If you were single and only casually dating when chaos and uncertainty ensued back in March 2020, chances are this is still your relationship status. After all, when would you have had the opportunity to change it?
Once we learned about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and were advised to self-isolate, most of us did. We stocked up on food, scavenged for tissue and paper towels, and hunkered down in our homes, alone.
Online dating surged, but in-person casual meetups plummeted.
There was no place to go.
Common first date spots like coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, and dine-in restaurants were inaccessible. Unless you wanted to chance inviting someone you barely knew to your home or going to theirs, all you could do was chat through apps and video calls.
I was mortified in the early stages of the pandemic if someone even hinted at finding a place to meet in person. You mean, you want me to risk catching Coronavirus for you? No thanks, strange person I’m not even sure I like yet.
Minimal physical interaction could set the stage for building a relationship rooted in substance — because you have no choice but to talk for a while and get to know one another. Or, you’ll get bored with it all. Endless chatting that isn’t leading to a next step can get old.
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With businesses reopening and a greater understanding of how to protect yourself, you may be feeling brave enough to venture back out into the real-life dating world. COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere, though. It’s still scary. However, the environment has become more conducive for taking communication offline.
It continues to be a strange time for courtship and getting to know people. If you desire romantic partnership, dating is imperative. Yet, it’s a challenge to get close to someone new when opportunities for public gathering and comfort level with seizing such occasions remain limited.
I’ve kept my toe in the dating waters throughout the pandemic.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
A Ton of People Still Aren’t Taking COVID-19 Seriously
I only recently agreed to meet new prospects in person — and ONLY if they agreed to be masked-up and practice social distancing. We don’t have much choice now, but some people will choose otherwise when possible.
I don’t know if the reason stems from not believing the pandemic is real, or if it’s the typical response of not taking a situation seriously until it affects you. Nonetheless, I’ve turned down invites to pool parties, barbecues, hotel get-togethers, and other events destined to be densely populated.
I’m not there yet in my mental pandemic recovery, and none of the data supports that I should be.
Just know, if you plan on dating anytime soon, you may have to weigh how interested you are in someone against how big of a health risk you’re willing to take.
Online Dating Hasn’t Evolved Much
The most popular apps are still a cycle of swiping, matching, and having little or no conversation with your matches. That’s the nature of the space. I don’t think the pandemic and self-isolation made anyone take it more seriously. It just gave us even more time to sit and swipe.
I can assure you that this period hasn’t birthed a more thoughtful, engaged online dating pool. Apps have a place, however. It’s mostly a numbers game. You can get lucky with a mutual swipe right and develop something meaningful. It happens. But expect it to happen only at your peril.
Many People Are in a Place of Transition
Partner requirements may need to be relaxed a bit. There’s record unemployment. Everyone from CEOs to interns have lost jobs through no fault of their own. Finances are tight and uncertain for an unprecedented number of people. I’ve seen adults move back home with their parents to stay afloat.
Whereas before, such circumstances could be indicative of one’s responsibility level or a measure of success — that’s not presently the case. Being unemployed or strapped for cash right now means nothing except that we’re in the midst of a global economic crisis.
Even if you haven’t been personally affected in this area, you may need to be empathetic to those who have. Because when dating, you’re likely to come across more people than usual who are in between dreams.
The Dates You Do Have May Feel More Intimate
Despite some folks attempting to carry on as though nothing is happening, it’s a whole new world out there. Many sit-down spots I’ve seen are far less crowded than normal.
The in-person date I agreed to recently was at a little Italian pastry shop. We were the only two people in the place. We sat with our faces half-covered and talked for hours — when we weren’t eating croissants and drinking coffee, of course. There was one waiter who came by now and then but mostly left us alone.
It was peaceful and disarming. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed someone’s company in public with no outside distractions. Both of us were fully engaged because there was nothing else to steal even a moment of our attention. It felt warm and familiar. That part of this whole disaster, I loved.
If itching to date again, you may encounter a lot of people who aren’t taking recommended precautions. You may grow annoyed with similar frustrations despite the world around us having changed. You might have to eliminate items from your current partner wish list. Dating during the pandemic is both different and the same. But, it may be worth it.
Previously published on “Hello, Love”, a Medium publication.
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