Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Dating during a pandemic

Dating has changed during the pandemic. Photo by @natabene via Twenty20

Single for more than four years, Alexa Dicken, 25, was determined live life outside her comfort zone. So, dressed in a classic 90’s look–red mesh skirt with a black tank—she nervously walked into a trendy bowling alley in Times Square for a meetup event. Alone.

She was assigned to a group with Sarah Weinflash, a 26-year-old production staff at a theatre company, and a few of her friends. Weinflash caught Dicken’s attention immediately.

“I thought she was kind of cute,” Dicken said. She began to make conversation with Weinflash and realized they had a lot in common. But their brief interaction was cut short when they were assigned to different bowling lanes for the rest of the night. Occasionally smiling and waving when they made eye contact, they never connected again because Weinflash had to leave early for work.

A week later, they met again at another event, “I was so excited because this girl who I thought was cute the week before was at this event too,” Dicken said. Once again, the girls were separated into different groups for games. “She left before we were able to like reconnect that night, and I was really bummed because two times in a row.” Dicken went home feeling miserable. However, Weinflsh got her number from a mutual acquaintance and texted Dicken. So it started: constant texts, coffee dates, dinner at their houses.

On the evening of March 7, after almost two months of romance, Dicken and Weinflash decided to make their relationship exclusive. A little over a week later, on March 20, New York City, the new epicentre of Covid-19, went into lockdown, and the couple has not seen each other since.

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing some young couples in their  twenties to change their approach to dating and romance and to find new, creative ways to maintain their relationships. Covid-19 has modified romance for couples at every stage of romantic life from partners who have been together for a while, to couples starting relationships, to singles just getting to know each other.

In a time of crisis, relationships can bring couples closer if they are focused on “being fully present with the people that they love,” said Christine Wilke, a licensed marriage and family therapist. She says that the pandemic has allowed some couples to develop a deeper understanding of their partners.

As the pandemic began to spread in New York, both women moved in to be with their families. Dicken, an adjunct professor, and a Ph.D. student is now working from home in Long Island; Weinflash, who was furloughed from her theatre job, is with her parents in New Jersey.

The couple has replaced face-to-face interaction with regular video calls. Dicken says that she’s “very thankful for modern technology,” as it has allowed her “to like see her face and hear her voice and talk to her and everything which is really nice.” Despite the ease of texts and video chats, Dicken reverted to one of the oldest forms of romance, writing a love letter. “I got a little old-fashioned and romantic and sent her a letter,” she said. “She loved it.”

While there are downsides to long-distance romance, what matters the most, Dicken says, is that “We still have each other, even if from a distance. I’m so grateful for that.”

Even when couples are physically apart, they can sustain emotional connections through with some technology assistance says Miriam Bellamy, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Colorado. “Just a small thing, like watching TV together,” she says.

That’s the strategy used by Daniela Cantillo, 24, and Dylan McDonough, 25, a couple who have recently been separated due to the coronavirus. Cantillo and Mcdonough met as students at Florida International University in 2016. Cantillo is self-isolating back home in Florida and McDonough in New York City.

The couple has been watching movies and TV shows together through Facebook video chat, starting and pausing the film at the same time, and then discussing the shows afterward. One of their favorite movies so far have been CoCo and Moana. They are currently watching “The Office” together, “I never saw it before, but he insists that I needed to,” Cantillo said. They also play online trivia and drawing games through a new video calling app called Houseparty with a few of their friends.

Cantillo and McDonough stayed good friends throughout college, regularly texting and calling before they realized they had strong feelings for one another. When Cantillo moved to New York City, where McDonough was located, to work at an Arts Non-for-profit more than two years ago, they decided to make the relationship official. Since then, Cantillo has gone back to school, currently completing a Master’s degree in International Affairs at the New School, and McDonough is working as a manager in sales at a stock media company.

The couple lived in separate apartments in Brooklyn and went on dates three to four times a week, often trying out new restaurants and bars. “I’m a huge foodie,” said Cantillo. The restaurant exploring days are over for now and she misses that aspect of their dating. “We can’t go on dinners anymore, share appetizers, and get a little drunk.”

The separation is not without its stresses with what Cantillo calls “a real coronavirus couple fight,” caused by her not paying attention to a movie that they were supposedly watching together. Despite their small quarrels, Cantillo thinks that their relationship will survive through this virus. “I went to Egypt for a month. The time difference was hard, but we still made it work,” Cantillo said. “It feels kind of nostalgic, a little bit like, it’s cute. To be put back into our long-distance roots.”

