Dear Kiki: Is it irresponsible to date around during a pandemic?

Questions about love and sex in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area can be submitted to, or anonymously using this form. Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

Illustration by Jav Ducker

Dear Kiki,

My partner and I have recently opened up our marriage and TBH I’ve been super excited about getting started after pushing the idea for years. Of course there’s an international contagious disease crisis as soon as we finally agree to give it a try. Are we putting ourselves at risk by sleeping around? Should we consider closing up shop till the CDC says the coast is clear?

—Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Dear Love in the Time,

You might need to take some. Time, that is. But the degree of caution you choose to exercise is entirely on you and your partner. I have yet to see specific recommendations against casual dating, and that’s all the typical open marriage entails. If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I’d still recommend against going out on a first date (or a date night with your spouse, for that matter) if you were feeling under the weather. This should be no different. Know your body, isolate if ill and expect that your potential paramours do the same. Honestly, it’s a little nice knowing that you can use the pandemic as an excuse to be a bit more explicit about that expectation.

There are some caveats, of course.

For one thing, lots of places are closed and more are closing every day. You probably aren’t going to the theater. You won’t be headed out to a concert. Many cities are prohibiting all gatherings over a certain number. Your options are limited, and so it might seem that a nice, quiet night in is the best date idea. Here’s why that’s risky:

1) If you’re on the apps, you’re talking about someone you might not even know. Whether it’s your place or theirs in consideration, I’m gonna have to ask you to NOPE right out of that situation, pandemic or no.

2) Even if you are already acquainted with this person, no matter how excited you are to take things outside the marriage, the pressure of sex on a first date can make you feel like a teenager again, and not in all the many possible good ways. Since you’re just diving into this, you might not be as ready as you think you are, and a tense situation may make it difficult to say no, even if your date isn’t overtly applying pressure.

Here’s the other thing: Are you or your partner over the age of 60? Immunocompromised? Please, don’t open yourself up to risk, no matter how small, if you’re in a group that’s higher risk already. I know you don’t want to live in fear or isolate yourself if you’re healthy, but better safe than sorry. You need to make the call, but really, I’d tell you not to ride public transportation, too.

These aren’t hard “no” answers. These are just things to keep very sincerely in mind. But don’t worry, I do have a couple of hard “no” situations!

Is your open marriage taking the form of swinging, where you go out together to a crowded party and maybe even have some fun in a group situation?


You see the problem terms there, right? “Crowded party”? “Group situation”? Skip ’em. Social distancing is your friend. It doesn’t have to mean total isolation, but it does mean that a large group of probable strangers is contraindicated for a good time. I would be hopeful that such parties would be canceled under the circumstances, but you never know. The more people, the more chances there are for an undetected virus to spread.

Have either you or your partner been to a high-risk country in the last few weeks? Any exposure to folks who’ve, say, just returned from a cruise? Shit, sweetie, I’m really sorry, but even if you’re not feeling any symptoms:


I get that you’re the one writing in, so your health should be my first concern—but don’t be an asshole. Don’t let your start in this game be one of putting potential partners at risk. It’s not good form.

All of this naysaying and doom-and-gloom aside, this is not an entirely untenable situation for you. Think of it this way: If you would feel safe meeting a friend for lunch, then why would it matter if that friend happens to be someone that you’re interested in cultivating a deeper relationship with? We’re not on lockdown. We’re not all in isolation yet. (If you are in isolation, don’t leave your house, and don’t invite people over. I think that’s understood.)

Bottom line: Don’t snog anyone who you don’t trust to make your health a higher priority than getting some, and make sure you’re making the same call for others.

And remember: Chatting online or on the phone can be quite pleasurable as well, and (if you’re looking to develop relationships, not just find sex partners) a great way to get to know someone better. Your open marriage doesn’t have to involve in-person dalliances.

Have fun!

xoxo, Kiki

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