‘I want to learn how to date without hooking up first’: Coronavirus dating stories
We asked readers to share their stories about what it’s like dating — or trying to date — in the middle of a pandemic. Here are a few highlights (answers have been lightly edited):
“I had been seeing a guy for a few weeks but was promptly socially distanced with a text that reminded me of the Dear John messages that I was accustomed to receiving as a single gal in Los Angeles ending with ‘This sounds like a blowoff, but I hope you understand it’s not that at all. These are extraordinary circumstances.’ Extraordinary circumstances indeed! Thankfully he reemerged for happy hour FaceTime calls, which would become our new way of dating. One day he called saying that he remembered I lived above a Trader Joe’s and did I need anything? We could stand online together — six feet apart of course. I had actually already done my TJ’s shopping for the week, but said “Yes!” immediately. Our shopping date varied immensely from our last one when we walked carefree — mask- and glove-free — to dine in an actual restaurant. Now I was standing on the prescribed blue tape facing him so that at least I could try to decipher his reactions by watching his eyes above his mask. When we finally made it into the store, I realized quickly that this was a great way to get to know someone. Does he eat like a child as my ex-husband did? Does he have a dairy intolerance? Does he enjoy snacks as much I do? It might not have been as much fun as some of our previous contact dates, but he did sneak a tap on my butt, which felt electric as it was the first time that I had been touched in 6 weeks! I would often put guys into two categories — Casual and Potential. It’s not possible to date anyone casually right now and more importantly why would I waste my precious time even if I happen to have an excessive amount of it? Now when I’m swiping, I pay closer attention to the qualities that I’m looking for and primarily only “liking” guys who would be in the Potential category.”
— Andrea S., West Hollywood
“I actually met someone right before the governor put out the mandatory stay-at-home order. We met on Tinder the day before, both of us tired of dating, wanting something serious. I would say the big difference is usually I would have a few dates [with different guys] lined up, but with the quarantine, it forces you to spend time getting to know the first person you met, especially if you were already vibing on the first date rather than ‘See what your options are.’ I’ve seen him in ways I wouldn’t have this early on in dating. This pandemic has exposed people’s character in ways I think I would have never known but would have had to guess. ‘How emotionally stable are you? How do you deal with the challenges of life?’ The quarantine has given me a front-row seat to how the person I am getting to know navigates this, and how we navigate it together lets me know if we can make it long-term once this is over. I am hopeful we will, because we have definitely had some tough but great conversations.”
— Jeninne B., Los Angeles
“I was violently scrolling through Tinder (you should see the way I swipe, it’s violent) and finally swiped right after about 50 left swipes ... four dates, and then the Safer at Home order came. For the past month, we’ve texted every day and FaceTimed sometimes. But this feels different from my other Tinder situationships. Do I feel pressured in the age of COVID-19 to avoid feeling lonely at all costs? Would our physical chemistry hold up? Will this actually be unlike my other Tinder escapades? I won’t have answers for a while.”
— Elizabeth G., Pico Rivera
“I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year. He has a child and has decided to quarantine with his son and the child’s mother. It has been extremely challenging to trust him and maintain our relationship. We’ve been arguing nonstop and we’ve gotten close to breaking up many times. We’ve been doing long distance already, seeing each other about three to four times a month. The quarantine has made seeing each other impossible. It’s even harder to consider a breakup during this mentally challenging time.”
— Erica L., New York City and Los Angeles
“With one-night stands out of the question, dating in quarantine has challenged me to (gasp!) actually get to know each person and only pursue those with whom it seems like I might have real chemistry, whereas previously I would sometimes pursue women strictly for sex. This was a shift I was due to make anyway, so I welcome it, and with no platonic distractions it’s much easier to focus on real connection, which is what we all want anyway. [But] dating virtually is laden with problems. For one, each person has hundreds of thousands of other options available to them at any given point so it doesn’t feel like anyone is taking it very seriously. I don’t have to wear pants on [virtual] dates. Sometimes I don’t even shower. Shhh ...”
— Blaise D., Los Angeles
“We’ve been forced to get much more creative, but it’s ultimately been for the best! We’ve had to make sure we both really listen to each other and to ask how the other person is doing. It’s a tough time and now it’s more important than ever to be there for loved ones. You really can get to know someone without all the frills! Right now talking and being there for each other is all we can really do. I hope my relationship comes out of this better and stronger than before.”
— Ariel K., Los Angeles
“Relationship experts said this is supposed to be the best time for singles — dating on a more meaningful level through online courtship. No quickies, no one-night stands, no using and abusing each other since the mandated shelter-at-home took place. But just weeks after the country shut down, I found myself sending and receiving promiscuous photos from a man I met through Bumble. I’m new to the dating scene, freshly dumped in February and left to mend my broken heart in quarantine during March. My proper rebound ritual is to search for physical validation as a coping mechanism; knowing that I’m still sexually desirable to replace the emotional rejection of being unlovable. So when I re-downloaded the app for the first time in years, I relapsed, to say the least. I attempted to follow the PG-rated dating guidelines of COVID-19 but lust at first sight took a hold of me and back to my evil ways I went. Despite being stuck in the purgatory of missing my ex and wanting to meet someone new, I realized that quarantine was my remedy for heartbreak. In isolation I was forced to relearn to love myself for who I am and see the good in the world around me. Chasing my match on Bumble is just another perk of the adrenaline of being alive. I know when this is all over, I’ll have someone to look forward to. I am exactly where I want to be in life. I’m hoping to learn how to actually date people without hooking up first. I want to be able to learn about someone first and not just have witty banter that leads into sexual conduct. I tend to jump the gun quickly and that has been the story with all my previous relationships. I want to take this time to try to do things the ‘right’ way and meet someone who wants to learn about me the same way.”
