Dating is one thing, but dating during a pandemic? This is a completely new experience for all of us, and it’s definitely one we did not see coming. Let’s be honest, even if we did see it coming, how do you prepare for something like this? What is dating like when there’s a contagious virus floating around the world? Well, though it sounds tricky, many people are finding crafty ways to make it work!
In our series The Dating Chronicles: Pandemic Edition, we interview women and men, asking them how their dating experiences have been during the pandemic and the challenges they face. Today, we spoke with Julian about his experience with dating during the pandemic, the challenges he has faced, and the lessons he has learned.
Q: Help us set the stage for your dating story: at what point during the COVID-19 pandemic did you start dating, and what has been your general approach (dating apps, set-ups from friends, etc.)? Were you newly single, or had you recently experienced any other recent life events that were motivating you to date?
I was single when it started, I had been single for about four or five months before and I was just getting back into the groove of things, wanting to get out there. I was using a dating app, Raya, and I matched with someone I liked very early in the pandemic. We found out that we live very close to each other and we weren’t going to see each other but we ended up taking a socially distant walk, as people were doing back then to stay sane, and that set me up for the first date of the pandemic. Then we started seeing each other, easing into it, and I have been continuing to date and use the app for the whole pandemic.
Q: How have you gone about discussing COVID risks, testing, and comfortability levels around contact? Have you opted for outdoor dates, or FaceTime dates at first? And at what point did you decide you were comfortable meeting IRL, and did you have to get more creative with first date activities than you would during normal times?
It’s a constant discussion. It pretty much always starts on FaceTime for safety and getting a sense of the other person, because you can learn so much more from just a couple of minutes with someone in real time than you can from days of texts. We discuss each other’s comfort level with the virus, our pods, what we’re doing, and what we would be interested in doing.
Maybe it starts as a walk, then maybe you go to a backyard, and then eventually maybe into each other’s spaces. But first date activities have been wine or dinner on FaceTime and it’s weird and kind of fun and this sense of it being collective with us in this together—let’s do this weird thing. It was nice and we didn’t need to get creative because it was already new and weird on its own.
Q: In that vein…if you opted for FaceTime dates at first, did you feel as if there were any benefits to a ‘phone screen’ before meeting in person? Were there any questions you made a point to ask that you may not have felt comfortable asking on a traditional, in-person first date? Or, do you generally feel that it’s more difficult to get to know someone virtually?
It feels like you’re saving time, it’s easier to back out, and there’s the safety of it all. It is harder to get to know people virtually but I do think we were asking more questions because of the strangeness of the time, and things felt like they didn’t fit as much into the social norm box.
Q: Any pleasant surprises? And/or Any horror stories?
I haven’t had any horror stories, I’ve been very lucky in dating. I’ve been pleasantly surprised throughout. In general, I think that the quality of women out there is very high, especially when compared to what I hear from my female friends about the quality of men.
If so, please take time to expand on a specific story if you would like — what happened? How did you meet? What were your initial exchanges like? What went right/wrong? What did your intuition tell you throughout the process? What did you learn from the process? Any takeaways? Where do you stand now and how have you changed as a result?
The first person I dated during quarantine was really nice and on my birthday—when I literally couldn’t see anyone else—she surprised me outside with homemade cupcakes because she lived down the street. That was really nice.
The second person I dated was really lovely. We lived in different cities, so the initial exchanges were very intense. It felt like an adventure during the pandemic, a source of excitement, and I learned that this was one of the ways in which I was going to survive the pandemic mentally—by meeting new people and throwing myself into a whirlwind romance and doing things that I wouldn’t normally otherwise have time for.
My takeaway is that I’m interested in adventure, novelty, and meeting a lot of new people; a relationship is not really what I’m looking for right now.
Q: How have you approached sex and physical intimacy during the pandemic? Have you been more cautious, or about the same?
I would say I’m about the same, but I am more cautious in the sense that I now over-communicate in everything, like before I kiss someone. I’m like, “Hey, how would you feel about that? Normally I would have tried to kiss you, but we’re in a pandemic… How are you feeling?” There’s a lot of checking in.
That said, once I get the feeling of someone’s comfort level, if they’re into it then I’m down. I think single people are cooped up, and there’s a need for a lot of people to feel intimate since we’re on our screens most of the time. I think if anything, there’s been more of a desire for sex and physical intimacy, so I’ve actually chased it a lot more.
Q: If you did meet someone you hit it off with, do you feel like the circumstances of the pandemic and social distancing have affected the pace and progression of your relationship at all? Has it moved faster or slower than your previous relationships?
I would say it definitely affected the pace. You just feel more intense, particularly in early pandemic when it felt like you had to commit to one person safety-wise; you had to be very honest and open and physically monogamous.
That’s how it was at the beginning, but I don’t feel like it’s quite the same way anymore. Now, you communicate to the person and you set up what’s normal for you, rather than going by a societal standard.
Q: If you’re currently single, do you plan to continue dating during the pandemic? Have you experienced any burnout, or increased levels of dating app fatigue? Or, have you found it to be a welcome source of excitement amidst the monotony and difficulties we’re all living through?
I’m definitely going to continue dating during the pandemic. I don’t really feel like I have a choice, because it’s a massive part of life for me. But I need to do it smartly. There is some dating app fatigue, but at the beginning you kind of set up the relationships that you’re going to pursue and then you take a step back, so I think I’m pretty good at controlling my time commitment to the app.
Q: Dating during a pandemic has its obvious challenges. But have you noticed any silver linings that you haven’t yet mentioned? Any moments of self-discovery, growth, humor, or understanding to share?
Yeah, I have noticed some silver linings. I think the main thing is about communication and being able to feel very open and not feeling like you have to dance around things, simply saying, “This is me laying it out, these are my questions to you, what’s important to you?”
For me, that’s part of my personal growth journey.
I just feel like there are more open lines of communication and I find that to be a silver lining for sure. I’ve gotten better at it, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with traditionally uncomfortable questions. I feel an enhanced openness and acceptance.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned? Mistakes you’ve made? Intentions you want to carry forward with you? This can be in regards to dating during the pandemic or just dating in general.
Again, one of the lessons I’ve learned is to be as communicative as possible. Also, don’t try and force something that’s not going to happen. If you’re not getting something back, it’s really not worth your time, and that was something I was may have been doing pre-pandemic. Now, I feel more comfortable with not needing to “get” someone who doesn’t appear to want to spend time with me.
What has dating (during the pandemic or in general) taught you about yourself?
One of the things that I know about myself is that I like adventure and dating is a massive adventure for me. I like meeting new people and learning about them. It’s not really about sex, I mean, it is obviously a massive part of it, but I think what I’m chasing emotionally harkens back to the feeling of learning—and dating is such a good way to learn about the world and to learn about people.
You have that added layer of sex and romance, which makes the stakes feel a little higher, both parties are more interested in sharing about themselves, and so it pushes you to ask deeper questions and it pushes other people to ask deeper questions of you. Beyond the adventure, I’ve learned that I really love someone with confidence and that I need passion.
Dating is a great way to do some self discovery. It helps you turn an eye towards yourself and see through the lens of someone else—and see how lucky you are and how much you have been given.