we want to make over the next few days and weeks that are really going to allow us to stay strong during this time, stay fit, stay healthy, progress, do what we need to do to survive? What are the things that we need to do?” And make a schedule together. That way, you get to grow together.
There’s all sorts of ways to evolve your story, wherever you are right now. And by the way, if you’re alone right now and you don’t have anyone that you’re talking to, bear this in mind: You may, right now, feel a real sense of sadness that you’re looking at other people who are going through this with somebody else. But you also have to remember that a lot of those relationships that are going to happen during this time are not going to work. There’s going to be some relationships that happen during this time that would never have happened without this, and that’ll be a good thing. But there’ll also be tons of relationships that happen during this time that shouldn’t happen, that two people are going to get together because they’re terrified of going through this alone, and then they’re going to find their relationship is broken at the end of this because it never should have been in the first place, and they’re not right for each other. And when they get back to their normal selves, they won’t last.
Some people are moving back in with their exes. A lot of people are doing that, moving back in with their exes, or some toxic fling that they had, someone they shouldn’t be back together with. but they have decided to almost make a pact with that person, that they’re going to go through this together. That’s fine too. But don’t compare yourself to that, like they’ve found their love, they’ve found something. They haven’t. There’s a short game being played there.
What we’ve been talking about over the years, and this is a long game. Relationships are a long game. And just because someone has a different setup to you right now, it doesn’t mean that you’re lacking. It doesn’t mean that you’re in a disadvantaged position. And it certainly doesn’t mean at the end of this that what they’ve done during this time is going to count for anything at the end of it. Because for so many of those different people, it’s a false sense of progression, engineered by an extreme scenario.
If, by the way, you find yourself one of those people who is trying to decide, “Do I now move back in with my ex, or have my ex move in with me? Do I get back with that casual fling and just sort of shack up for the next few months while this is all going on because I’m afraid, I’m alone, I don’t want to go through this on my own?” I don’t want you to, A, over-judge yourself for that, if you end up doing it. You’ll get no judgment from me, or should get no judgment from anyone else. These are not normal times. I know that people will be doing abnormal things in order to get through these times. I only ask that you’re self-aware about it, that you don’t go into something with the hope that it’s going to turn into something more afterwards, because if it hasn’t already, naturally, in normal times, then there’s no guarantee that it will now. That you take with a pinch of salt the closeness that you get with that person now during this time, because that progression in the relationship will not be a natural one. It will be an unnatural speed and bonding that comes from going through this extremely difficult time together that will naturally bond you, but once you go back to your normal life, you may find that, all of a sudden, what was wrong before the crisis is still wrong after the crisis, even if you now have a stronger bond because of going through the crisis together. But you also have to be honest with yourself that if someone was incredibly toxic, or even abusive, that it’s inevitably better to accept the pain of being on your own during this time than the pain of being with that person during this time.
But I want to remind those of you who don’t have that option that you are not the poorer for not having that option. That your own journey right now through this is one that will give you a tremendous strength and a tremendous set of skills and resources that you can draw on, that you’ll take into the rest of your life, as a result.
As my friend, Martin Snow, my boxing trainer, said, “They can take away our resources, but they cannot take away our resourcefulness.” And you, if you are on your own, your resourcefulness will flourish during this time.
But, I also want to bring in the wisdom of my friend, Esther Perel, here, who makes the distinction between self-dependence and self-love. Just because you’re on your own, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be reaching out to other people, and forming and nurturing extremely important relationships during this time because you will need them. Esther talks about how someone, running a bath for themselves, cooking themselves a nice dinner, lighting a candle and eating dinner on their own, a lot of people will look at that as like, “That’s me loving me.” And she says, “No, that’s self-dependence. That’s knowing that you can count on yourself, a form of self-reliance. That’s not the same as self-love.” Self-love is the ability to perceive ourselves with an acceptance. Self-love is the ability to look back on a life full of mistakes and regrets, and to be able to let go of those things, and make peace with ourselves, and not beat ourselves up, not bully, not cajole, not constantly make ourselves feel less than, to truly look at ourselves, the raggedy old bear that we are, marked up and scarred and weathered by the events of our lives, and say, “I like this bear. This is my bear. It’s a good bear. I’m happy with it. I wouldn’t exchange it for any other bear.” That is self-love.
And self-love isn’t mutually exclusive from connecting with other people. What we have to do is be self-dependent during this time if we’re alone, but form connections with other people that help us to survive. And that can only come from us picking up the phone, talking to people, reaching out to other people, being the help for other people that we want ourselves, engendering a sense of reciprocity. Those people will also then be thinking of us.
And to also – I think it’s very important to make a distinction between talking and company. Talking is simply picking up the phone to someone and having a conversation with them, right? But then we feel the pressure of having that conversation, and a lot of what we’re lacking right now is company. We do need to talk, and we should absolutely use this time where people are sitting at home by the phone going, “Fuck, I wish it would ring,” to use that opportunity to talk, because it is a wonderful time to call someone, knowing they’re probably going to be really happy you called. However, we’re also missing company. Company is connection without pressure. It’s calling someone on FaceTime, or a Hangout, and just being on the screen in the room while you do your thing and I do mine.
I did this with my family over the weekend. I said, “Guys, I know right now we’re only calling each other when we want to talk. We should do better than that. Like, Mum, set up the phone in the living room while you’re sitting there reading a magazine, Dad’s sitting there on his laptop, Harry’s milling around, cooking, doing his thing. While you guys are just living, set yourselves up on a camera in the living room, and I’ll set myself up on a camera while I’m doing my thing, and let’s just be in the room together. We don’t have to talk. Just exist in the room together.” That’s company.
One of the greatest gifts you can give the person you’re dating right now is tell them, “Hey, if there’s anything you just want to do for an hour, like sit and read, or play video games, or watch a movie, or watch a TV show, or whatever, like you’re making food, just call me, and while you’re doing your thing, I’ll do my thing. And it’ll just be nice to know that we’re in the background, as we’re there.” Because that’s really, think about it, that’s what so much dating is, is you’re just there together, living, together. Well, just because we’re apart, it doesn’t mean we can’t live together. That’s company.
So those are a few of my thoughts right now. I know that this is going to be a challenging time in many ways. I don’t think we’ve reached the peak of those challenges. I think that we’re all kind of taking it day by day, and trying to figure it out as we go, myself included. I’m trying to figure this out as I go. But I’m already encouraged by, in my own life, the way I see myself and my friends and different people in my lives reaching out to check in, see if we’re alright. That’s really encouraging. I think that’s a beautiful thing that is unique to this scenario right now. There is a sense of unity about it.
But make no mistake, for those of you who have been saying that, “Oh God, well, I guess my love life’s on hold,” and they almost look at the things that I’ve been saying over the years as, “Well, that’s relevant to dating, but now I can’t date.” Firstly, you know what I’ve said about dating. I think you still can date. But secondly, I haven’t been showing people how to get a boyfriend all these years. I’ve been showing people how to have relationships. Relationships with themselves, relationships with their family, relationships with their friends, relationships with the opposite sex. This has always been about relationships. Everything we have ever discussed on this channel is relevant to what we’re going through right now. In fact, I would argue that it has never been more relevant because relationships have never been more important than they are right now.
I’ll see you next week.