• Jennifer Klesman, LCSW

Dating During a Pandemic

With nobody wanting to put dating on hold in 2020, they continued to swipe even when sheltering in place. Since April 2020, plenty has been written about dating during the pandemic regarding how to meet virtually and safely, how to have “the COVID talk”, when to get tested before and/or after seeing someone, and taking into consideration how many other people this person you’re interested in is meeting up with.

In times before COVID there was an unspoken sensitive two week period when meeting and talking to someone online. Typically, after matching, if talking doesn’t kick off within the first 1-2 days, the excitement of that new person can dwindle. If you don’t continue to have contact in the first week or it is a very spotty conversation, it can kill the newly forming vibe. If somewhere during week 1 or 2, you don’t make plans to or don’t actually meet up, that momentum struggles to maintain. There is an excitement when you first match with someone you’re generally interested in, but if one party doesn’t join in nurturing that momentum then it can hit a wall very quickly. COVID-19 entering the picture didn’t erase this fragile period, it just made meeting virtually (and often sooner) an option. It also added a new element of ‘is this person worth risking my health to meet’ once the warmer months arrived.

Now assume you’ve made it past this phase and you’re actually connecting well with someone and are moving to the next step of becoming official. It seems as if the relationship part of dating should be easier, but COVID has thrown a wrench in the game plan. You have someone to do things with, but there’s nothing to do. You are letting someone else into your bubble, but who comes along with that person?

You may know what your partner is doing, but what are their roommates doing? If they work in an office or with the public, how socially distanced is it? What about all of the fun things you typically do at the beginning of the relationship - meeting each other’s friends, grabbing drinks at a bar, going to shows or movies, getting out of town for the weekend, meeting each other’s families, or just going out for dinner somewhere nice. None of that can happen. As soon as it’s gotten cold, things have basically defaulted to dinner and a movie at home. Maybe add a walk in the morning, start a TV series, and do some yoga together, but that’s what your fresh new relationship starts out looking like.

Right out the gate we have to talk about and own our own habits around COVID, decide what we are comfortable with doing, and if this relationship has enough potential to start taking new risks. While some experiences have had to be placed on hold, there are a number of other ways that the relationship is made to move faster in quarantine since you have limited your in-person interactions. It can be nice to have someone who is then available every weekend to spend time with you and a lot more of that time is spent talking and connecting. You’re going to be experiencing some serious real life topics from the get go.

There is a different level of trust that is developed very rapidly. Everyone’s definition of “being safe” is different and if your new partner is seeing friends or family, you have to trust them that they believe whomever they’re seeing are also being safe. We very quickly have to put a lot of faith in our partner’s actions and intentions.

Never in the past would one think:

“Should I see my family because what if they haven’t been careful and I then see my partner and end up killing their family?”


“Will meeting the parents go great until you unknowingly become the one that got them so sick they were hospitalized?”

In the times before COVID, to see a partner excessively and exclusively without seeing your friends regularly, could be quite unhealthy and hurt relationships. The pandemic is a rare time where it is socially acceptable and somewhat encouraged to have this lifestyle; moreso if this is your only in-person contact throughout the week. It is important to maintain your friendships when experiencing the honeymoon period regardless of COVID. Still having those independent boundaries and days away from a new partner, connecting with others or not, is good for self care and balance.

The silver lining to a new quarantine relationship is the fresh wave of experiences you’re going to be able to have together once the world begins to open up again. Traveling, finally meeting friends and family, actually being able to go out for dinner at a restaurant; all of these things get to be new and exciting again in a post-pandemic world.

Dating is never easy, with or without a global pandemic, but the new cultural norms that have emerged from 2020 may actually aid in matching with people who are more intentional about finding a partner. You learn quickly if they are on the same level with safety and seriousness about the match and since losing the ability to freely date, people may be less inclined to procrastinate on an experience that could be taken away.

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