The Loss of Dating with COVID.

In long and short term romances, living together or not, single or coupled up.

image by Jonathan Castellon from

Dating has been delivered a blow with the arrival of COVID. This includes people who are single and dating around, those already in a committed relationship, as well as people who live with their partner.

Short or long-term. Married or not. Monogamous or not.

COVID has impacted dating in all relationship types, and in many ways that are disappointing, difficult, even entail significant loss.

We should admit, acknowledge, and even allow ourselves to mourn this, which can feel validating, is healthier, might help us to feel less alone with the resulting feelings of upset about this. Pondering and exploring these feelings and losses also will ultimately help us not to taking dating for granted when we do have these opportunities again.

Here are a few of those current dating losses and relationship challenges:

With COVID, we cannot easily go out on dates

At least not safely healthwise and while feeling good about it.

Typical dates like dinner out, drinks in an atmospheric bar, attending a sporting event, going to a comedy show, seeing a live performance, getting tea and coffee in a cute cafe, browsing a bookstore, brunch, museums, trying a group exercise class together, much of this cannot happen right now, and the things that can still happen carry significant risk to one’s health.

Even escaping for a romantic weekend away, or for longer-term couples, traveling and adventuring together, these are also not really possible at the moment. Not to the degree we might long for anyway.

All of this takes away from the novelty, growth, and excitement of dating. It diminishes a sense of anticipation and things to look forward to. It limits the possibility of fledgling relationships in terms of their flourishing and thrill, and it stifles and hobbles longer-term relationships with more monotony, less space in the relationship, and less novelty.

Wearing a mask or first dates over Zoom?

Not so much.

Talk about a destroyer of the excellent sexual tension that dating entails. It’s exciting getting dressed up for your date(s). Part of what makes dating thrilling and sexy is sitting across from one another and feeling electricity, a connection. The jitters that come with going out on a date with someone new are wiped out over a screen. Letting the tension build in person as you spend time together cannot be replaced or replicated with cell phones or laptops. Noticing their body language in person. Flirting and banter in person.

Masks diminish and take away from all of this significantly. And trying to date over Zoom? This deflates much of the chemistry, elation, and sense of anticipation when looking at someone over a screen instead of experiencing them in person.

The anticipation of a kiss used to be sexy

Now it’s scary.

Do I risk it? Potentially getting really sick to kiss this new person who I like, with whom I may or may not go on to have a significant relationship? Is it worth it? What a huge bummer and loss. This takes away so much from the joy and titillation of dating. And from a significant, beautiful aspect of it (those first kisses and first times getting physically closer). It replaces feelings of buzz, tension, and wonder with fear, anxiety, and worry. And this is a very sad thing.

No more getting dressed up, excited with anticipation, and leaving the house to do something different and fun

This applies to both short and long-term relationships.

Now, dating is taking walks outside or hanging out at home. As in, non-dating.

Experiencing, planning, and embarking on novel, interesting, outside-the-house moments, activities, and experiences to look forward to, to breathe new life into your relationship, to break up the day-to-day stuff, to bond over, and to get to see and remember different facets and sides of your partner (such as watching them play hockey, or observing them interact with others at a party or seeing them all dressed up and out among other people), most of this has been put on hold. And that is a major loss.

More difficult to find an opportunity for personal space and to miss each other

Instead, a lot of couples are finding they are now always together. Especially in cases where both are working from home and they live together.

There is little to no chance for novel activities, both together and as individuals at the moment. People are not really able to get out and do things in society right now as they used to. There is less space in a lot of people’s romantic relationships currently. And there is less chance to miss each other.

All of this can lead to feeling more like roommates rather than romantic partners. It can lead to getting on each other’s nerves way more (and for many people, it would be hard not to when spending 24/7 with someone, even a person they love deeply). This can mean unintentionally taking each other for granted. It can mean looking forward less to their company (since it’s constant and they are always around).

None of which, by the way, means there is something wrong with your relationship. It could mean that. Though just as likely and even more likely, it means that for any romantic relationship, this is just a lot of weight to bear. The problem is more likely a result of this insane societal situation right now, and less likely the fact that your relationship is “bad.”

A lot of monotony, a lot of togetherness (and for many people, too much), and not much breathing room can lead to things feeling stale and uninspired. And without a lot of chance at the moment to experience your partner as a romantic love with whom you do novel things and who you actually date (but more, instead, like a roommate who you do the same thing with every single day, day in and day out), this is tough.

For singles desiring a relationship, COVID can lead to fast settling and rushing into things

For those who might be lonely and feeling the loss of all the detriments to dating described above, they might be more inclined to rush into the first romantic connection that seems good. This may or may not work out in their favor. Generally though, rushing with regards to a choice as significant as whom to commit ourselves to is not a great idea. It’s usually better to proceed slowly and get to know someone over time, while still giving it thought.

People might also be more apt to stay in long-term relationships that are no longer healthy or do not make them happy anymore. Ending a significant relationship or marriage during the current situation in our country, even one that isn’t great anymore might feel especially daunting. People may not want to be “alone” and enter into an ambiguous situation on their own right now, so they stay when they shouldn’t.

Though this can also go the other way…

The pandemic has meant that every date becomes more precious,” says behavioral scientist Logan Ury, who currently works as director of relationship science at dating app Hinge.

“I’ve seen people enter into relationships now for the first time in a long while because they had fewer distractions, and as a result, the person they were dating became more valuable to them. Some people break a habit of moving onto the next one too quickly, or of viewing the grass as always being greener on the other side, and that change probably would not have happened without the pandemic.”

She believes that some people have also become clearer with themselves and others as to what they’re looking for, due to the introspection which many have undergone during lockdowns.

“Because people have spent a lot of time alone, thinking when’s the next Covid spike going to be, when’s the next lockdown, it’s led to some people dating in a more intentional way. And that intentionality can show up in a number of ways. For example, being clearer with yourself and others about what you want and valuing each date.”

Here’s an interesting article from The Atlantic, I Took the Risk of Dating During the Pandemic. It Paid Off.

In varying ways and for a lot of people right now, dating has been put through the wringer, been diminished, or is on hold. Many people are experiencing significant challenges with relationships at the moment, largely because of the extreme influence that COVID exerts on them.

Know that it will not always be this way, assuming we make certain choices when we are able to once again and COVID has finally dissipated to allow for more freedom.

In the meantime, also know that not all the challenges you are facing right now are automatic evidence that something is “wrong” with your relationship. That instead, it’s likely a result of the extreme, restrictive, depressing situation our country is in right now.

That aside, in the meantime, put effort into and look for solutions to the unique challenges of your relationship that are coming up with COVID. It will make a difference and is likely to result in happier, healthier, more satisfying dating and romantic relationships.

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author.

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