Many would say dating was nerve-wracking even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, there is fear of infection coupled with the usual worries of awkwardness and rejection.
So, how do you date during a pandemic?
UR students shared some of their pandemic dating stories and tips.
Junior Cameron Levy was set up by a mutual friend, he said. But when Levy first contacted his now-girlfriend virtually after being set up, it did not go as he had expected, he said.
“I was like ‘Why not just add her [on Snapchat]? I think she knows who I am, so I don’t think it’ll be that creepy,’” Levy said. “And so I added her and I just snapped her like a few days later just saying ‘Hey,’ and she actually blocked me. And I was really freaked out because I was like, 'What the hell am I getting blocked for just saying hey?'”
Thanks to mediation from the mutual friend, Levy found out his now-girlfriend had not recognized him on Snapchat, he said. They started going on dates after the initial bout of virtual miscommunication but have had some difficulty thinking of date ideas that will not put them at risk for COVID-19, Levy said.
“The first date was just ice cream, and it was outside and already late so there wasn’t anybody else there,” Levy said. “We try to keep our dates either to the two of us like at — maybe like cooking at my apartment or doing something outside.
"Luckily the weather is nice, but I would have loved to like go for a movie or do things that are non-COVID-friendly right now.”
Levy said had it not been for the pandemic, he and his girlfriend might not have started dating.
“The pandemic was one of the reasons we met,” Levy said. “Like, we don’t hang in similar friend groups, so it would have been kind of hard to cross paths. ... Because of the pandemic I think, you know, there was a willingness on both our parts to be like, ‘Well, we’re going to be just doing the same thing every weekend we may as well go on a date with someone we don’t really know.’”
Levy has found it more difficult to casually meet people during the pandemic but said COVID-19 restrictions had allowed him to create a more meaningful relationship.
“It’s probably a lot more intimate than regular [dating], like intimate in terms of you have to spend a lot more time alone with them,” Levy said. “I think you learn more about the person in this environment than you did prior, which can be good but can also be a little bit uncomfortable and fast to a point. But yeah — it’s different.
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“You’re not going to huge ragers and, like, it’s just a completely different environment. You’re spending one-on-one time on Saturdays instead of, like, going to parties together.”
For junior Angelique Steenhagen, the pandemic has presented new challenges to her two-year relationship.
Steenhagen and her boyfriend, who also attends UR, have different friend groups, and she has been worried about not knowing exactly whom her boyfriend has been in contact with, she said. However, Steenhagen said navigating this challenge had helped their relationship grow.
“[The pandemic] taught us how to work together in certain situations," she said. "I think that’s pretty beneficial, especially in a long-term relationship. Just to kind of work through challenges together and hard times together and figuring out how we both respond to situations.”
Steenhagen said she and her boyfriend often brainstormed COVID-19-safe activities.
“For example, what we would do is we’d look up parks,” she said, “and then look up pictures of the parks and be like, ‘Oh this place is pretty. How would we get there?’”
While isolating in their respective homes when the pandemic first began, she and her boyfriend had to be especially creative, Steenhagen said.
“Over quarantine, we did this, like, drawing competition [on FaceTime] where we would randomly generate a Disney character and we would have to draw it to the best of our memory,” she said.
Junior Alejandro Villalpando is also familiar with dating while in separate places. Villalpando opted to take classes remotely this semester, whereas his girlfriend has been attending in-person classes at UR, he said. Villalpando said the pandemic had made long distance more difficult than it would have been otherwise.
“If it wasn’t [for] the pandemic it’d be a lot easier to be like, ‘Okay, I’ve got a break. I’ll go fly, like, over to Richmond,’" Villalpando said. "Or she could fly to [my hometown] right after, during Thanksgiving — things like that.
"But you can’t, because you also have to think about, like, the more immediate and important things, which are your family; and she has elderly grandparents and neither one of us wants to endanger them.”
Villalpando said he had to learn to adapt to not being able to communicate with his girlfriend as regularly.
“I think just talking it out and being like, ‘Okay it’s not working out this week, you have a lot of things on your plate and so do I, we can just — like no biggie,'" he said. "'We both have our own lives, you know, so let’s do something next week.’”
Villalpando said he and his girlfriend had enjoyed planning things they can do once they are in the same place again.
“One of the things we both really like doing, or talk about doing, is traveling,” he said. “So we both created, like, a Pinterest board of places we want to travel to or things that we would want to go and do or places to eat.
"It helps build, like, ‘Oh, I have two months left and then I’ll go do this with her.’ You know, so it’s like — it helps keep things exciting.”
Although the pandemic has presented challenges, Villalpando said it had afforded both him and his girlfriend opportunity for personal growth.
“We’ve just become more independent and realized that we’re not with each other because we need to be," he said. "You know how a lot of couples — there’s always like the dependent one or something like that. But for us, I think we realized, 'No, we’re like pretty happy without each other, but we want to be with each other.'
"We’re even happier together, and that’s nice. So a lot of self, personal growth.”
Contact managing editor Emma Davis at email@example.com.
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