— Jillian S., Chino Hills
“My boyfriend and I are dating long distance (I’m in Los Angeles and he’s in Tallinn, Estonia). Our FaceTime schedule is the same, but we have become more intentional with our times together. He bought me a ticket to visit him in Estonia in April. We both looked forward to this time together for months until coronavirus changed everything and I had to cancel my trip. The next time I’ll see him is when he officially moves back to California later this year. It’s difficult not being able to see him during this time. We have meaningful conversation each time we see each other to make up for the distance. We pray more together — about our relationship, our families, the world. We have gotten creative with our virtual dates. We paint together, cook new dishes, do yoga. I hope that we both have a greater appreciation of spending quality time with each other. I will value the moments we will have when we can physically be together again.”
— Kaitlyn G., Los Angeles
“Dating has completely changed for me and has practically come to halt. I’m still on Bumble. I have spoken to a few people on the phone. I may meet one of the guys to go for a walk, but that’s about it. Yes, the guys still want to meet. I’ve had a few of them ask if they can come over to my place. I’m not comfortable with that. I do like talking on the phone with someone to try and get to know someone, rather than just going on first date after first date after first date. Talking on the phone may lead to something down the road. I really want to find the love of my life.”
— Ro Z., Chicago
“My sister found this guy she thought would be a good match for me. The conversation is mostly via text and most recently has graduated to phone calls. Sharing selfies in the morning or from the treadmill with no makeup, having no physical involvement, talking a lot to each other. All these things build a real relationship. Looks or sex won’t hold a relationship. People may talk about it as ideal but now everyone has to do it, so it’s great. It’s the survival of the fittest. The guy that can’t hold a conversation or is so shallow to drop out of a relationship because of looks will not do well during this new reality of dating. I’m loving it! You may want to meet the person or make out, but you can’t just yet. He told me this is building a cool anticipation and that he is not talking to anyone else besides me just because of the connection we’re establishing.”
— Daniela B., Philadelphia
“It’s been a year since I accepted myself as a lesbian, and in February I downloaded Bumble and matched with multiple girls. One stood out among the rest and we eventually traded phone numbers in early March. We planned to have a date mid-March but the pandemic canceled that. Still, I can’t imagine how my life would be if I had gone on that date with her, because I feel like we’re connecting on a more spiritual and emotional level when we’re apart in this way. We text until 1 a.m. or later every night, and each Saturday we have a Skype call that can run for four hours or more. This next Saturday, I plan to ask her to be my girlfriend “Love Actually"-style via some notecards and plenty of blushing between us. I don’t think I ever would have had time for that if I wasn’t on lockdown.”
— Natalie G., Indianapolis
“Not sure if we are considered ‘dating people,’ but since this whole shutdown thingy, after 35 years together, we feel as though we are. Before the virus hit we lived a normal couple’s existence. Working, going out to dinner a couple of times a week for our Date Night, then seeing each other in passing but not really romantic, just appreciative of one another. Then the boredom of isolation hit and suddenly we are caught in a tiny apartment 24/7 and one would assume there’s potential for armed conflict looming. But the total opposite happened: We discovered a true appreciation of our relationship. We date, every day. Mornings we sit and share world news and coffee, we do different projects together each day, we laugh in our recliners as we binge-watch classic comedies on TV. I have created “Chez Pierre’s” restaurant where I prepare her candlelit dinners that utilize whatever ingredients are available in our cupboards, and nightly we dance in the kitchen before going off to bed to read until lights out. It may not live up to the criteria for being a dating couple, but it sure feels like we do.”
— Pete J., Key West, Fla.
“Three weeks into the coronavirus shutdown, I finished dating. No, it wasn’t an ugly breakup, social distancing compliance, or a sad resignation to end my days as a spinster. It was a happy culmination of the dating game: marriage! In what felt like coronavirus mid-winter, we celebrated Easter nuptials in our living room with an online officiant. While whole cities appeared to slumber under a Sleeping Beauty-like spell, we began our happily ever after. This took some doing, given the closed county offices from whence a marriage license typically comes, not to mention California’s social distancing order. But where there’s a will, there’s a way and our way was thankfully paved by a sweet online wedding service. One day after filling out an online application and uploading our legal documents, we had our marriage license in hand, and a date and time for the ceremony: 2 p.m. on Easter Sunday. New life. New commitment. A joyful occasion in a surreal and uncertain period of our lives. It was perfect.”
— Teresa K., Monterey
“I began dating someone shortly before things began to shut down. So our relationship has become a socially distanced one, as so many others’ have. I certainly miss being intimate with my partner, but fortunately for us we live in a sparsely populated area that presents many opportunities for socially distanced interaction. We can still hike together. We can still have dinner together (sitting outdoors, six feet apart). I think that our new reality could drive positive changes in online dating. Removing the possibility of hooking up may encourage more people to connect deeply through conversation on the front end of a relationship.”
— Gayle T., Taos, N.M.
“Dating has been complicated. Before COVID-19, back in late December, I began dating a great man, but then embarked on a several-months trip. My trip was cut short in April when COVID began getting serious in the states and I had to return home only to find out the country was beginning to shelter in place. It is unfortunate circumstances because we are in a relationship, with very little connection, nor do we have the capability to experience a ‘honeymoon’ phase. What I hope to get out of my new relationship during quarantine is a stronger bond in communication and emotion, but it is proving difficult when trying to get to know a person in a deeper way without physical touch, gestures, eye contact, shared experiences or laughter.”
— Katherine M., Dallas
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