How to make sure being 'touch-starved' doesn't wreck your dating life

The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone, but please, spare a moment for the single people.

If they’ve been following the rules and being cautious, single people will have gone over a year without romantic physical touch.

They haven’t been on IRL dates (Zoom calls can only go so far), they haven’t held hands, they haven’t had sex, they haven’t had that electric moment lips finally come together.

That’s resulted in them being ‘touch-starved’ – exactly what it sounds like; the state of not having as much physical contact as you would like or are used to receiving.

As restrictions lift and proper dating is back on the cards, how will being touch-starved impact our choices?

Will we be so desperate for any kind of physical contact that our standards will drop to new depths? Will we want to move more quickly? Will we all be emotional wrecks, weeping the first time we feel someone’s skin on ours?

Therapist Sally Baker reckons all of these outcomes could happen, but it’ll depend just how deeply you’ve been affected by being deprived of touch.

‘Being touch-starved and robbed of a year of dating means people are responding on a spectrum to getting back out there, from high anxiety through to carefree impulsivity,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘The more driven by their physical need to be touched and confident and relaxed a person felt during lockdown, the more they are likely to act on their touch deficit and seek out dates.

‘In contrast the more cautious and risk averse during lockdown are more likely to struggle with dating again in the post pandemic world.’

Let’s deal with those who have intensely missed touch, and are raring to get out there and get physical.

These people might feel ‘vulnerable and tearful’, says Sally.

Don’t feel silly if that’s the case. Touch is important – as Sally notes, we’re ‘herd animals who are used to strong tribal connections’, so being cut off from others will have a real impact.

That vulnerability, along with longing and loneliness, might cause havoc in our dating lives.

If we aren’t conscious of our touch-starvation, we might mistake these feelings for a real connection with the first person we meet, or find ourselves making poor choices in pursuit of being touched again.

‘Desperate feelings can fuel impetuous behaviour,’ Sally explains. ‘This can make people vulnerable to attention from others, love bombing and being flattered.

‘Working from a deficit might influence people to drop standards and go for what’s immediately on offer instead of taking time to explore wider possibilities.’

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with prioritising your physical needs or prioritising hook-ups over slow dating – as long as that’s what you really want.

What’s important is that your touch-starved feelings don’t cloud your vision and cause you to fall into unhealthy dynamics, such as one-sided relationships or throwing yourself at someone who will only hurt you through rejection.

How to prevent that from happening: recognise how you’re feeling, acknowledge that it’s perfectly normal to want to be kissed, stroked, and cuddled, but remind yourself of your other needs and desires.

‘Be clear of your own needs and boundaries,’ suggests Sally. ‘What do you want? If you have clarity and stay within your boundaries your intuition will help weed out those people who are on a different page to you.’

Don’t overcorrect, though, by shutting off the possibility of getting physical because you aren’t sure of your motivations.

Keep your eyes and heart open, and give yourself the time and space to do whatever feels good.

‘There are no right or wrong ways about when to get physical in a new relationship,’ Sally adds. ‘One night stands have turned into enduring relationships and a long, more chaste courtship can turn into a waste of time and effort.

‘Trust your gut. Be real and be open to see what can happen.’

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