• Devyn Molina

Love after Lockdown? Welcome to the dawn of a new dating world

Even without face-to-face contact, being in lockdown might have been the answer to forming stronger relationships.

Illustrations by Cassie Rhodes.

Dating can be hard enough as it is but not being able to have physical contact with other humans outside of your house for three months doesn’t exactly make it easier. This year has had more than enough controversy and change, with one of those changes being how people date.

Due to the novel virus COVID-19, many hopeful singles essentially had to put their love life on hold while some couples that developed pre-lockdown were faced with a whole new set of challenges. Suffice to say, the dating world just isn’t the same but that doesn’t mean finding any kind of relationship isn’t impossible. Unfortunately, the prospect of immediate hookups are out of the question as people don’t want to spread the virus

During lockdown people had to solely rely on technology to engage with a potential partner. This meant investing more time in texting, messaging, phone calls and having the ability to create a connection without seeing each other in person. It’s almost as if everyone is in a long-distance relationship, trying to cope with not being able to see each other. Humans biologically need physical interaction, therefore not being able to keep that spark could result in ending a fling or even a relationship sooner than expected.

Many people resorted to having dates on popular online video chat sites such as Zoom and Houseparty. Others opted for signing up for multiple dating apps sure fire way to meet people whether it was to pursue a romantic relationship or to combat the impending loneliness that plagued many during lockdown.

Now that lockdown measures have eased over the last month, reentry into the physical dating world can commence. However, it may take some getting used to. It’s now time to take any relationship established from the screen to in person. Rest assured, just because there’s a few new obstacles doesn’t mean COVID-19 has ruined the dating world for good.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Reentry into dating, especially given the circumstances, can make people a bit apprehensive. Like everything in life, there will always be pros and cons. To determine whether or not the pros outweigh the cons all depends on what kind of relationship was formed before or during lockdown.

Many experts actually agree that the COVID-induced lockdown will strengthen bonds and emotional connections amongst people. This is due to the fact that people have been basically forced to communicate with their companions over different forms of technology, thus having to rely solely on personality and ability to keep a conversation going.

Dating expert and founder of the dating app, BARE Dating, Gillian Myhill believes that lockdown has allowed people to get a chance to form stronger bonds and develop a rapport before the potentially awkward first date.

Due to the nature of her app which allows users to develop a more intimate relationship as they are allowed to choose how much of their photos they’d like to reveal, she thinks the lockdown can also have a positive impact on people’s sex lives.

She says, “Where we used to chat and arrange to meet, now we chat and arrange a video date. The art of sexting has been mastered by many of us and some have moved into sexy video exchanges. It's surprising how much chemistry can be generated across a screen and it is also a great way to judge if you will be compatible.”

Even the anticipation of reuniting or meeting for the first time could be enough to warrant a deeper connection or the desire to continue the already flowing conversations.

One of the cons that could become more apparent after meeting in person is seeing if a conversation can be held just as well if not better than they did over text. Some people tend to be more willing to disclose information and are less reluctant to be more themselves because they have the comfort of being behind a screen. The days of spending time to plan out a reply are over. During lockdown, keeping a texting conversation was only half the battle. For those who felt more comfortable with having video calls will now be testing their chemistry on another level, using this as a precursor as to what could lie ahead.

But if the romantic connection doesn’t translate in person, there still is an option of remaining friends especially given that there was already some sort of bond formed.

From dating apps to finally dining out

After months of waiting for a face-to-face interaction, the switch from dating apps to an actual date can be daunting. The comfort of being behind a screen is gone and the anticipation of how or if the relationship will progress is based entirely on if the connection is the same in person. Given the isolating circumstances of lockdown, some might be questioning whether or not they sought out a relationship out of desire or out of loneliness.

Sacha Nasan, co-founder of the Tinder meets Zoom, blind-dating app, Blindlee, has already noticed how lockdown has made an impact on the dating world. Based on what she’s seen from her app users’ experiences, she’s noted some positives in the realm of dating apps. People have been spending more time texting and calling to get to know a person and less time immediately planning a date.

Her app, Blindlee, has its users engage in three minute blurred video calls where the woman is in charge of how blurred the video remains. Because of lockdown dating app users have started to embrace the idea of having a video date before taking the plunge and committing to going on a first date.

With the increase in dating app usage during lockdown, she explains, “As a result, COVID-19 has led to a paradigm shift to video dating, often acting as a pre-date activity and this is now becoming mainstream where even after the outbreak, video dating will become the new standard for most of us before going on an actual date. Not only does it make you safer and feel more comfortable before going on that date, but it’s a perfect way to see if there is chemistry with that person before committing to a real date.”

Post-lockdown intimacy 101

Once an emotional bond has formed, it’s only natural to want to further that with physical intimacy. In a normal dating scenario, that would naturally be the next step in a relationship or the first step if the relationship was purely sexual. Being told not to be able to be less than two to three metres apart will only increase the sexual tension, especially if there was a sexual rapport formed over text prior to the date. The conversation may flow but on and off the screen but the final test to see if a potential partner is on the same page is showing interest through physical chemistry.

Sex therapist for the audio sexual wellbeing app, Emjoy, Mia Sabat, points out that these social distancing guidelines might actually have a hand in creating a greater sexual chemistry. Since lockdown has prevented those from having sex right away, there has been more time to talk about what each person’s likes and dislikes in the bedroom. She believes that couples will get a chance to explore and discuss their sexual fantasies, leading to a more personal connection later on.

“I think people will have to become significantly more vocal about their preferences, what they’re comfortable with, and will want to give their consent at every stage of physical intimacy, even if they have chosen to bubble with another person.” She adds, “I think conversations around consent and intimacy will change for the better, as open, honest conversations become an absolute must.”

She’s also hopeful that while people are continuing to form deeper connections from their time in lockdown, there will be a higher level of respect and intimacy, ultimately leading to negative dating trends like ghosting and bread-crumbing to die out.

Social distancing approved ideas

People have had three months in lockdown to build a relationship with someone and now it’s time to start regaining some normalcy by going on an actual date. But what does that look like? Depending on the city and the lockdown restrictions, a physical date can be tricky. A simple dinner and a movie is currently out of question, therefore it's the perfect opportunity to get creative. Luckily, the experts have compiled their favourite date ideas that will keep the romance alive and allow a more natural progression into the next stages of the relationship.

With regulations lessening in the UK, Gillian suggests, “The options for dating are moving out of the purely virtual and into the real world again. As of this month, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open again along with art galleries and museums. Wandering around the spectacular spaces London's cultural scene offers is a great start for a potential relationship.”

As for Sacha, she has several date ideas in mind. She's provided both virtual and in person options that can help with finding out the other person’s interests and is a new way to break the ice if needed. Her first idea is to become cultured together online: “Take a virtual culture trip together on a Zoom or Skype call with screen sharing to Google Arts & Culture, a free platform with over 2,000 museums and projects that you can explore virtually, some even in 360 degrees video. It even includes world-famous museums like the Musée d’Orsay, the British Museum, Van Gogh Museum [and more] amazing well-known artists.”

Her second suggestion is to go on a social distancing walk or workout. She adds, “Have a socially distant walk or workout in the park. Walking is what most people do these days on their first date, otherwise do a workout or a bicycle tour!”

Before making the decision to take the next step and safely engage in a sexual relationship, Mia has found ways to keep the sexual chemistry while still social distancing. Video chatting is a great way to allow each person to express themselves sexually while maintaining a safe distance. She goes on to say, “Schedule in a virtual date between in-person dates to keep the excitement alive. Thoughtful, romantic attention and some well-earned alone time will be sure to brighten up both your days and build intimacy between you both.”

She continues by adding, “Why not plan to cook and eat a special meal together over video call? Let the sexual chemistry mount throughout the meal as you flirt remotely and, if you feel comfortable, perhaps hint at a surprise dessert not listed on the menu!”

Remember, we're still in a pandemic

Just because lockdown is slowly easing, that doesn’t negate the fact that the world is still in a pandemic and there still isn’t a vaccine for the virus. A good rule of thumb to ease the tension would be getting tested before attending an in person date.

While Gillian encourages people to get back into the dating world, she also urges them to take the pandemic seriously: “Maintain high standards. Remember you’ve spent months being good citizens, protecting yourselves and others. Don’t turn around now and sleep with people right away because you feel vulnerable, lonely, anxious, eager for excitement, perhaps less desirable, reaching out for a quick fix, that rush of oxytocin that we are all longing for.”

Of course, the biggest downside of dating after lockdown is still having to abide by the social distancing guidelines in order to not catch the virus. But in the end, safety comes first. Meeting someone outside of your household, not wearing a mask or not staying two to three metres does pose a threat. If there’s a possibility of being asymptomatic, one date isn’t worth risking infecting everyone else.

Under these new COVID guidelines, lockdown may have been a blessing in disguise for the dating world, creating all new opportunities to learn how to form connections. Even with the world shrouded in uncertainty, finding love during a pandemic just might be easier than you think.