Dating can be perilous at the best of times, but with COVID-19 shutdowns, finding romance has become even more difficult.
“I had been on three dates and it was going great, and then we got hit by this and it’s been reduced to texting,” Ariane Smith from Ann Arbor Michigan told the Journal.
“While I am on the apps trying to talk to people, it feels really dry because we know there’s no possibility of meeting up,” Elisa Dickie, who is self-isolating in Buffalo, N.Y., said. “Skype dates are nice and all, but I don’t see any real connections coming from them because there’s no real connection or intimacy.”
However, Los-Angeles based Jewish cyber-dating expert Julie Spira believes the pandemic might actually be the perfect cure for dating woes. “This is actually a good thing,” Spira told the Journal. “We are looking at a slower process for dating, which prevents people from just ending up with a hookup and getting ghosted.”
As a dating coach, Spira said she finds that being intimate too quickly and being abandoned are the most common complaints among her clients. This outlook inspired her to launch “Dating in the Age of COVID-19,” a resource for singles who have given up on dating but not romance. She is even offering dress rehearsals for virtual dates.
“I’ve never seen dating become as creative as it is now. I’m watching people take on some really romantic gestures.” — Julie Spira
“The need right now to be connected is so heightened, whether that is with your friends or in romantic relationships,” Spira said. “People want to be in relationships, but they just can’t meet in person.”
Adam Rubin, who is social distancing in Los Angeles, is not throwing in the courtship towel just yet. “I was going to meet up with a girl from JSwipe, but now we’ve just been chatting,” he said. “It’s postponed our meet-up but we haven’t canceled it.”
For singles skeptical of uploading their dating life, Spira said, “They need to realize everyone is in a long-distance relationship now, regardless of where that other person’s ZIP code is.”
“They need to realize everyone is in a long-distance relationship now, regardless of where that other person’s ZIP code is.”
Nevertheless, she added she believes the coronavirus might unlock a romantic renaissance. “I’ve never seen dating become as creative as it is now,” Spira said. “I’m watching people take on some really romantic gestures: sending food deliveries so you can dine together on Zoom, talking about going on a vacation someday and each picking out a city as they explore virtual tours of museums in the locations, shared playlists on Spotify.”
Even dating services are getting more creative. “I was expecting lockdowns in the United States well before they were announced, so we launched a virtual dating initiative pretty early on. Now we’re shifting our resources to building video chat features,” Ben Rabizadeh, the CEO of JWed, a dating service for Jewish singles, told the Journal. “We are building right now something to be able to schedule a date, to make it more formal so people can build anticipation for dates.” He also envisions developing gaming and virtual gifting features.
For Steph Black, who works for the National Council of Jewish Women in Washington, D.C., the pandemic has seen her fast track her romantic relationship, with her girlfriend moving in. “Relationships are moving faster due to the crisis,” since singles now have fewer distractions from each other, Spira noted. To those who are sheltering-in and shacking up, Logan Levkoff, a sexuality and relationship guru, told the Journal, “It is hard to blend lives into one space, no matter how big or small that space is … If you’re doing it, you need to leave room for people to mess up and make mistakes.”
All-in-all, making mindful decisions in a pandemic could mean facing less personal judgment, Levkoff said. “Consenting adults get to make any decisions they want about when they want to have sex, how they want to have sex, whether it’s on the first date or 10th date or whatever. That being said, the inability to connect physically takes the pressure off the question of ‘When am I supposed to?’ and ‘Will I be judged for it?’
As COVID-19 cripples our world with restrictions, the virus appears to be doing the opposite for lovers.
As COVID-19 cripples our world with restrictions, the virus appears to be doing the opposite for lovers, according to Spira. “Virtual dating was something in the past that people really didn’t embrace, because they felt, ‘Oh, my lighting is not good’ or ‘I’m going to have a bad hair day’ or ‘I will look better in person.’ Well, right now, everyone is having a bad hair day,” she said, adding the pandemic has lifted deal breakers such as looks, age and physical distance.
Levkoff concurred. “This is an opportunity for us to date outside of our type, to push ourselves to connect with types of people that we wouldn’t have done earlier,” he said. “When we’re operating in big social circles, we often think we are supposed to want what the person next to us wants. Now, we get to be authentic.”
Ariel Sobel is the Journal’s social media editor.