Will COVID-19 lead to artificial intimacy?


By Marie Y. Lemelle

Contributing Writer

Online dating is a multibillion industry which proves that meeting people and developing a love relationship has always been challenging. Since social distancing is the new normal in the global COVID-19 environment, physical intimacy has decreased and caused fear of exposure among people who want to meet someone compatible and start a relationship.

The promise of an effective vaccine emerging soon is uncertain, which calls for safety measures especially involving emotional and physical intimacy that may be difficult to accept for many people. COVID-19 opens the dialogue to get tested, take your time to know someone and practice safe sex.

The continued threat of COVID-19 has caused many people to adhere to medical mandates, but many are still refusing to social distance, wash hands often, or wear face masks around others. Human behavior is unpredictable so we can only control our own choices.

The dynamics of relationships and intimacy have dramatically changed. You cannot always tell from physical appearance if someone is infected by COVID-19. Kissing can transmit the coronavirus; therefore, wearing masks during intimacy is recommended unless you and your partner are 100% exclusive, are COVID-19 negative, and always wear a face mask in public.

A study published in May by Columbia University infectious diseases researcher Jeffrey Shaman reported that “stealth transmission,” or “silent shedders” or those who are asymptomatic can spread the virus when breathing or talking. COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University reports more than 929,444 lives worldwide have been claimed by COVID-19.

Shaunda Boyd, a native of Los Angeles, studied psychology and earned a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Ryokan College. Boyd is a respected teacher, coach and therapist. She served as program director of the first program designed to address the mental health issues of female vets returning home from war, including PTSD and sexual abuse recovery. In 2016, Boyd was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

Boyd, a life coach, mentor to young women, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, also provides counsel about life and the complicated journey of relationships. Boyd offers answers to dating and intimacy concerns.

ML: What is the best method to start a love relationship during COVID-19?

SB: We are experiencing a huge shift as a result of this pandemic. There are several ways to enter a love relationship during COVID-19 such as online dating, revisiting your “little black book or DM,” and matchmaking. Remember the one that got away?

However, keep in mind, sometimes an ex is simply that, an ex. Every time you leave home, look nice and smell awesome, you never know who you may meet. Remember, your eyes are visible even when you wear a mask. Strike up a conversation and use your eyes to smile.

Communicate verbally on the phone, no texting because it allows you to hear the tones and verbal inflection of their voice. Try Zoom dates or face timing to further assess compatibilities.

ML: Are intimate relationships safe in a pandemic?

SB: Intimate relationships can be safe during COVID-19. Both parties should get tested, quarantine separately until results arrive, and then plan in-person visits. In-depth dialogue about COVID-19 relationship do’s and don’ts is useful in moving forward.

It is crucial for couples to discuss their level of comfortability with pandemic protocols to ensure everyone is on the same page as it relates to safety. The best way to grasp how people are handling safety protocol is to simply listen when they discuss their comings and goings, which provides you with data to access what is best for your comfort level.

ML: What are the main things that cause conflict in a relationship during a pandemic?

SB: There are several issues that can cause conflicts in relationships during a pandemic.

Family tension, ranging from children being out of school and/or home schooled, can create a shift in parental roles.  Working from home can be a major adjustment. Financial problems often play a tremendous role in relationship conflicts. Poor communication skills, abuse and medial issues add additional stressors. Too much time together can be another trigger.

ML: Is it possible to maintain a healthy, functional relationship during a pandemic?

SB: Absolutely, just switch things up and think outside the box. Add some fun and do something different to avoid boredom. Couples can enjoy walking or hiking together, or plan a romantic indoor, outdoor or backyard picnic. Dress up and plan a club night at home and put those dance moves to the test. Spa night at home is another option. Wine tasting, trivia games and movie night can be enjoyed virtually.

ML: When personal mental health problems spill over into relationships, what should you do?

SB: With so many stressors bombarding us, many people are experiencing depression and anxiety. Depending on the severity, this is a great opportunity to seek professional help. Therapist and life coaches and individual, couple and group sessions are provided online.

ML: Do we need separateness in order to thrive together in a confinement situation?

SB: Everyone needs self-care time. Balance is an essential aspect of self-rejuvenation. Separateness is not always required, but if it is, don’t feel bad about taking the time for yourself. Relaxation and happiness can boost your immune system.

Relationships can be amazing, but the most important relationship is with yourself. Let’s face it, if you don’t take care for yourself, you cannot properly care for others. Be kind to yourself and those around you. If single, use this time to prepare yourself for a mate. If happily coupled, cherish what you have.

Marie Y. Lemelle, is the founder of www.platinumstarpr.com and a film producer. She can be reached at MarieLemelle@platinumstarpr.com. Follow her on Instagram @platinumstarpr.