Looking to Spice Up Your Online Dating Experience in the Middle of a Pandemic? Try These 6 Steps

Kerry Kerr McAvoy

It all begins with flirtation


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

After having gone on a few dates and done plenty of texting this past year, I’ve noticed a trend. We seem to have forgotten the subtle art of flirtation. Where’s the playfulness?

It’s not a 50-something-year old problem either. I’ve met a wide range of guys — from those a few years older than me to as young as thirty years my junior. The issue seems to span across all age ranges.

It happened again last weekend. I was thumbing through the latest crop of dating profiles and spied someone interesting. I sent a short friendly text introducing myself. Within minutes this guy answered back, and we began a conversation. The messages went from fun to rude. Once this guy established I wasn’t interested in something quick and easy, he deleted the entire conversation.

Faster than I could snap my fingers, I’d been ghosted. He was gone.

I wish I could say this was a fluke, but it has occurred with frequent and disturbing regularity.

What gives with this rush? Where’s the getting to know each other? The online equivalence of a flirty hair-toss and the long sideways glances? Have we forgotten how to spice things up through the use of delicious anticipation?

We may be limited to meeting online, but it doesn’t mean our contact can’t be fun. We don’t have to see each other across a busy dance floor or bar to engage in this subtle art form. With creativity and imagination, we can still build tension through digital repartee.

Ok, let’s pretend I’m sitting down the bar from you. We lock eyes, and I feel that spark of connection, only we are doing this by text rather than in person.

First Eye Contact

Since we can’t give each other a lingering look, we will have to use words, emojis, and conversational tone. I keep it short with one or two sentences by way of introduction. Something flirty. “Hello, beautiful” or “Hi, handsome” doesn’t cut it, lacking originality.

What’s this person into — cats? I use tongue-in-cheek or something cutesy, such as:

“Wow! You sure are cat-gorically into felines! Did I count 11 of them? The cat-chiest photo was the one of you trick-or-treating with the cat wearing a bow tie!”

Or serious:

“I loved the comment that you’re into Brené Brown’s work. Me too! Did you catch her latest Unlocking Us podcast on apologies?”

In a few sentences, I demonstrate I’ve read this person’s profile, and that we share something in common.

The Slow Smile

There’s a return reply! It’s important to let the suspense build. I indicate interest by wanting to know more by asking further questions on the same topic to show I’m paying attention.

“You’re into fishing? How cool! I see you won an award for catching the biggest trout. Do you tie your own flies? I’d love to hear all about it!”

I don’t need to channel Woody Allen, Mae West, Kylie Jenner, or Tony Robbins. I just need to be myself — that’s who this person wants to meet.

I’m careful to maintain that delicate balance of revealing something without sharing too much. Getting into my past relationships, current issues with the kids, and the such can wait. This is the time to share what makes me smile.

The Saunter Over for a Personal Introduction

Ok, there’s been a back-and-forth banter that suggests mutual interest, now to make a more formal introduction. This would be the moment in the bar when I would walk over and make a smooth one-liner.

Maybe, it’s time for us to have more direct contact. Perhaps it’s appropriate to make a phone call or to start a video chat. Either way, we keep it casual and light, filled with plenty of laughter.

A consummate introvert, this is the hardest step for me. As worries about what to say start to erode my confidence, I remind myself everyone loves to be the center of attention. I listen to this person instead of talking as a way to deal with my nervousness. I don’t need to show off either. I stay focused on him rather than on what I’d like to share next since there’s nothing more intoxicating than to have someone think we’re fascinating.

The Casual Arm Brush

This person sounds just as I’ve imagined. He seems interested in me as well and asks deeper questions. A smile spreads across my face as we chat — all good signs.

Now has come the moment when I would accidentally brush up against his bare arm or hand. You know, that moment when I’d make physical contact to see if the sparks fly.

It’s possible to do this by text or phone as well. Sure, it looks different, but we can create the same subtle effect. I try sharing how some personal quality of this guy makes me feel. Maybe his laugh gives me goosebumps or I love his crooked smile.

The men I meet often comment on my freckles. One guy told me he’d love to count them.

And, like a casual arm brush, we can use personal and vulnerable observations about this person to take a risk.

The Lingering Look

As the tension builds, we find ourselves staring a bit too long at this person’s mouth as we imagine what it would taste like to kiss.

Although trickier by text or phone, we can use words or the tone of our voice to share our desire to get closer.

For it to be impactful, though, there are no shortcuts. We have to take the time to get to know one another. And, it needs to be based on real facts or it feels fake.

This is when I reveal how this person moves me. Perhaps I let him know how much I look forward to hearing from him every day. Or, that I find myself thinking about him. This is the first time I let him peek into my growing emotional attachment.

The Kiss

And then the moment we have been hoping for — when we touch.

The deliberate build-up of anticipation culminates into meaningful contact. It’s an experience of real intimacy and hopefully the start of something lasting.

Although tricky these days of social isolating, we can use video chatting, appropriately distanced walks or picnics, and other creatively responsible ways of meeting to begin to feel something special. We take a chance and share more about how we’re feeling which brings us closer.

From Flirting to a Relationship

Flirting is a slow and intentional series of moves designed to heighten interest. It’s done not only for the joy of meeting someone new but for the experience itself. When done right, it’s deliciously fun.

Most likely, we will need to focus on one person at a time, as it is challenging to build this kind of connection with multiple people.

The goal is to create a relationship.

Flirting can be beautiful as we slow down and enjoy the presence of another person. It’s about savoring the experience. Kitty Cavalier says, it "is not about the culmination or gratification of desire, it is about the thrill of the desire itself. It is the game that is played as the desire comes closer and closer, and being able to maintain that tension of wanting for a long, long time.”

By building suspense, we explore and discover the mysteriousness of someone else. So, why would we want to miss out on all of this by rushing things? I’m having way too much fun enjoying the art of flirtation.

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Psychologist, Kerry Kerr McAvoy, Ph.D. writes about dating, healthy relationships, narcissism, and various other mental health-related issues. She is a mom to three grown sons. Loves to swim, snorkel, and read, and enjoys traveling. She lived in the Caribbean for two years. For her monthly letter http://bit.ly/3bCXEnc or to listen to her podcast https://bit.ly/3qiklRC

Austin, TX

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