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How do you start dating a new city during a pandemic?

Photo: Rido (Shutterstock)

Not all advice has to be professional. Sometimes your problems deserve a bit of unwavering honesty from a guy equipped with nothing more than a computer and a conscience. Lucky for you, I’m that guy. Welcome to Tough Love. (If you would like to be introduced, email me at

Today we’re discussing a common problem for singles resisting isolation from the pandemic: How do you start dating when you’re cut off from the rest of the world? Especially if you live in a brand new city?

Note: I am a columnist, not a therapist or certified health professional. My advice should be interpreted with this in mind. If you have a problem with what I’m saying file a complaint here. Now let’s get started.

Dear Sam,

Synopsis: 67-year-old long-divorced man seeking love and hopefully marriage in an unknown city during a pandemic, after being “forced to retire” while on LOA for s ‘take care of a dying mother.

My job as a defense systems engineer has been to live in various military bases overseas for the past 10 years. So I have no “roots” or friends anywhere. In October 2020, I returned to the United States to take care of my mother. She’s gone now. My LOA expired and I reluctantly “chose” to retire. Now I find myself in a suburb of Detroit, MI. I don’t know anyone socially and I don’t know much about the city.

As this situation was changing rapidly, I had not yet considered where or when to retire. My finances are healthy, I have a very nice apartment, I have established doctors, I have retained a “trainer”, I have an incredible Belgian Shepherd (which I brought back from overseas after he fell with canine PTSD). Also found a local church with a virtual community. I am open to moving but have laid the groundwork here.

I have tried Plenty of Fish and OkCupid but there are few women in my age group here.

How do you start the dating process in this situation?

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

thank you,

New in town

Dear newcomer,

Your first paragraph tells me that you’ve been through quite a personal ordeal recently, which is to say nothing of the isolation of mental strain that has inflicted on us all over the past year and the change. But despite the aggravated difficulties you are having, I want to assure you: you are doing everything right.

I understand that the gradual process of slowly building a life can sometimes seem onerous and even futile. When trying to establish yourself, especially after so many years abroad, progress can feel especially scarce as you watch the clock drift away for another week spent mostly indoors. . From what you have described here, you have told me that you are a donor. You’ve dedicated your career to a cause you believe is right, and even though it was your decades-long calling, you cut it off to help your mom when she needed you. You also adopted a dog with special needs. You understand what it means to be selfless, which is a quality that can and will make someone else very happy.

Think about how you can channel this selflessness to form new relationships with others. You understand the basics of reaching your community, but how can you develop that? Maybe you already attend regular Zooms or virtual hangouts with your church group, but socializing is a lot different. Joining a group is a positive first step, but you should also make an effort to form individual relationships with the members of these groups. Also, your search for friendship and potential dating doesn’t have to start and end with church. Have you been to your local dog park? There are likely other local get-togethers for dog owners, so if you’ve been vaccinated (or events are safe to take outside) – and provided your dog can handle it – this could be another great way to meet people including potential romantic partners.

I would not recommend moving again. Putting the “foundations” in place, as you have described them, takes work, and you have already laid a solid foundation on which to build something more permanent. When it comes to building your social network, let your instincts guide you. It might sound basic, but think about what you like to do. If you were to join, for example, a bowling league (after being vaccinated and allowed to do so), you are much more likely to make friends and perhaps meet a potential partner if you are. both really interested in this activity, rather than just using it as a way to maybe make a connection. If bowling isn’t for you, the same general rule applies to anything that piques your interest. Do you like baseball? Join a league! Do you like bird watching? Join a group! Start with your passions and use them to build connections.

In terms of more targeted ways to find a romantic partner, there are tons of resources out there for people exactly in your position. You’ve tried two dating sites, but there are many more with a much better one history of paired couples in your age group. That said, you can start dating more easily by following your intuition and doing what makes you happy, but only you really know what it will look like. The more you focus on what makes you happy, the more likely you are to find someone who is compatible with you. It is a question of gradually clearing up the social herd, of letting this disinterested and caring behavior show through.

That’s it for this week, but there’s a lot more Tough Love to do. If you would like to be introduced, please contact us describing your dilemmas in a E-mail tome (please include “TIP” or “TOUGH LOVE” in the subject line). Or, tweet me with the hashtag #ToughLove. Serious inquiries only: Please don’t email or message me if you don’t want to be in the column. Warning: I can’t answer everyone, so be sure to describe a specific problem in your note. I won’t respond to generalizations, like a “bad” person or vague descriptions of “relationship issues” without any concrete examples of what hurts you. Until next time, take care of yourself!


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