Celebrating with someone on Valentine’s Day is like a crack in a vase. It brings to the forefront the fragility and beauty of holding space for intimate connection. Add in a pandemic that requires building such a connection over Zoom? Now that’s a flood of emotions.
If you’re feeling uncertain about how to create intimacy virtually, you’re not alone. It’s common—especially for people who have never met face-to-face, says Kristen Schaer, a sex therapist who works with people of various genders, sexualities, and queer populations. “You’re not getting a lot of the cues that meeting on a date in public—like at a bar or a concert—offers,” Schaer explains. But like trying most anything new, there is great potential for discovery. Whether you’re sharing a screen with a long-term partner or someone on whom you recently swiped right, a sexy, sensual virtual Valentine’s date is possible—and may even unlock a depth of intimacy never experienced before.
Video dating tip number one: embrace what is
With all its technological and geography-defying brilliance, a date on the computer can be downright weird. The cues we glean from knees touching or leaning forward are reduced to a flat grid—but that’s okay. If you’re feeling awkward, call it out, advises Lee Noto, an intimacy and self-expression coach. Consider saying, “I’m feeling nervous,” or, “This is a new way of communicating for me and here’s what’s coming up.” This honesty brings the present into focus and encourages intimacy. “When we let someone into our real-time experience,” Noto explains, “it allows the person to really be with us.”
Video dating tip number two: observe and get curious
Occasionally talking over one another in-person is to be expected. But over Zoom, the connection can cut out, so it’s important to take turns. “There’s a great practice in there of being present and really listening and observing as someone is speaking,” says Noto. Pause to fully absorb each other’s words. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Pay attention to body language and gestures. Even embrace some silence “to watch for the flirty grin, or the eye wink,” says Noto. “These are things that aren’t lost over Zoom. Allow that flirtatious energy to come into the space.”
Video dating tip number three: create the ambience
All those tweaks you would make to your space before hosting an in-person date? The same ones can apply for the virtual version. Put on some sensual music. Infuse the air with a decadent blend in your Stay Diffuser, such as Dusk or Nightcap. Adjust your lighting so it’s soft and comfortable, suggests Schaer, and keep your computer on night mode to avoid too much blue light coming into your eyes, which can be straining. You want to create an ambience that makes you feel sexy, which will translate through the screen. And consider logging on from a location other than your workspace. “Have some things around you that are indicative of who you are,” says Schaer, “like a poster, a picture, a sculpture. Something that sparks conversation.”
Video dating tip number four: cross your Is, dot your Ts
A moment of sharing can be stolen by the ping of an email. Before logging on, limit distractions by putting your phone on silent and muting desktop notifications. Schaer also suggests checking your profile photo on the platform you’ll be communicating through to ensure it fully expresses you. (Another helpful note: try to pace your drinking. Schaer says that “people have a tendency to drink a little bit more” since they don’t have to drive to the date.)
Video dating tip number five: honor the pre-date rituals
Part of the fun of a date is what happens before: talking about it with friends; choosing an outfit; picking a shade of lipstick. Why not still do those things? “Treat it like you were meeting the person in-person,” says Schaer, who loves the idea of snapping pictures of what your outfit looks like and sending them to friends for feedback. And always wear a complete outfit, Schaer instructs—“as opposed to a nice top and sweatpants.”
Video dating tip number six: love yourself, first and foremost
A sexy, sensual virtual date is attainable—and it can lead to many more—but it’s our connection to our own being that holds the real key, emphasizes Noto: “If we want to be able to maintain intimacy in our other relationships, whether it’s with people we interact with in-person or over a screen, we need to continue to foster intimacy with ourselves.” This means honoring our mental, sexual, spiritual, physical, and emotional wellness. “When we do that, we naturally attract people who are willing to show up for us in that way,” Noto continues. “This allows us to create intimacy, closeness, and genuine connections—which, at the end of the day, is what all humans want.”