From dealing with breakups to finding new love, singles share what it’s like dating in a pandemic
Traversing through the occasionally perplexing, always thrilling world of dating is intensified in a pandemic. For singles, it’s all about getting creative and adapting to different approaches (see: online dating) made available to them by technology.
Is it actually possible to cultivate real, tangible connections through a screen? Is intimacy simply restricted to the physical? We made conversation with three singles and were surprisingly comforted by their answers.
Entering the Dating Landscape in a Pandemic Post-Break Up
Gabe, a 25-year-old who works for a sports non-profit, found himself suddenly single in lockdown after a 3-year relationship went south. Instead of repressing those feelings and distracting himself with a whirlwind of activity, he spent time reflecting. He shares, “Because of the pandemic, it’s forced me to be very introspective and reflect a lot, rather than bury it in other things. You know, sometimes after a breakup, you end up…repressing it. Or you end up throwing yourself at work, going out, [having] hook-ups…and I couldn’t do any of that. I just had to think, journal, reflect and pray.”
Coming into the dating landscape after four years, especially during such a peculiar period, felt alienating. Gabe notes, “Pre-pandemic, it was so much easier [to meet new people]…because of proximity. Dating during a pandemic is really weird. You have to rethink your whole approach…You really have to find alternative ways to [date]. There are those [platforms] like Bumble, Tinder and Grindr…but those aren’t usually the go-to’s of people. I’d like to think they’re more for fun and pang-ego boost.”
For the newly single, the experience of dating virtually still can’t replace meeting in person. He explains, “The experience of meeting virtually is different from in person because there [are] so many things that you can’t replicate like smell, mannerisms—like if you’re having dinner out, how [your date] treats the waiters.”
For Gabe, a silver lining that came out of the pandemic is creating connections that aren’t necessarily romantic. It’s expanding your world and circle, even amid such troubling times. He shares, “Obviously, you have to find other ways [to connect]. One of the nice things about the internet now is you can find a lot of online communities around [similar] interests and hobbies in so many different platforms…You can always congregate around [that]. Even through Tinder and Bumble, I made friends that I still talk to until now.” He adds, “The really important thing is just to be upfront about what you want and then building from there.”
For Julia, a 25-year-old content manager, dating after a quarantine breakup is refreshing. Having the ability to date again after two years in an exclusive relationship gives her that much-needed distraction. She tells us candidly, “I’ve been actively entertaining five to six guys at the moment, and it’s kinda fun! I’m looking for companionship talaga—attention, affection, especially [since] I came from a bad breakup. Gusto mo talaga ma-fill ‘yung void (You really want to fill the void).”
During another period of lockdown, she’s had to make do with virtual dates and actually prefers it before meeting in-person. She explains, “[Not being able to go out] is definitely the hardest part of [dating now]…but I’m actually having fun. The first time I had a Zoom date, it lasted for two hours. We enjoyed talking to each other, as in kwentuhan lang talaga (telling stories). And I think I like it better, because you know how guys do advances? [With virtual dating], I feel safe. From a distance, I get to know you, and we get to have fun.”
Still, for Julia, nothing can replace actually dating in-person. She shares, “Of course, nothing beats a date, literally being together, [being] at the same moment, same time, same environment and [breathing the] same air.”
Finding One’s Self in a Pandemic
Meanwhile, for Timoune, a 27-year-old musician, she’s had the opportunity to get to know herself and her partner better in the pandemic. Still, they’ve had to experience new struggles as a couple even amid a 10-year relationship, like not seeing each other for eight months during the first leg of lockdown. This mirrored an actual long-distance relationship. She shares, “I think our relationship pre-pandemic prepared us a lot for the pandemic. At the same time, it has also made me more conscious of how we function as boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Maintaining the relationship virtually was a challenge for Timoune, who admittedly hates doing video calls and whose love language is quality time. “With me and my boyfriend…I really try to talk to him at least once a day on video call. It’s such a peculiar thing…there’s no boundary anymore…everything has to be related to looking at a screen. That’s what really made it difficult for me to maintain the relationship,” she tells us.
But still, the pandemic gave Timoune the opportunity to appreciate time by herself, which ultimately made her stronger. She notes, “I think the pandemic’s made [my boyfriend and I] more independent. For the longest time, I’ve been very scared to be single…because I didn’t know how to be by myself. Somehow, this season has really helped me cope with that. I’ve learned how to revel in my solitude; I’m not afraid of the silence anymore.”
Whether you’re in a relationship, in pursuit of one or just enjoying being single, cultivating connections is always possible whether it be through virtual means or in-person. It always comes down to a can-do attitude and the openness to explore new things.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver