Editor's note:  Is it safe to get back to the life you knew? As services come back, we’re asking our doctors and other providers to help answer those questions in a series called Navigating COVID: Back to life. You’ll find those stories, and many others, here. Got a question? Email healthyheadlines@novanthealth.org.

Note to readers: This article contains specific details related to maintaining sexual health.

As if dating wasn’t hard enough. Now there’s a pandemic added to the mix. People are wearing masks in public; social distancing is the new norm and large events such as concerts have come to a temporary halt. So, how should we modify our dating lives, if at all? Are the recommendations different for couples?

Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones, medical director of Novant Health Women’s Sexual Health and Wellness, shares her expert opinion about love and sex in the time of coronavirus.

Q: Should single people stop going on dates?

A: You shouldn't be meeting new people at this point because there are asymptomatic carriers. On the other hand, you're crossing new people's paths every day. When you go to the grocery store, when you go anywhere, you're crossing people's paths. I almost think Zoom is better to get to know someone right now, but you have to assess your personal level of anxiety about getting and transmitting the virus.

Q: Do you literally have to date 6 feet apart?

A: When it comes to meeting in person, you have to decide how comfortable you are. You can’t even go to a coffee shop right now. Consider where you would meet in person and what safety precautions you should have because you may not be in a public place.

Q: Is intimacy out of the question right now?

A: The coronavirus is in semen. Now the question is, ‘can it be transmitted that way?’ We don't know the answer to that question yet.

Q: What are other ways to create intimacy that might be more safe during COVID-19?

A: I've made the suggestion to write in a journal and pass it back and forth. You know, write some erotic things or just love notes in a journal and pass that back and forth.

It’s a great time to learn about each other. A lot of couples, they can write a sexual script, meaning every time they have sex, they do the exact same thing. If a couple is to that point, it's time to get off the script and learn about other things that each of them would potentially want to do. There are books and podcasts. I think another good thing is to learn what your partner's love language is. There are five love languages. In this anxious time, speaking more of your partner’s love language can help people through this and still have their relationship.

Q: What about couples who live together?

A: People who are in close contact, I don't think they have to practice social distancing. If you think about it, if you're sleeping next to somebody, you're probably less than 6 feet apart from them. You're having dinner with them. So, you're already exposed to that person that you're with, whether it's a significant other or a family member.

Q: What if your partner has a job where there's a higher risk of catching the virus?

A: That's a really tough question. In this time of high anxiety, we all need comfort and it's oftentimes your significant other that's going to give you that comfort. So, once again, it's one of those situations where I think you have to use your personal best judgment about what you're willing to risk and not risk. If you have a lot of health issues, maybe that's a person that has to be more careful than someone who doesn't have a lot of health issues. So, I think that's going to be an individual choice.

Kelly-Jones said there’s no time like the present to be intimate with a partner, explaining “orgasm helps decrease anxiety because of the neurochemical it brings out in your brain.”

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