WHEN the country went into lockdown, single people were left wishing they’d squeezed just one last date in – and I was among them.

I’ve been single on and off for seven years until I decided to start a six-month dating sabbatical last September.

I wasn’t to know then that when I’d reload the dating apps at the start of March, I wouldn’t make it on a date IRL for who knows how long. As the realisation sunk in, I felt deflated.

Living alone during Covid-19 lockdown was going to be lonely enough, so I decided I didn’t have to avoid dating altogether; I just had to change how I did it.

And while I can’t meet anyone in person for a while, I can line up some dates for when life returns to normal. I’m not alone in my thinking, either.

Dating app Bumble has seen a 35% increase in messages sent since social-distancing was introduced, with love app Hinge revealing 70% of its users are open to having a virtual date.

Here’s what you need to know about the new normal when it comes to finding love.

Lockdown do's

UPDATE YOUR PROFILE: Now I have the time, I’m planning a refresh, complete with new selfies.

Research from Hinge says the profiles that get the most right swipes show people exercising, with friends or smiling, while sunglasses, beach photos and using filters are no-nos. Time to start sorting through your albums.

TRY A VIRTUAL DATE: It might feel a bit weird at first, but now’s the time to try video dating.

Reena, 35, from London, has had four virtual dates with a new man she thinks she’ll meet up with post-lockdown.

She says: “Video dates have been great and feel less pressured than real-life first dates. It’s been good to test the water via FaceTime before committing to an evening together.”

PLAN THE PERFECT (VIDEO) DATE OUTFIT: I’m the type of person who will plan a date look three days in advance, but how does this translate now?

Relationship expert Laura Yates says: “Even though you’re meeting online and your choice of outfit might now be more house-chic, it’s still important to feel good.

Approach a video date as you would a regular date and have fun planning an outfit you feel confident in.”

SEND THAT SEXT: Sexting is perfect if you’ve met someone but won’t be meeting up with them for a while.

Harriet*, 29, from London, says sexting has helped her bond with her new partner.

“I started dating someone before lockdown,” she says. “But it was too soon to isolate together, so instead we’ve been sexting.

"It makes me feel more excited to see him in the future and it gives us something to do together as we don’t have busy lives to talk about right now.”

Lockdown don'ts

MESS PEOPLE AROUND: I’ve never ghosted anyone – and I’m not about to start.

As Laura explains: “We’re all feeling more vulnerable and anxious, so we need to be more conscious of one another’s feelings.

"Don’t date to curb boredom. See it through or hold off until you’re ready.”

TEXT YOUR EX: Though it might be tempting, it’s not a good idea. “Regardless of what’s happening, it doesn’t change what caused your break-up.

"Your ex won’t have changed either,” Laura explains. “If they react in a way that causes you stress or anxiety, being on your own 24/7 will only exacerbate it.”

INVITE PEOPLE AROUND: No sooner had lockdown begun, than I had messages from two former flames offering to, er, “visit”.

But while having sex with someone in your household is OK if you’re both symptom-free, now isn’t the time for booty calls, as coronavirus can be passed on through close contact with others.

FEEL FORCED TO DATE: We’d be lying if we said that dating apps are always fun. In fact, 59% of women have negative feelings around them.**

So if they’re stressing you out, have a break. Taking a dating sabbatical last year gave me space to think about what I really wanted from a relationship.

  • Credits: Photography: Getty Images *Name has been changed Source: **Surveymonkey.com

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