Dating can be tough at the best of times.
But how about now, when coronavirus has forced more than a quarter of the world’s population to live under lockdown?
People from China to the UK, to Spain and India, have been practicing social distancing – the opposite of what you normally do, when you’re trying to get to know someone.
So how is this affecting dating and relationships globally? Here, five people from around the world share with us their intimate dating stories.
Warning: This piece contains adult themes
Sophie*, 27, from Shanghai, China
I broke up with my ex a week before Wuhan went into lockdown and then most of China was put under similar restrictions. Nobody knew this would happen. It was really hard for a while because I was dealing with all of this by myself.
Eventually, I decided to get on dating apps. Somehow sitting alone in my apartment with my cat and swiping left and right became a sort of entertainment.
But it was difficult to actually substantiate anything. I’d talk to guys for hours but then there’s only so much talking you can do before meeting someone.
Restaurants and public places are closed. Even if we were able to find a cafe that was open, we have to wear face masks. That makes dating meaningless.
It feels like you’re in a bubble and no-one can penetrate it. It feels safe and secure but it often makes you want to reach out and actually touch someone. It’s different when you’ve known the person you’re dating for a while but when it comes to online dating, this virus has created a lot of boundaries.
How do you meet a total stranger when you’re not sure if both of you are virus free? It’s kind of risky.
I’m taking a break now because I felt it wasn’t going anywhere. To be honest, I don’t think it’s going to be better anytime soon either, especially for as long as we’re hidden behind our masks in our own little bubbles.
Jeremy Cohen, 28, from Brooklyn, US
To keep myself busy while quarantining alone in my apartment, I started taking pictures of people on roofs around me for a photo series.
A few days ago, I noticed a girl across the street dancing on her roof. I was so attracted to her energy. I went out to my balcony and waved at her. She waved back.
I could almost instantly feel this connection between us and I wanted to get in touch with her. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I took out my drone, stuck a note with my phone number on it and flew it to her terrace.
She texted me after an hour and we started talking. I asked her out and then planned a date with the help of her roommate.
She was on her roof and I was on mine in a similar setting – a small table, some wine and some food. We were on a FaceTime video call throughout the date and we could even see each other and wave.
For date two, I went in an actual bubble. I wanted to get as close to crossing the line without really crossing the line.
I’ve been posting our story on social media and it’s gone viral. We’re co-ordinating all the interview requests and in a weird way that’s also bringing us closer.
This probably wouldn’t have happened if not for the lockdown. I’m overjoyed to have met an amazing person. I usually don’t take my chances. I guess being locked inside a box inspired me to get creative and to connect with someone else.
Clarisse, 35, from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
I was in a casual relationship with somebody before Covid-19 became a real global threat. We met each other almost every day but I didn’t want to invest in it emotionally. I wanted to take it slow. But who imagined something like this could happen?
The DRC is not under lockdown at the moment but because I work in the humanitarian health sector, I take this virus quite seriously. That makes him mad. I stopped seeing him four weeks ago and I tried to explain why that was important. But he thinks I’m using this as an excuse to get away from him.
I miss him and I often wonder whether I’m losing another opportunity of having someone more permanent in my life. I fear that he won’t wait for me. I also miss the physical intimacy.
We’re all desperate for sex. But then you have to find alternative ways. Luckily, my vibrator has always been my best friend. I think the guy knows that and I guess that’s why he’s taking it a bit too hard as well.
All of this makes me feel sad and even lonely sometimes. He doesn’t talk to me as much now and often takes a long time to respond to my texts. All I’m trying to do is to protect him and myself but I’ve kind of accepted that our relationship will not be able to survive this crisis.
Debasmita, 24, from New Delhi, India
When I first started dating my current boyfriend three months ago, I was so relieved that we lived in the same city. All my previous relationships had been long-distance relationships. I was glad that finally I was with someone I could spend so much time with.
We work in the same office so we would see each other every day. It was a blessing, until all of a sudden even this relationship turned long-distance because of the lockdown. It’s so annoying because this is not what we mentally signed up for.
Now we talk to each other on video calls about six or seven times a day. We stream movies together and watch them as we talk to each other. Sometimes, we cook the same food. I love quizzes so now we play a lot online. It’s just our own way of figuring out how to do mundane life things while being away from each other for an indefinite amount of time.
It creates a lot of stress and anxiety and we argue a lot sometimes. It’s different when you’re so used to having all your conversations in person. It’s easier to explain. It’s easier to understand.
We often laugh about this as well. If we make it through this, we can tell people later how we faced such a big hurdle right at the beginning of our relationship. I guess even that’s special.
Julie, 24, from Iligan City, Philippines
I’ve been on Tinder for more than two months now. Before our country went into lockdown due to the pandemic, I’d go on dates with random men and we’d make out. I did that whenever I had the time, of course.
Now, all of a sudden, I have so much time but I can’t meet anyone. My sex life has been quite boring for a while because I’m not dating anyone. It’s frustrating that now I can’t do anything to pacify my desire for physical intimacy.
I’ve been quite active on dating apps even during the lockdown period. I talk to men, they say things that turn me on, and then often we get on a video call and indulge ourselves in cybersex. That helps both of us help our own selves and our own desire for sex. It’s not the same, but what choice do we have?
I’d love to meet these men but there’s no transportation here and we’re not allowed to go out. It’s especially more complicated because I spend all my time alone in my university dorm and I feel so horny these days. I’ve started masturbating everyday now, often more than once. Maybe that’s what life will be like for a while.
*Sophie’s name has been changed on request
Stories put together by Nikita Mandhani, edited by Lorna Hankin and illustrations by Nikita Deshpande.