Vaccination etiquette on New Zealand's dating scene and how to navigate the 'unvaxxed' dealbreaker

If you're a regular on the dating scene, you will have probably encountered your fair share of 'dealbreakers' - a person's hard-and-fast no-nos that won't get you past a first date. Smoking is a common one, or a prospective beau may become a definite no when you find out his mother still does his laundry at 35.

Dealbreakers are incredibly important as they set our boundaries in the lusty and labyrinthine dating landscape, where rose-tinted glasses are a common accessory and lines are easily blurred when 'like like' or 'like like LIKE' enter the equation. 

While disrespect, poor communication and conflicting values are common dealbreakers on the dating scene, the ongoing pandemic has given rise to a new and increasingly prominent no-no - not being vaccinated. 

With a deadly virus circulating on our doorsteps, a devastating war, a dangerous rise in misformation, and a divisive 'us versus them' rhetoric unravelling the fabric of society, the world is awash with fear and uncertainty. With so much to worry about, the last thing searching singles want is to feel unsafe in their budding relationships.

As a result, more and more people are openly disclosing their vaccination status and preference on their dating profiles. If it's out in the open, at least you don't risk wasting your precious time - or finding out at a crowded, alcohol-fuelled, possibly super-spreader party that your date hasn't had their first jab. 

But for those who struggle to be forthright at the best of times, navigating this terrain can be daunting. Asking someone for their vaccination status is a little more direct and probing than the questions that might naturally come up on a first date, such as 'What's your favourite food?' or 'What's your sign?' (by the way, if it's Gemini, run for the hills). 

And for the passionate, perhaps politically inclined people among us, there are definitely nuances to asking someone for their vaccination status versus subjecting them to the Spanish Inquisition. 

To get the lowdown on how exactly sexy singletons should be navigating this increasingly common and very important dealbreaker, Newshub spoke to relationship expert Bridgette Jackson, a divorce and separation coach and the founder of Equal Exes. 

Vaccination etiquette on New Zealand's dating scene and how to navigate the 'unvaxxed' dealbreaker
Photo credit: Getty Images

Let's set the scene: you're on a dating app and have been messaging someone back-and-forth. But before meeting up, you want to make sure your new date is fully vaxxed. How do you ask someone for their vaccination status politely, but also make it clear it's an important prerequisite?

Our health is of paramount importance and you should feel empowered to ask questions that are relevant to your own health and those close to you. It is up to you to assess your own vulnerability, your risk to others and your own right to feel comfortable in a situation.

Coupled with this is the fact that a person's vaccine status could affect where you meet and what you can do on a date, so be confident in asking the question.

Opening the line of communication by being up-front about your own vaccine status and what you want to know from them can be a good place to start. I always say, you have to look at each perspective - how would you like to be asked? Asking someone, such as a potential date or anyone you meet, about their vaccination status should be based on being kind around the question and come from a place of understanding. 

It is also important to remember that being vaccinated is not a viable option for some. If they are not vaccinated, it is up to you whether to meet up with them or not. If being vaccinated is important to you, you can politely let them know you are not comfortable for your own personal reasons and wish them all the best. 

However, if you do want to get to know the person, you will have to adjust the way you deal with the issue. If you do arrange to meet, you can suggest an outdoor setting, such as a takeaway coffee or picnic, and opt to wear a mask if that makes you comfortable.

What etiquette should people on the dating scene be following when it comes to vaccination status? Should people be openly disclosing it on their dating profiles or to their matches?

Since the arrival of COVID-19, it now is commonplace on many dating sites and apps for prospective lovers to include their vaccination status. The likes of Tinder, Bumble and Hinge now offer users 'vaccinated' or 'vaxxing soon' options for profiles, as well as profile badges for those who are vaccinated. In a recent interview, Ben Puygrenier, spokesperson for Tinder France, says a vaccination sticker "alleviates some of the heaviness surrounding the pandemic, which remains oppressive for everyone, especially when you're dating". They offered the option of disclosing your vaccination status in response to the company's teams finding that many users had already shared their vaccination status in their profiles.

To share your vaccination status on your profile is your personal choice and one you should be comfortable with - remember there is no right or wrong. If you share your status it can preclude the question. 

On the other hand, if someone has not said whether they are vaccinated or not, you can still ask. Having an open conversation with a prospective date is a good idea, even if the topic is not a dealbreaker. Those who go on more dates are more likely to consider a date's vaccine status than people who are not as active in dating. If you want to be up-front and are comfortable disclosing your vaccine status, then by all means, disclose it.

If someone you've been speaking to isn't vaccinated and it's a dealbreaker for you, how should you handle their response and make it clear you're not interested?

Being assertive is imperative when letting a prospective date down. This means you have to come from a place of respecting your needs, thoughts and feelings, and express them while showing respect and civility towards others.

You can also put the reasons for 'no' back on yourself as a way to avoid the appearance of passing judgement. For example: "I understand and respect your reluctance to get vaccinated, but we will have to agree to disagree as I have a different viewpoint on the subject," or "I see your point about vaccination however due to the ill health of my mother I have made the decision to get vaccinated," or "Due to my beliefs on the subject I have chosen to get vaccinated due to my medical issues."

Someone may have already enjoyed a few dates with a person when they realise they're not sure if they're vaccinated or not. How can you bring it up in person?

Asking questions on a date allows you to start getting to know each other, with the sharing of viewpoints and common interests. It allows you both to see if youalign on topics and values, before emotionally investing your time in another date.

To slowly open the conversation around vaccine status, start by disclosing your status first and what you want to know from your date. Asking may feel difficult to start but it is important to be on the same page with the big issues, and it also lets them know what you want to know about them. 

Let them know why it matters to you and how it could factor in decision-making without sounding confrontational. If you do decide to see each other again, whether they are vaccinated or not, there are things to consider, such as where you will meet and what you can do together in the current climate.

Amid this ongoing pandemic, do you see vaccination becoming an important prerequisite and non-vaccination becoming a more prominent dealbreaker?

A recent survey by The Balance found most people aged 18 to 40 don't consider vaccine status a dealbreaker for dating. One in five of those surveyed confirmed they would go on a date with someone who is unvaccinated.

What is key when dating or in a relationship is to communicate and talk about what's important to you both. Getting on the same page regarding the big issues is an important step. Whether this is the vaccination topic or something else, being open and transparent lets the other person know what matters to you. It may initially feel awkward but this is the opportunity to address it early on. What is important when having the conversation is being your best self in the discussion and being kind.

If you like each other and want to continue dating, you both need to consider and discuss what that will look like if one is vaccinated and the other is not, because there will be limitations on socialising and where you can go. When dating someone who is unvaccinated, it is important to process why they are not, your feelings on that and what's important to you. It can be a good idea to write a pros and cons list for yourself so you know what dating will look like for you both.

How can people who are not vaccinated navigate this new terrain? For example, if they're unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons, or have an intense phobia of injections.

We all need and love human connection, but remember too that not everyone is compatible with each other. There are many reasons why some people are unable to be vaccinated while at the same time, some people for health reasons need to be vaccinated. It is new terrain for many people whether dating, socialising or being with family.

Whether you want to disclose your vaccination status is your choice. You do not need to disclose it either, unless you are comfortable in doing so. You can also be proactive without disclosing your status and reasoning, and instead share what a date with you could look like. Your ideal first date could comprise outside activities such as a walk on the beach or in a park. If you want to take the next step once someone has asked you about your vaccine status, it is good to be upfront and transparent.