Interview: Jenna Birch on dating during the lockdown

Hey everyone,

I’m excited to bring to you another edition of my new interview segment.

This week, I brought on the author of the book that drastically changed the way I view dating. Jenna Birch is not only the author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, she is a freelance journalist with work in publications like SELF, The Washington Post, Vogue, and Harpar’s BAZAAR.

Jenna has researched modern dating extensively and has her thumb on COVID-19 reporting. With both of these combined, she gave great insight into the current climate we’re all experiencing from the lockdown. Enjoy!


You wrote a book about dating and have been covering the coronavirus recently. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on people trying to date while social distancing?

I actually think it can be great. You have downtime that you can invest in the dating process, and learning about what you like and don't like. Take it slow. You can really focus on what you want, and if you like that person's personality, communication style, values before you meet and the physical element comes into play. Also, if someone is not engaging with you the way you want now, if they are half-assing their effort, then you know that will carry over when life goes back to normal and things only become more chaotic. Next them now.  

Do you think it’s a good idea for people to date during such a stressful time?

I honestly think it's different for everyone. For some, it can be a great distraction to focus on relationships and dating. For others, they may not want to focus any energy outward. It's a good time to focus inward, too. All that money you'd spend on dates and dresses and haircare, etc? Spend it on yourself. Better yet, save it. Stay home. Do everything you have always wanted to do -- Netflix, pizza, face masks, nails -- but now can do without the pressure of having so socialize. Just do it for yourself.

Now can be a great time to do a full dating cleanse. 

What are some tips you’d give to someone that wants to take a dating break from dating while they’re self-isolating?

Spend the first couple weeks of that focusing on self-care. Just like, don't think about dating at all. Zone out, delete your apps, and just get far away the dating hamster wheel. And then take some time to reflect on your dating habits and goals. Habits are retroactive; what have I done in the past that isn't working for me? Why was I falling into this trap? Goals are future-focused; how am I going to retool my dating strategies as I move into the future? Choose better? Look for specific qualities? From a coaching pespective, I often don't care what you try, as long as it feels healthy and it's different from what you tried in the past. 

If you start thinking about one person in particular, ask yourself why. Try to resolve those feelings for yourself. Maybe it's someone you wanted, but who was never willing to give you what you wanted, and you need to identify what it is you do want. Very specifically. Meditate on that. Or maybe it's someone who was giving you what you now see you need, and you need to take a beat and recognize what that need is. It's interesting, isn't it? Who we think about when we have spare time to just sit.

Do you think this experience will impact dating in the long-run?

I hope people take it slower and actually give a relationship a chance on the other side of this pandemic. It can be hard to stop dating; I was the ultimate serial dater for many years, so in a lot of ways, I feel like I'm speaking to my former self. For singles who are caught in the dating pool -- claiming they want to find love, but never stopping to try out a relationship that might give them that -- I hope they realize that they'd rather try to make it work. We have this idea of what love should be, and we just run toward that early in dating -- that feeling in our minds. It's almost never what you think it's going to be. But it's every bit as fulfilling. Give (potentially great) people a chance to surprise you, even if you are afraid to get hurt or hurt someone. The risk in not trying is every bit as big as trying and seeing it fail; don't kid yourself!

How is isolating with your fiancé going?

I feel like we've got a solid routine going on. We know who walks and feeds the dog, and when. Who does what chores. We have date night, and then days where we just do our own thing in terms of hobbies. He likes to ride his bike for exercise, whereas I'm an avid walker (with Ollie, my pup). We also work separately; I am downstairs in the kitchen, and he's in the guest bedroom, which we converted into an office. 

I'd say from Day One of living together, we've always been a really good team. I've been slammed at work. That may change, but the last few weeks have been crazy, and he's picked up the slack for me in terms of chores. I've done the same for him when his work is overwhelming. I feel like when you approach something like quarantine from the teamwork perspective -- what do you need to get through this? can I tell you what I need? -- and a willingness to meet your person's needs, it's super-helpful.

What is the best part of isolating with your partner? What about the most difficult?

Hugs. Just kidding, but also not; I love a good midday hug when I'm freaking out about something at work! But really, it's just given us the opportunity to get closer. We take daily walks together, listening to podcasts and discussing current events -- or just talking about what's on our mind sometimes. We kind of make a call before we go; "Is this a podcast walk, or does either one of us have something pressing on the mind?" 

I can honestly say the most difficult part is just being introverted. Sometimes, I need space to just think. By myself. On my own! But my fiancé is incredibly independent, so he's always down to have solo time. I honestly think quarantine will show a lot of couples if they chose the right person. Have we had conflict? Sure. A lot? Absolutely not. Because he's my best friend, and we want to make each other happy. If I had one piece of advice for singles, dating right now? Make sure that when you couple off for good, you pick your best friend. If it's a rollercoaster relationship, get off. I know now that I could have never thrived in a relationship that lacked support, which almost all of my former relationships did. 

But right now, just enjoy being single. Looking back, I learned the most about myself when I was single. And I think this quarantine can be a time of great introspection and redirection. Even know, I'm doing that and it's so valuable to have that pause. I can't believe it happened like this, but I'm trying to put a positive spin on it. 


Enjoy this interview? Make sure to follow @JennaBirch and grab a copy of her book, The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love.

Who do you want me to interview next? Reply to this email and let me know!

See you back in your inboxes on Friday!

All the love,

Kirstie


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