For other couples, COVID 19 has forced them to make decisive moves, such as living together sooner than they planned.

Dating for about a year, Erin Meskers, 25, and her boyfriend, Kyle Hodge, 27, saw each other at least four times a week, often sleeping over at each other’s apartments. Initially, the couple had planned to move in together in August. Yet, once the pandemic hit, they decided it was best for them to live together and to keep each other company during the self-isolation period. Meskers packed her things and moved into Hodge’s spacious, modern-looking apartment in Bushwick, who he shares with two other roommates.

The arrangement hasn’t quite turned out as the couple had planned.

“In the beginning, living together was not bringing us closer,” Meskers said. “I thought we were driving each other insane.” Little things like eating annoyed her. “I’ve been picking on him for chewing too loud,” Meskers said. “We’re not screaming at each other; we’re just getting more annoyed at each other.”

She blames the short tempers on being together 24 hours a day as both are working from home, Meskers as a brand partnerships and events coordinator at a cosmetics company, and her Hodge, 27, a staff writer at an online media company,  “It’s definitely been like a little bit of a roller coaster throughout the whole thing,” she said.

Wilke says this is not unusual. Relationships and marriage are “hard work.” She recommends that couples who are now spending a lot more time together because of the pandemic should “sit down and just map out a schedule,” and make sure they “create some personal time to recharge.” With any relationship, listening and communicating is the key.

In the case of Meskers and Hodge, living together has allowed the couple to have more conversations and to work on their differences. “I feel like it’s actually been more positive than negative,” Meskers said. Both schedule blocks of time alone, the couple spends every morning working on their own tasks and organizes time to call and virtually hang out with their own friends. In the evening, the couple cooks meals together. “That’s kind of been our favorite part of it, we used to eat out a lot and not cook, so it’s been fun to order groceries and make meals and baking cookies.”

Ultimately, for partners, separate or together, Bellamy stresses that “There’s something much bigger going on here. You don’t have to learn a new language; you don’t have to write your book. Take it easy. Let yourself relax. Perspective is the key to everything.”


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020

Fort Greene’s Dino adds outdoor dining to keep business flowing

Courtney Guarino September 19, 2020

COVID-19 hampers Fashion Week for photographers

Daniel Karel September 18, 2020

On the heels of revelation that Trump downplayed the covid threat, voters question rallies resuming

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 16, 2020

Overburdened mothers in Pakistan are relieved as schools reopens

Quratulain Tejani September 13, 2020

Students from different parts of the world struggle as schools reopen during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang September 12, 2020

Special needs students face learning obstacles during Covid-19

Courtney Guarino September 12, 2020

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Isabel Beer September 12, 2020

The new normal for school life is abnormal in Michigan

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 11, 2020

California School District Parents and Teachers Clash About Return to School

Norah Hogan September 10, 2020

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020

Overseas Singaporeans have pandemic obstacles to voting

Yifan Yu July 9, 2020

Proximity sensors and hygiene stations are the “new normal”

Joanna Lin Su July 9, 2020

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Narkwor Kwabla July 8, 2020

Dengue outbreak could be a greater threat than covid in Singapore

Yifan Yu July 8, 2020

Corporate bankruptcy: ‘A story that’s not going away’

Gaurav Sharma July 7, 2020

Beijing reopens as the second wave of coronavirus dies down

Hannah Zhang July 6, 2020

Masks or no masks?

Bohao Liu July 5, 2020

Varsity Flu

Madeline Gunderson July 3, 2020

Rail travel in China is popular during the pandemic and filled with safety measures

Bohao Liu July 3, 2020

Brazilian international student caught in US travel ban.

Marina Guimaraes July 3, 2020

MTA faces crisis following COVID shutdown

Daniel Girma July 2, 2020

Easter Market goes back to its roots

Kyla Milberger July 2, 2020

China’s Airline Industry Aims to Lure Back Passengers with Unlimited Flight Pass

Zishu Sherry Qin July 1, 2020

US corporate debt soars during coronavirus outbreak

Gaurav Sharma June 30, 2020

In Singapore, gay pride goes online

Yifan Yu June 29, 2020

The Hair Room reopens

Shiyu Xu June 29, 2020