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Last updated 11 March, 2022

Online Dating: How to Build Intimacy

You’ve both swiped right, sent a smile, clicked a love heart, or otherwise shown that you’re interested. This is where you might normally start your conversation and, if that goes well, plan your first date together. 

But if dating amidst a global pandemic or living long-distance means that your first date is postponed indefinitely, there is still plenty you can do to spark a flame and keep it burning. In fact, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to form a deep, meaningful connection with someone before you meet. 

The challenges of online dating

Online dating can have its pitfalls even under normal circumstances. You may invest a lot of time messaging and texting with someone, only to be ghosted when it comes time to plan a meeting in real life.

Or maybe you meet and are let down that they don’t measure up to their online persona. Worse still, you find yourself getting ‘catfished’ by a person using someone else’s photos and fake details to pretend to be someone they’re not. 

One of the reasons for ghosting, exaggerated profiles, and catfishing is that, until you meet face to face, you’re not ‘real’ to each other. Text-only exchanges create an emotional buffer that allows people to get some of the rewards of dating, without the risks of letting themselves be seen.

Is it possible that you’ve ever communicated with someone in this way because you were a bit afraid of opening yourself up or being rejected?

Getting serious

If what you want is a serious relationship, you have to give other people the opportunity to get to know you—the real you. As long as you’re up for the challenge, then the only obstacle becomes how to connect with someone in a genuine way when you might not be able to meet in person.

The pandemic provides a novel opportunity to evolve how we date online. The restrictions brought on by Covid-19 are challenging the instant gratification culture of the past, and making us acutely aware of our need for deep, meaningful human connection. 

If you feel like an online match has long-term potential, you may be worried that they’ll lose interest or enthusiasm before you ever get to meet each other. But with a little creativity, this period between connecting and meeting in real life can be an excellent opportunity for fostering emotional intimacy and creating a lasting bond. 

The benefits of emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy is closeness based on mutual trust and communication that allows for you to share your deepest selves with one another.

In a relationship with high levels of emotional intimacy, you may feel like your partner accepts you as you are, that they care deeply for you, understand you, and that you can openly share your thoughts and feelings with them.

Strong emotional intimacy can:

  • Establish trust 

  • Deepen your connection

  • Help you feel like you can be yourself without putting the relationship at risk

  • Improve your self-confidence

  • Reduce stress

  • Lead to better sex

Emotional intimacy is clearly worth cultivating if you can, but how do you go about it from a distance?

Ways to connect

Get out of their inbox

Messaging and texting are convenient ways to chat, but make sure it’s not all that you do. If you seem mutually interested in each other, take the next step and pick up the phone. Tone of voice can’t be conveyed over text, so hearing each other’s voices will help you to avoid misunderstandings.

Our voices even have the power to create change on a physiological level, with studies showing that hearing the voice of a loved one can lower blood cortisol levels and increase feel-good oxytocin—an important hormone for bonding.

Add in the power of body language by getting on a video call, and you’ll increase your odds of connecting in a deeper, more natural way (with the added benefit of filtering out any scammers).

Share experiences

You may not be in the same place at the same time, but you can still bond over shared activities.

Plan to watch a movie at the same time, do the same workout, or cook your favourite Italian dishes then call each other after to discuss. It will help build the sense that you have something in common, and be a great test-run for what activities you might like to try as a team when you can. 

Go on a date

Thanks to modern technology, you can have a date night that your grandparents could only ever dream of! A few ideas include:

  • Taking a virtual tour together. Go online and explore the Lourve Museum, an aquarium, Disneyland, or (thanks to NASA’s website) even Mars.

  • Play games. Learn more about each other through a conversation game like “Truth or Dare” or “Two Truths and a Lie.”  Or keep things light by having a friendly competition of online cards, Bingo, or even pool.

  • Are you music lovers? Create a collaborative playlist through a music streaming platform and see if a harmonious relationship is in your future.

Send real-life surprises

If you’re comfortable swapping addresses (maybe you’ve met in person before, but now you’re separated by distance or pandemic restrictions) you can show them some affection via the post. It doesn’t have to just be cards and flowers either!

Have their favourite meal delivered, buy them a book online, or send them something related to their hobbies. For people who have gift-giving as a love language, having a tangible token of your feelings for them will bring them joy and comfort.

Make plans for the future

It doesn’t have to be anything heavy, but dreaming up plans will help you both to imagine (and hold out patience for) a future together.

Ask them what their perfect night out would look like. What outdoor activities would you both like to try? If you took a road trip together, where would you go? Planning helps to create a sense of security in your relationship, and excitement over sharing and living out your dreams.

 Today’s action steps

  • Take things to the next level. If you’ve only been writing to each other, ask if you can call them. If you’ve only spoken on the phone, plan a time to chat over video. Make things more real.

  • During your next conversation, plan a joint activity or a virtual date. Set a date and time for it, just as you would a real date. You might even like to dress up for the occasion. 

  • Make them a part of your future plans. Reassure them that you’re taking the time and energy they’re sharing with you seriously, and that you’re not just engaging because you’re bored. In your next conversation, dream up some ideas together about the perfect in-person date you will go on when it’s possible again.

Our world-class coaches on Hello Coach can help you navigate the complexities of online dating.

Book a session now to build intimacy online.

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