Love in the Time of COVID-19

Love is not simple. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and it makes for a whole different ball game. Luckily, WhenToTest has you covered with lessons in love and the tools to help so you can keep swiping right (or left).

Kim Noble
Flower with petals being torn off, one at a time

As of September 20, 2022, this post will no longer be updated.

I am that perpetually single friend everyone has — the one who entertains you with funny stories about her dating catastrophes. Thankfully, here in Los Angeles, I’m in good company. My single friends and I agree that dating was no picnic before the pandemic, but we do it (most of us) in the pursuit of love. And love might still be out there, but it’s certainly more complicated in a pandemic. Let me count the ways…

Speed things up? Or slow things down?

Those who were already dating when the lockdowns came around had a difficult decision to make: Did they double down and move in together, like my friend Kara and her boyfriend of six weeks? Did they dodge curfews and flout lockdown requirements to do something akin to “dating, the at-home edition,” like Aisha and Tony? Or did they try a long-distance approach, using phones and Facetime even though they were mere blocks away from one another, like Tarin and the woman she had just started seeing?

The decisions my friends made revolved around risk. Tarin has an elderly father she helps to care for, so she wasn’t willing to risk contracting COVID-19. 

And for those taking bets, Kara’s relationship thrived, and they are now engaged! 

Time for love? Or time for a break?

When lockdown hit in March 2020, many of us had extra time on our hands thanks to empty social calendars and a new, ultra-short commute from bed to desk. Some of us singles dedicated a bit of that new-found free time to looking for love online, while some of us stuck to puzzles and sourdough and waited for in-person contact to be permitted again. 

Jump forward almost two years, and the decision to date is still fraught. Most of us are back at work and our social calendars are populated again, so that pool of extra time has dried up. And if we didn’t take care of our bodies and our minds during these pandemic times, we might not feel like our best selves for dating, either. But it’s possible to date relatively safely now, thanks to vaccines, high-quality masks, and nimble businesses that have given us more outdoor or socially distanced options.  Widespread availability of tests and decision-making tools like the COVID Risk Quiz can also help ease our minds that we aren’t giving a date more than they bargained for.

Dating Criteria

Even before the pandemic, most singles I know were already using dating apps, at least sporadically. Their big perk: They allow us to assess a prospective date’s profile for our important criteria. Samantha wants to know whether he’s tall enough. Kai tries to discern whether she’s too high maintenance. We care whether they share our values about religion, politics, and education. Now we can add another criterion to the list: vaccination status. For me, if you’re not yet vaccinated, I’m not yet (read: not ever) going to consider dating you!

Dating site - Vaccinated 2Dating site - Vaccinated 1

While apps make vaccination status an easy box to check, it remains challenging to suss out whether a potential date’s overall risk tolerance for dating is compatible with your own. My friend Sheri now insists that a first date always happen online. But if he passes the Zoom test, she resumes the same pace for dating and intimacy she’s always had. She’s resolved that finding love is a priority worth the risk of exposure, especially since she was vaccinated (and now boostered).  

Meanwhile, my friend Brandy says she has slowed things down compared to pre-pandemic. She insists on a number of outdoor-only dates and a clear understanding of her suitor’s daily exposure risk before she will even consider a kiss. She admits that a prospect or two has not been patient enough to stick out her new timeline. 

For my part, I found that COVID-19 safety is a polite excuse to dodge an approaching face when my date just didn’t charm me! 

What do we do on a pandemic date?

I went on a couple of awkward, masked, walking dates early in the pandemic. Picnics in the park became the next big thing. But dating safely didn’t really get back on track until cafes, restaurants, and other establishments reopened and outdoor options multiplied.  A movie or bowling might still be outside of someone’s comfort zone, but you have options. You might have to get creative in those winter climates though. Snowshoeing date, anyone?

With dating, like with everything else during the pandemic, it’s all about weighing the risks and deciding for yourself. Thankfully, there are now effective tools to reduce transmission, like high-quality masks and vaccines. In addition, widespread testing and other resources like the COVID Risk Quiz exist to help reduce the spread. Please try the COVID Risk Quiz, and share your experience dating during the pandemic on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter