Picture credit: www.bbc.co.uk
Lockdown restrictions have drastically changed the dating scene, arguably forever. Online dating is at an all-time high, as Tinder hit their record number of three billion swipes on 29th March 2020, whilst OkCupid saw a 700% increase in dates by May 2020. New relationships have also been heavily impacted, with couples forced to stay apart or commit to moving in together. I myself have never really ‘dated’, having coupled with a friend and stayed with him since I was seventeen years old. Lockdown however, has still presented its challenges as we are yet to officially move in together. Due to the fact that each relationship is different and dating apps are somewhat alien to me; I took to Instagram story to call for the dating stories and romance advice of others.
“It’s so hard to meet up that it fizzles out”
Around half of those sharing their experiences had not bothered to date at this time, as I feel my single self wouldn’t either. Others had continued out of sheer boredom, or because they enjoy meeting people regardless of the supposed success of their conversations. Some commented that dating is rather difficult without being able to meet up in person, with one respondent saying that despite speaking to people on dating apps, it is so hard to meet up that it eventually ‘fizzles out’. Meeting up gives you something to talk about and aim toward, so it’s easy to see how this could happen.
A classic piece of dating advice in pre-COVID times would be to arrange a low-pressure first date involving an activity, for example bowling. This way, a date feels less like a job interview, with something to distract from the inevitable awkward gaps in conversation on first meeting. Lockdown has meant that the period of exchanging pleasantries before getting to know someone in person is much longer, and when you eventually do meet the only activity available is often chatting outdoors or over Zoom. In situations like this, it may be useful to do something together in order to manufacture the common experiences you would usually have had to bond over, for example an online gaming night, or agreeing to read the same book.
Another trick to stop conversation from fizzling out is the ‘yes, and…’ rule. The number one rule of improvisational acting, ‘yes, and…’, is the principle of never blocking a reply. Always expand on an answer, for example when asked if you have seen a TV show, don’t simply say ‘no’. Expand a little, comment anything you may know about it, and ask your date what they think of it. A bit of awkwardness in a new romance is perfectly normal and always has been, but if conversation is a constant struggle, perhaps the fizzling is for the best.
“Lots of FaceTime”
I was surprised to discover that some had managed not only to maintain a pre-existing relationship, but had started a new one. Having been asked how on earth they managed this, virtual dates played an expectedly huge part in people’s answers, along with the advice to partake in “lots of FaceTime and little surprise deliveries”. Aside from being one of very few options, virtual dates come with their own advantages, with 61% of Hinge users who have tried virtual dating claiming they will continue to do so after the pandemic. Issues such as safety spring to mind, with the first date taking place safely from your home. Plus, you can pretend to glitch or lose connection if it gets awkward!
Not only is the forming of a full-fledged relationship clearly possible in lockdown, but some have used this everlasting supply of free time to play the field. Meeting up however, was often scuppered, this time by the unpredictable British weather ruining their socially distanced walks in the park, as one person commented. Therefore, despite the possible continuation of some pandemic dating hacks post-COVID, indoor and in-person meetings will make a very welcome return!
“I have ended up in a relationship with my housemate”
Lockdown restrictions seem to have altered the age-old rule of never, ever falling for someone you live with, and I was glad to see that people aren’t regretting that they let it happen organically. “I started dating one of my uni flatmates”, said one student, “something I said I’d never do but I’m so happy”. It’s easy to understand how you’d end up crushing on a housemate, as another commented that their new relationship came as the result of “spending 24/7 together”.
The usual rule of avoiding housemate romances exists to avoid disturbing your living arrangement beyond repair with a break-up, which is especially important whilst locked down at home. Therefore, perhaps don’t seek it out unnecessarily with a housemate you would consider to be just ‘passable’ as a romantic partner. However, if genuine feelings develop, the friendly household dynamic is already ruined. Furthermore, a relationship formed organically could be an indicator of a genuinely compatible pairing as you are drawn together without even trying, so a decision to pursue it may be the best decision you ever make.
“My relationship has grown stronger than ever during lockdown”
I also spoke to those in established relationships, and sentiment across the board seemed to be that lockdowns had made their relationship harder. The main issue for those yet to officially move in together is the instability of “being completely apart or completely together”. Aside from often paying rent for two homes and both living in one, this can either accelerate a new relationship or drive a couple apart. Whilst some admitted to COVID restrictions playing a significant part in their break up, others offered thoughts on how they managed to stay together.
One person commented that “communication is key” and that their relationship is actually “stronger than ever during lockdown”. Another, who had entered into their relationship just before lockdown, commented that “the tough conversations helped [them] to get to know each other more”. Hardship in any form tests our compatibility with those closest to us, and therefore some have realised that they need to go their separate ways whilst others have uncovered a deep connection very early on. Communication seemed to be the common denominator in all success stories, and for those in lockdown together, ‘me-time’ played a huge part, both of these being healthy habits to take into relationships post-COVID. “Make a space and time just for you… we all need space”, commented one respondent, whilst another suggested “calls with friends that have nothing to do with your partner”. Balance between time for your partner, yourself, and others is still important! Hardships can also test how much you truly like someone, as one student in a relationship with a housemate commented that “Sometimes it’s hard to know if you like someone because it’s convenient, but then it wasn’t convenient and I still wanted it”.
To break the boredom, set aside time for each other and make the effort to arrange it in advance. You can get creative with it, as one person turned their car into a cosy home cinema, or simply try a new local takeaway together as often as you can afford to. The ability to have fun together out of nothing can be an essential indicator of a good relationship, so don’t be frightened of it. Set aside some time together and you may be surprised at the things you manage to end up talking about!