You’re fed up with chilly walks in the park and Zoom dates. You’re interested in taking your new relationship indoors, and possibly to the next level. Your prospective partner seems interested too. So, how do you start the conversation?
As we mentioned in our first article about creating a relationship bubble, it can be helpful to create a script to talk about what you are and are not comfortable with. Even just jotting down some talking points might help you get on the same page with your potential partner before you end up in the same room — or the same bed! We’ve created a guide to walk you through a potential conversation.
Break the ice, and have some talking points ready
It’s time to rip off the band-aid! On your next Zoom or outdoor meet-up, find your opening and start the conversation by saying something like, “Hey! It seems like we want to keep spending time together, so let’s talk about how we can stay safe and avoid exposure to COVID-19.”
What happens next could lead the conversation in a few directions. For instance:
|If they say something like…||Consider replying with…|
|What do you mean by staying safe?||If we want to spend more time together, we should talk about how we’re going to keep ourselves and others safe from the coronavirus. Let’s talk about what that might look like.|
|I’ve been thinking about this too! Let’s talk about it!||Great! I thought of some topics we should talk about. Maybe you have questions too?|
|I don’t think I’m comfortable spending time indoors with you yet.||I understand. This is a difficult time. Maybe we can talk about ways to be safe when you are more comfortable.|
The conversation: Sample questions and talking points
Now that you’re talking, you’ll want to discuss what you’re comfortable with and where your boundaries lie. One of the most important parts of this conversation is thinking about and discussing one another’s contact with other people, since close interactions bring the most risk of contracting the virus.
Here are some questions you may want to consider asking:
- How do you feel about dining out inside a restaurant or going to the movies?
- Are you thinking about taking any trips?
- Do you have any plans to see family?
- How are you planning to spend the holiday season?
- Is there anyone (friends, family) you’ve been seeing? Where and how often do you meet up?
- If we started seeing each other more, how comfortable are you with limiting some of your other contacts?
- Would you consider moving in together if it was necessary?
- Have you had any other sexual partners recently? If so, what precautions did you take to prevent virus exposure?
Looking for more questions? This document from the National Coalition of STD Directors and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) may give you more ideas.
And, remember, it’s a conversation, not a cross-examination. Your potential partner is likely to have concerns and questions as well, so don’t forget to listen and give them a chance to express what they’ve been thinking about. It’s important for this conversation to feel safe for both parties, so be honest but non-confrontational. If you hear something you don’t like, it’s better to ask a clarifying question or respond by restating your point of view rather than arguing a point.
|If they say something like…||Consider replying with…|
|I’ve been keeping to myself, but my roommate sees people more often.||Since I live alone/have a bubble with my roommate, would you consider spending more time at my place?|
|I have friends/family members that I need to see regularly.||Would you be willing to talk to your friends/family members about forming a bubble that includes me?|
|I’m planning to travel during the holidays to visit family/friends, but they are also taking precautions, so it will be safe.||Thanks for telling me. When you get back, we will need to spend time apart for at least 14 days to minimize our risk.|
|I’ve had a negative test, so I don’t need to worry.||It’s great that you had a negative test, but we have to continue to take precautions, like limiting the amount of people we see.|
|I’m pretty sure that I had COVID-19 already, and you can’t get it twice.
If I get it, I get it. The other day I read that we’ll get to herd immunity soon.
This sounds like a lot of work. Do we need to come up with so many rules? Relationships are supposed to be fun!
|Taking precautions is very important to me. I want to do all I can to make sure that I don’t get the virus or pass it on to others.|
Congratulations! You tackled a difficult conversation head-on.
Now that you’ve had this hard conversation, it just might make other difficult conversations easier—after all, even during a pandemic, you still need to talk about sexually transmitted diseases and PrEP or contraception if applicable. Hopefully these talks go exactly the way you want them to — you’re both serious about minimizing your risk so that you can spend time closer together. But if you run into a deal-breaker or you don’t feel like you both have the same level of commitment to setting ground rules, it’s okay to walk away.
Nothing about this year has felt scripted — the stress and uncertainty of COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on our interpersonal relationships, especially new ones. We know that this guide doesn’t cover every possible COVID-19 relationship scenario, but we hope it can help you think about your relationship needs during this time. Remember, it’s better to feel safe than surprised.
See also: “All about relationship bubbles”