People just want to hook up – even during a pandemic

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Meredith, I hope all is well and safe for you during these times.

I started the year talking to this great guy. I was across the country for work, and when I came back, we had our official first date. Things were going well. I was hesitant at first to open up to someone new because of bad experiences in previous relationships. But this new relationship was great.

When COVID hit Boston, the numbers were going up and he was still going to work (he's in the medical field) and I started working from home. We started seeing each other less because we didn't know where these numbers would go. After a few weeks we both agreed mutually to end the relationship. He had one too many stresses. He wound up accepting a job in another state. At this point I am single.

I did go on one date and I was very paranoid. Numbers go up, people lie about being tested, and things keep getting worse. I ghosted the guy I went on a date with after I found out he'd also been sleeping with a friend of mine. I'm trying to be so cautious. Being a gay man in a COVID dating scene is not easy. I go on the apps and men want to just hook up. But I've had family members go through COVID and I worry about effects they might experience later.

My patience has been tested this year but I do hope that maybe in the future I can meet a man I can trust. But any advice about dating now? Or not dating now?

– Cautious

All I can say is that this is a really good time to practice honesty, set boundaries, and to be 100 percent clear about your needs. If you meet someone online who seems nice, let them know your COVID rules. Are you comfortable taking a walk? Would you see someone inside after they've been tested? Let all interested parties know what you require to be comfortable. Then ask them about their own rules. A lot of people might not be available to you right now, based on the state of the world. That's OK.

I do think it's possible to meet, flirt, court – whatever verb you want to use – via an app right now. But look, I won't lie to you; that whole "safer at home" thing is absolutely true. If you feel like you don't know any new people well enough to trust them, consider taking a pause. Give yourself a break. You've had a turbulent year. Don't feel pressure to add more romance to 2020.

One of the many problems with now is that there are no official rules across the board that tell us how we should behave. We're safer at home, for sure, and told to keep to ourselves as much as possible, but here in Boston, at least, we're technically allowed to do all sorts of things. Some of us see people on social media living fairly normal dating lives while we're still wiping down every surface. It makes the person at home feel like they're missing out.

But I promise you're not missing out by taking a break, if that's what feels best. It's self-care, and that's important. It's also OK if you want to get to know people online for a longer period of time before you discuss meeting in person. You can ask for the time you need to build trust – and a plan.

– Meredith

Dating readers, how do you negotiate boundaries before seeing someone?