Coronavirus Has Changed the Way We Date Permanently
COVID-19 Has Most Likely Changed the Way We Look for Love Forever
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so many aspects of human life that it’s hard to keep track of them all.
But amid all the ways in which it’s altered our professional lives, it’s also altered our emotional lives. While that primarily means keeping a distance from family and friends, for those not in relationships, it’s meant an end to the existing mode of dating and the beginning of a new one in this strange world we live in.
However much your local government is loosening restrictions right now, the coronavirus remains (at least for the time being) a very real fact of life. Low transmission rates don’t translate to zero transmissions, and the virus isn’t getting less serious, even in places where it is getting markedly less common.
So given the way dates typically involve being less than 6 feet away from the person you’re seeing, what is dating going to look like for the foreseeable future? AskMen spoke with a handful of dating experts, as well as a few people looking for love, in order to get a picture of how dating will look after the coronavirus pandemic.
How COVID-19 Has Changed Dating
“Today’s singles are returning to the ’90s … the 1890s,” says Connell Barrett, a dating coach with The League, and the founder of DatingTransformation.com. “Old-timey courtship is back. It now takes more effort and time to safely date. Fewer people are jumping into bed for casual flings because there’s greater risk now.”
While singles looking to mingle have always had to confront certain risks, he notes that adding COVID-19 to the list means people are being more selective than ever before. “Daters want to know that there’s a good chance for a meaningful connection before diving in,” says Barrett.
However, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t still interested in finding love.
“Many single individuals quarantining alone are taking the time to recalibrate their life priorities, and love is at the top of their list,” says Sara Heimerl, expert matchmaker at Selective Search. “Finding someone to share your life with is now more important than ever.”
According to Heimerl, that’s leading to more interactions at the online dating or texting stages, something that’s supported by Tinder’s internal stats.
A spokesperson for the dating app noted that “at its peak, swipe volume among U.S. [Tinder] members under 25 were up 38%,” and that mentions of the video game “Animal Crossing” in users’ bios were up five times from pre-quarantine levels, suggesting people may have been meeting up in digital spaces rather than physical ones.
“Prior to COVID-19, it was easy for individuals to focus solely on physical attraction and ignore any deep conversation,” notes Heimerl. “Now, with an initial healthy physical distance being prudent, couples are spending more time on the phone and/or FaceTime, getting to know each other at their core, and truly understanding each other’s value systems.”
COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on Our Love Lives
Now that so many of us have adapted to the new normal in place due to the pandemic, it’s easy to wonder how long the aftershocks of COVID-19 will last even after a vaccine is created.
Can we predict how we’ll handle things emotionally? Even with a cure, when will we be ready to go on dates that resemble the ones we had when things weren’t in disarray?
One thing that’s worth considering is which dating habits won’t leave, even after the virus has taken a backseat. Barrett, for one, thinks that tentativeness around the person you’re going on a first date with is a huge thing now, and that’s something that could certainly stick around going forward.
“New questions must be asked before so much as hugging, let alone getting sexual,” he says. “Have you and your potential partner had recent COVID-19 tests? Antibody tests? Are you both social-distancing and wearing masks? Do you both work from home, or are you around a lot of other people? There are so many factors to weigh before pursuing romance.”
Where pre-COVID-19 swipe-based dating was a very shallow scenario, the pandemic may help people grasp the true value of human connection.
“This experience has highlighted how important it is to have someone with whom to share your life,” says Heimerl. “Love is not cancelled. Love is a priority. In fact, people are coming up with more creative ways than ever to date and create shared experiences.”
There will also be a continued shift to focus on the emotional connection with potential matches, ensuring compatibility in value systems and life goals. “More superficial qualities will continue to move down on the list of what’s truly important,” she adds.
That’s been the story for Alice, 26, who is currently in a long-distance relationship that started during quarantine. In fact, she still hasn’t met her partner in real life:
“Tinder had their ‘travel’ function on for free, so I switched my location from Toronto to Los Angeles out of boredom during quarantine in March. We matched on the app, and I sent a GIF. We started FaceTiming and I thought, “Oh, this person is awesome. I’m screwed.” We normally talk for around five hours… I’m Canadian and he’s American, so he’s literally barred from entering Canada. And I have very little confidence in the US’s ability to handle COVID-19. We’re not sure what to do. To be honest we’re both scratching our heads, laughing saying, “Maybe a pandemic wasn’t the best time to meet.” That being said, without the pandemic, I would have never set my Tinder to L.A. and met him. Sometimes I think the world has a funny sense of humor.”
For Barrett, something big to come from all this is the increased importance of discussing your approach to your health, as well as what that reveals about people.
“Dating right now reveals a person’s character right away, before the first date,” he says. “If your Tinder match doesn’t bring up the virus or discuss precautions and jumps right to ‘Let’s meet up’ like it’s still 2019, that’s a big red flag. If they don’t care about their health, they won’t care about yours.”
How to Handle Finding Love Post-Coronavirus Pandemic
How do we adapt to these new conditions? If you were a huge proponent of the hookup lifestyle before COVID-19 hit, you might be floundering right now, but it’s worth considering the silver linings of this situation.
“This pandemic has brought about a renaissance in creative approaches to dating and companionship,” says Heimerl. “Our matchmakers have received tremendous feedback from clients about romantic park picnics, book discussions on hikes, and Zoom wine tastings with a sommelier that make a traditional dinner reservation sound rather boring.”
With the focus shifted towards personality rather than prioritizing looks, it’s also a great time to connect with someone who really matches up with you on a deeper level.
For Joan, 30, she’s used the pandemic’s impact on her dating life as something of a crash-course in sexual safety and consent.
“The very few dates I’ve been on were 6 feet apart, outdoors, walking around my neighborhood and sitting at a park (or the closest thing to it Los Angeles has to offer, a patch of grass by an artificial body of water). I think informed consent is very very important and COVID-19 precautions fit into that — we have to have conversations that establish boundaries ahead of time. Even to meet up with friends I bring that up, with a, ‘Hey, do you want to come to my backyard for a BYOD, 6-feet-apart, outdoor-only hang?’ That’s the kind of dialogue we need for all kinds of social interactions now.”
Barrett agrees, suggesting you should take an active role in broaching the topic of COVID-19 safety.
“Make your first several messages fun and flirty, but be proactive when it comes to discussing health-related precautions,” he says. “Say, ‘Hey, you seem awesome, and I would love to meet you. Here’s how I feel about the way we proceed.’ Go first, and see if they’re on the same page as you are. This is attractive because it shows leadership and empathy, especially if your date feels that you have their safety in mind as well as yours.”
Whatever happens with the virus, the training that we’re getting now about the importance of considering our dates’ safety and feelings of comfort will be useful in lots of different dating scenarios, whether that’s discussing sexual consent, STIs, or just our emotions.
You Might Also Dig: