Therapist Gabriela Reyes on Dating During the Pandemic
What is love like in the time of coronavirus? In the age of social distancing and virtual dates, can people truly connect? Therapist Gabriela Reyes talked to People CHICA about how the pandemic is affecting dating and relationships.
"I think there is a lot of positive to it when it comes to human interaction," she says. "I've been having these FaceTime dates and Zoom dates with my friends and family and I am completely present in those, as opposed to when I was in person and you get distracted looking at your phone, answering messages and emails and looking at social media. I couldn't do that now because I was using my phone on the video call."
The Cuban American therapist, who works in Miami, says the pandemic has affected most people deeply. "Everyone's anxiety is very heightened. People who already were anxious and depressed are struggling with it. My practice has been pretty full, so people are still working on themselves, which is a good thing."
According to the relationship and dating expert, the pandemic actually "slowed down the dating anxiety because you can do some online dating now without the pressure of having to meet someone in person as soon as possible. You are able to get to know this person a bit longer online and start liking them. It has made everyone a little calmer and more able to express themselves freely."
Reyes, 30 — who is single herself and open to love — says she's been using dating apps for "quite some time" and offers tips. "Try to make your profile look like your personality. If you like pets or going biking, put those photos there. Not necessarily all photos where you are perfectly posed, looking your absolute best. You can put five to eight photos in most apps, and it's enough so you can put some in where you look fabulous and some where people can get to really know you," she says. "Keep your bio short and sweet!"
For people who get nervous about meeting someone new for the first time, she recommends having some questions written down in the notes on your phone that are good conversation starters. "What's your favorite movie," for example, or "what was the most interesting place you've traveled to?"
Social distancing has been challenging for the Latinx community. "Latin Americans in general are very affectionate. We hug strangers," she says. "It's going to be extra-hard for us to shift out of that mentality. I'm confident that it will go back to some kind of normal where we will be able to embrace each other again. It's good for the soul and for your mental health. In the meantime, we have to be super-cautious and careful. It's an adjustment."
The lockdown is also affecting couples who are living together, so Reyes recommends that each person takes walks or bike rides by themselves — to get some alone time — and then do indoor date nights where they dress up and have wine together.
Reyes is also a spokesperson for the dating app Chispa. "The uniqueness of it is that it's geared toward Latinos, Latino millennials specifically, but it doesn't have an age limit. You go on there and you put your roots, so I have the American flag and the Cuban flag. You are able to see people's roots and you can find someone who speaks your language, literally and figuratively," she says.
For Latinx singles who want to date within the Latinx culture, the app is a match made in heaven. "Latinos tend to be more expressive, more affectionate, closer to their families — they have extra seasoning and sometimes you prefer that in a partner. It's helpful when you are able to pick and choose who you end up dating. You can also go on there as a full-blown all-American who wants to meet some Latin ladies," she jokes.
What's most important, Reyes emphasizes, is to keep connecting. "One of the few good things about this pandemic is that it's happening at a time when our technology is so advanced," she says, "so it's possible to continue connecting with the people we love and even new people we meet."