With the introduction of the coronavirus and the subsequent quarantining and social-distancing guidelines that have been put into effect, it’s hardly arguable that the dating sphere has turned into a completely new world. The way we meet people and carry out our relationships with others has changed, placing limitations on how we interact in social settings. The entire country has been forced to accommodate in some way or another.
What once seemed like a short-term experience has turned into an everyday reality that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. The city-life that once bustled throughout Cincinnati has dwindled in the opportunity it once offered to the dating scene. The onset of these unexpected complications has forced some partners to endure and maintain long-distance relationships, while other people are exploring the dating world from six feet apart.
Abby Hans is a second-year architectural engineering student at UC. She recalls the fear she felt when it became clear that she would have to go long-distance with her boyfriend, second-year aerospace engineering student Andrew Straub. They had both resided in dorms on campus during the 2019-2020 school year. Once the coronavirus sent students home for the remainder of the semester, they faced a six-hour drive between the two of them.
“The drives were rough, but just knowing that the other person was at the other end of your drive was kind of nice,” Straub said. “You’re looking forward to seeing that person again and being able to just pretty much pick up where you left off.”
The couple says they’ve had to overcome communication issues throughout the pandemic, getting through obstacles that they didn’t have to face when on campus together. Straub says that he had to get used to being on his phone more often than he usually would to check in on his girlfriend and make sure that she felt important to him.
The couple would spend three to four nights a week on Facetime to catch up and spend time together while being physically miles apart. They would do homework over the phone or watch movies on Netflix Party, a web extension that allows two Netflix users to send chats while watching a movie together in real-time.
Despite the issues they may have initially faced, Hans and Straub discovered some unprecedented perks of being in a relationship throughout the pandemic.
“Before, we didn’t really do dates in college because we were together all the time,” Hans said. “We were always with our friends and did homework together. So when we actually had to go visit and see each other, we actually started going on little dates together and having little things set aside to do together.”
Once the fall semester began, the couple started living together in Hans’ family’s home in Louisville, Kentucky. Hans was taking her classes virtually and Straub was hired on Co-op. Both of them will have to move again for the spring semester and endure going long-distance once more, but the couple says they are much more prepared for it this time around.
“Obviously, it’ll still be a process we’re going to have to go through, but we’re much more prepared to go through that process than we were in the beginning,” Straub says. “Now we know that setting aside time is super important and being able to talk to each other if we have issues with communication or something like that is super important.”
While some couples had to deal with long-distance, others had to figure out how to date in a city under lockdown.
Gabriel Phan, a second-year software development major, says he briefly dated during the pandemic. He says they found ways to spend time together by going to parks, watching the sunset or going to each other’s houses.
While the two eventually stopped seeing each other, Phan warns against focusing too much on your partner to the extent of shutting others out, an act that many have fallen victim to while shut in during quarantine. Phan says that he stopped hanging out with his friends as he devoted more and more of his time to the girl he was interested in.
“I noticed that throughout this entire process that I wasn’t being myself,” Phan said. “I was never truly myself for the two months that we talked. I was a completely different person from who I am right now, and I’m back to being truly myself with everyone. Just be yourself in every situation because you never know when someone’s going to need you for you.”
Andrew Deckman, a third-year secondary education student, says he feels as if the entire dating process has slowed down since the pandemic started. Deckman uses apps such as Tinder and Bumble to try and meet people, but says he feels out of touch with himself considering how different everything has become this year.
“I’m a very extroverted person, so I don’t thrive on the dating apps because I’m better with in-person meeting people,” Deckman said. “The whole dating process, from planning the first date and even just getting that first date, has slowed down so much. It’s like everything has come to a kind of stalemate.”
Many have also faced difficulty in gauging physical limitations of intimacy when going on dates. The option that prospective couples once had to hold hands, or sit close to one another, is all up in the air now. Many feel uncertain about what’s considered okay behind the mask-mandate and the general fear of catching coronavirus.
“Definitely spacing and distancing is a weird thing,” Deckman said. “How close should I be? What should I talk about? You’re questioning everything, you’re saying ‘Was that right?’ You kind of feel like you’re stuck in the mud and you can’t get out.”
Although dating could most always be perceived as a complicated part of life, the pandemic’s arrival has considerably altered the way students continue to pursue their romantic interests. While it may not be impossible, many are still adjusting to the way reality has shifted, and the fear of the unknown is what seems to have become the largest and most daunting obstacle of them all.