Grace Ballard, MA, LPC, CST | AASECT Certified Sex Therapist | Colorado, Denver, Boulder

How to COVID with Friends and Lovers

This is Awkward

 

We’ve been navigating the new art of social distancing and connection.  We each decide what that means to us –  ranging from whether we even believe precaution is necessary to the stakes being so high that we choose not to see anyone at all.  Then we collaborate with others, bumping against our differences, while trying to maintain social norms of yore.  It can get weird quick.  

 

I know we’re not supposed to shake hands, but you’re holding yours out.

 

I’m thrilled you invited me to your backyard BBQ, but I don’t know who’s coming or what their idea of social distancing really means.  

 

I’m ready to go on a date, and we’re connecting like crazy – but should we wear masks when we meet?  What about the rest of our clothes?

 

It is tough!  Never before have we needed to pregame with such complex agreements. 

 

(That is, unless you’ve navigated multiple partner relationships, or negotiated BDSM scenes, or assessed risk and agreed upon protective measures before getting down with a new lover.  Or if you live with chronic conditions or disability, or many other reasons that talking about needs and desires ahead of time helps you enjoy your interactions.  But more on this later.)

 

Consensual Connection

 

My colleague Molly Adler has created a beautiful guide that starts this conversation.  You can find her Consensual Connection Checklist here.  She helps you define your comfort zone and consider risk factors for all parties involved.  She even offers sample conversation starters to get the ball rolling, as it can feel challenging to discuss agreements and boundaries.  Many of us are socialized to please others and avoid conflict, so making requests and stating – or even knowing – our desires can be hard.

 

I love Molly’s checklist because it helps organize our thoughts and feelings.  The COVID pandemic keeps changing and is emotionally charged.  Thus, I find having structure useful to begin a conversation. 

 

Sometimes I get so fatigued by the complexity that I choose not to see anyone.  It’s easier to stay solo!  And I do need that time to recharge.  I know, however, that I feel better when I also share space with loved ones – if we navigate safe enough agreements.  For me, the effort is worth it.

 

Translatable Skills

 

Though the process can seem daunting, I believe the effort will pay off beyond COVID times.  This is great practice for navigating consent and agreements.  For example, Molly’s checklist echoes the Yes/No/Maybe lists kinksters have used for years.  Before playing together, all parties get to contemplate desire and discuss possibilities.  This can be fun pre-play that wets our desire!  It does not have to be dull.

 

Practicing the art of negotiation allows us to open more possibilities in the ways we connect.  We stop assuming what we want or expect, and create space to explore.  As I alluded to earlier, this allows room for lots of different expression and different bodies.  This is how we learn to be great lovers!  As well as great friends.

I’m interested to hear how you have navigated sharing space with others, and what brought you to make these choices.  Feel free to reach out or leave a comment below.

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