Anja had dabbled in dating apps before, but not seriously until April 2020. She was living alone, in the midst of a global pandemic and nationwide lockdown, unsure of what the future held. It was, in her opinion, the perfect time to start dating.
When we first started hearing about romantic relationships beginning during the pandemic, our initial response was “but how?!” We could barely keep our existing relationships afloat, so naturally it was difficult to imagine sowing the seeds of a brand new one. But here were these stories popping up in our circles; stories of connection, awkward yet intentional strides toward finding love and companionship. And we couldn’t resist. We needed to know more. So, we reached out and interviewed numerous people, all of whom had found a partner during the pandemic.
For the sake of privacy, names and identifying details have been changed.
“I strategically thought that being in lockdown was a great time to hop on a dating app—it would slow down the process a bit and force some more quality conversation before meeting in person,” explained Anja. She matched with her now-boyfriend in July 2020, only a few months after joining Hinge, an app that refers to itself as a “relationship app” rather than a dating app, where its goals are more long-term focused. “We chatted for about an hour and then he proposed a video call…I reluctantly agreed as long as he didn’t mind that I was already in my bathrobe drinking a glass of wine. I thought, hey, if you can’t accept me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best!”
Anja’s candid approach was something of a pattern we were beginning to see in many responses. Being clear, being open, and having to discuss personal boundaries in such a forthright fashion became a necessary norm. “The pandemic added another layer of complexity [in dating] because you had to be clear about your comfort levels before meeting.”
Noémie had to draw similar lines in the sand with her dating experiences. She had just ended a previous relationship and was extremely hesitant about dating again, but she knew that she had to be proactive. During her dating endeavors, she realized that previous red flags were replaced with new ones that were a result of the pandemic, “One time someone was offended that I did not want to hug or faire la bise as a greeting. That was a no-go for me.”
Due to Covid, Noémie recognized that she had to be more selective than she would have normally been, but also that the pandemic acted as an accelerator when she found a match. “In a normal situation, we would have gone out and had a drink or a meal in a restaurant, then meet up again for a second, third, etc. date. But with the restrictions and the shutdown it wasn’t a possibility. A true benefit of [the pandemic] is that we got closer much quicker than we would have in a covid-free reality. Being “forced” to share the intimacy of our home in order to spend time together, cooking together, having less contact than usual with the “outside world” and simply living at a slower pace truly was a positive factor and I think it made us enjoy each other’s company even more.”
Paul met his girlfriend, also on Hinge, during the summer when restrictions were a bit lighter. He was living in Geneva, while his girlfriend was in Lausanne, so travelling on the train became an issue at times. As restrictions began to tighten up, he decided to bring a suitcase of clothes over to her place in Lausanne. “If we were to be locked down for weeks, why not spend it together?” he commented. However, things took a surprise turn when he tested positive for Covid while staying with her. They both ended up spending two weeks in quarantine together, “Quarantine was a great test for the relationship, but my Covid symptoms came and went with no issues!” Once their quarantine ended, Paul and his girlfriend rented a moving van, packed up his apartment in Geneva, and he moved to Lausanne into his girlfriend’s apartment.
Anja is still going strong with her boyfriend and has advice for those who are in a similar situation or are trying to date during a pandemic, “Get comfortable being honest and direct.” She explains that this is an important skill to have in general, but all the more important during COVID, “I don’t know about others, but my level of comfort doing things or seeing people can change on the daily. If you can’t verbalize that to the person/people you’re dating, you’re setting yourself up for failure.” Her second piece of advice is a bit more practical, “Try to use video chat to get to know someone before meeting them. Yes, I know we all have too many video chats to count, but this is the reality of 2021! Pour yourself a glass of wine, find some good lighting, and give it a try. If your video chats go well, meeting in person will be way less stressful.”
We were listening to a podcast the other day featuring an evolutionary biologist who was discussing core truths about what makes us human. In the interview, Agustín Fuentes said, “Humans evolved as beings whose needs to touch and be touched, to converse, debate, and laugh together, to smile and flirt with one another, and to interact in groups, are central to healthy lives.” He goes on to say that being together isn’t just social or good for our psyche, but it’s “central to the way our physiologies, our bodies, our circulatory and digestive systems function.”
Basically, we are creatures meant to be in community. And though it can often seem that the pandemic has put a fracture in that foundational truth, listening to stories of resilience, of growth, of finding love despite the circumstances proves that the foundation is still there—it’s just about resurfacing it. Sometimes you’ve got to do a bit more digging to find it.