Ask anyone. Online dating, especially after divorce is no picnic. The seemingly endless search for love can include everything from feeling rejected when no one’s swiping you, going on dates that are worse than a root canal, and realizing how tricky it is to weed out psychos, jerks and weirdos from cute, normal guys who could be a great fit.
But online dating just got a lot more challenging. As if swiping wasn’t hard enough, try it while social distancing! Can it be done? It sure can and it is. What I’m saying is, it appears that the pandemic isn’t causing men and women in search of true love to give up. They’re just changing the way they date.
I reached out to a group of divorced women to ask about online dating while social distancing and adhering to the stay-at-home order. Here is how they responded.
One woman said she had gone out with a man three times, right before the stay-at-home order. She said in the first week of staying home, he texted a few times, but has been in touch less and less over the past couple weeks. She thinks it’s because he is a single parent with a stressful job.
What a shame, and how disappointing for this woman. Going out with someone three times is a big deal, isn’t it? A promising relationship fading; the result of a world crisis. I hope she realizes how not personal this really is. Maybe this guy feels overwhelmed, or just has too much anxiety to focus on a new romantic relationship right now. It’s hard to tell. When things get back to normal, he might step back into the picture.
Another divorced woman had a very different experience with a man she became close with just before the stay-at-home order. She said they text frequently, and that he’s come up with some great virtual dates for them, including watching a funny movie “together,” while talking throughout, and having a drink and some snacks. How wonderful!
Maybe the difference between these two stories has nothing to do with coronavirus. In other words, maybe the first relationship would have fizzled even if COVID-19 didn’t exist. Maybe the second couple is meant to be, pandemic or no pandemic.
Many divorced moms told me they are doing a lot of texting and talking over the phone to prospective dates—more than they usually would since they can’t get together in person.
Said one woman: “I almost like this virtual dating thing better because there is no pressure and you get to know the person more to see if they are a good fit or not. Sometimes these guys want to jump right to, “Do you want to come over?” so now that’s not even an option. I actually prefer dating right now because I think there’s more potential to actually build a relationship from getting to know the person first.”
What I’m wondering is, is coronavirus forcing online daters to talk more and lust less? Think about it. It sounds like the pandemic might be helping people get to know each other from the inside out.
Instead of focusing on a muffin-top, a beer belly, or a bald head, maybe daters are concentrating more on a warm personality, an interesting background, or a cute giggle. Also, this kind of dating is actually taking sex off the table for awhile, which might eliminate relationship problems that occur from clouded judgment and the hazy line between physical attraction and true feelings of love. Furthermore, isn’t sex so much better after waiting until you really know the person well? I’ve always thought so. Waiting is sexy.
But while getting to know someone via texting and talking can be a good thing, beware. A few women shared that a lot of men either send several “never-ending texts” or they start talking about sex (often explicitly) early on in their communication.
One could surmise that social distancing is causing so many men and women to feel lonely and to crave physical contact. That said, women say this kind of behavior was going on way before coronavirus hit.
Another interesting dating change: women said that when ordinarily they’d go to a bar or a restaurant on a first date, COVID-19 has caused a venue change; some said they’ve had first dates on Zoom, so they can still see each other. Another woman said she went on a walk for a first date and the two maintained a 6-foot distance.
Taking in fresh air instead of a few drinks—not what first daters are used to, but are we onto something here? Dating while social distancing seems pretty refreshing, no pun intended. No liquid courage, all authenticity.
The thing is, dating was never easy, and now, during a time when for health reasons we are ironically forced to be anti-social, meeting someone might seem more challenging than ever before. But I think humans have a need to feel connected, and because we crave intimacy and love innately, we will make it happen no matter what. In other words, our path to romance might have changed, but no virus can ever change the will to find love.
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Jackie Pilossoph is a former television journalist and newspaper features reporter. The author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially, Pilossoph is also the creator of the divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers.