It’s hard to believe that almost two years ago, the word “dating” conjured up an image of a happy couple out for dinner and a movie, wearing their best outfits, blissfully unaware of what’s about to hit them in a few months. That was a time when romance offered intimate experiences—which the pandemic abruptly replaced with social distancing, mask-wearing and the threat of catching a deadly disease.
Dating is hard enough as it is, but after factoring in the Covid element, it seems like somehow the difficulty level went up with the blink of an eye. And the paradox is that people want to date more than they did ever before. Apparently it has to do something with the fear of dying alone. According to research by Dr Christoph Pieh, Department of Psychotherapy and Biopsychosocial Health, Danube University Krems, Austria, people that were a part of meaningful romantic relationships during the lockdown had a significantly reduced chance of developing anxiety. The quality of relationships also affected health-related issues like high blood pressure and insomnia. This further proves that people are generally happier when they are with someone. They want to eradicate their loneliness and have someone to rely on—be it an in-person relationship or something blossoming between the digital walls of a chatroom. Because there’s not much else to do in quarantine, dating can also feel all-consuming.
According to data released by the popular dating app Tinder, there were more swipes on March 29, 2020, than any day in the app’s eight year long history. Over three billion swipes to be exact. That is three billion attempts of someone trying to couple up. Similarly, their competitor Bumble revealed that there was a sixteen percent hike in the amount of messages sent on the app during the month of April, 2020, while the number of video calls went up by a whopping 70 percent. Seems like even a pandemic can’t stop the search for love. But how are those dates happening? Is it still all just swiping left and right? Or are people actually getting to know each other? Out of curiosity, we reached out to five people within the age group of twenty five to thirty five, to get a general idea of what’s happening. Here are their stories.
The long distance bond: Relationships should be built on the foundation of trust and respect
“We’ve been together for five years you see, even though we don’t see each other everyday, I would still describe it like a normal relationship,” says Vansh, 33. Vansh and his girlfriend Jessica met in college and have been together ever since. The fact that they live in completely different continents didn’t stop them from being completely exclusive with each other, but things took a dark turn in early 2020 when international travel restrictions were put into place. “We’re both Punjabi at heart but after finishing college I decided to stay back in London while Vansh had to move to Delhi for work,” says Jessica, 33. “We made it a rule to visit each other every three months, but as soon as the Covid-19 cases started to surge, we knew it was going to be harder than before,” she adds. As of today, they haven’t met each other in person for exactly seventeen months but the physical gap has only made their relationship stronger. “It’s funny how being apart for so long has brought us even closer. We talk to each other more than we did pre-Covid and share almost everything with each other. It’s not what we expected, but it’s a refreshing change, and I can’t wait for us to reunite again,” Vansh adds.
The Covid heartbreak: Healthy boundaries are necessary
“I had been in a serious long-term relationship for a little over a year when the pandemic began. And when the lockdown started, my boyfriend and I were in the same city (Chandigarh) so we decided to quarantine together in his apartment,” says Saba, 28. At first, things were great between the two. Cooking breakfast, syncing each other’s work schedules so that there’s enough time to watch Friends together, among other things that couples like to do. One would think that spending all that time together would strengthen their bond and take them to the next level of dating, but what happened next was not exactly a fairytale ending, but an ending nonetheless. “I can’t believe that we went from being each other’s best friend to almost hating each other—all within a single year. I kept figuring out what exactly went wrong, and the only conclusion I could arrive at was that probably we had gotten too comfortable with each other,” says Saba. “Prior to moving in together, we only knew a fragment of each other’s real personality. It wasn’t like we were hiding anything on purpose but being together for twenty-four hours in a day changes a lot of things. My friends tell me that even if you’ve been with someone for a long time, there should be a sense of mystery and excitement for a relationship to work. Instead of falling into an endless rut, you should be able to surprise each other from time to time,” she adds.
The freshly minted optimist: Welcoming positive change can be good for your mental health
“Luckily I was single at the time the pandemic started, so there was no baggage to worry about,” says Abhinav, 30. While it’s true that the pandemic has caused a lot of devastation and affected millions of people, both physically and mentally, there are some people that have managed to go completely unharmed. Abhinav is one of those people. “I’m a freelance graphic designer and I’ve never stepped into a formal office for as long as I’ve been working. Ever since March, I’ve been watching other people get a hang of the lifestyle I’ve always lived. And coming to the subject of dating, I’ve never really cared about love, romance and all of these things. For me, my parents and work is more important than anything in the world,” he adds. But staying alone for two years, trapped in a tiny apartment in Bangalore did bring about some change. “It sounds almost ironic but the cynic in me has slowly started to become dormant these days. Being alone for a period that felt like an entire lifetime made me feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of things in my life. As soon as the lockdown restrictions were put to ease, I connected with a lot of my old friends and it turns out that I’ll be going out on my very first real-life date in a long time, and for the first time I actually have a positive feeling about something like this,” he adds.