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.”


Tags


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

During pandemic, Rio de Janeiro residents fear police

Marina Guimaraes May 27, 2020

Recovering from drugs during a pandemic

Kyla Milberger May 26, 2020

  Covid-19 takes away the communal joy at Eid-al-Fitr celebration

Narkwor Kwablaa May 25, 2020

Beloved old school game sees boom in numbers during coronavirus quarantine

Michael Yang May 15, 2020

Coronavirus leaves the fate of some beloved New York events uncertain

Emily Glass May 15, 2020

South Africa’s lockdown exposes inequalities

Kathleen Taylor May 14, 2020

Churchgoers find spiritual growth through virtual services 

Harrison Tsui May 14, 2020

” I’m working with COVID patients tonight”

Margaret Guzman May 14, 2020

Singles connect on Tinder to fight quarantine blues 

Yaroslava Bondar May 14, 2020

Jewish traditions during a pandemic

Sydney Fishman May 13, 2020

The Bible and Coronavirus

Jonathan Sarabia May 13, 2020

Doctor uses social media to give advice and hope

Sope Aluko May 12, 2020

First Sandy, Now COVID: Lower East Side Activists Grapple With Construction for Climate Project

Izzie Ramirez May 12, 2020

The last reponders

Shiyu Xu May 11, 2020

When the pandemic hits a shelter for abused boys 

Amanda Perez Pintado May 11, 2020

Portugal contains the coronavirus despite Spain’s woes

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 11, 2020

Warm weather brings crowds to Prospect Park

Bessie Liu May 11, 2020

New York coronavirus numbers continue to fall

Jonathan Sarabia May 10, 2020

Living through the pandemic while a loved one is behind bars

Amanda Perez Pintado May 10, 2020

Pandemic ends all high school senior year traditions

Jonathan Sarabia May 10, 2020

Coronavirus might have caused the death of many children who were misdiagnosed 

Ximena Del Cerro May 9, 2020

Farmers destroy staggering amounts of food even as food lines grow

Karen Camela Watson May 9, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic threatens border towns in Mexico

Sydney Fishman and Ximena Del Cerro May 9, 2020

Pence’s press secretary tests positive for Covid-19

Shiyu Xu May 8, 2020

During pandemic NYC tenants in limbo

John DiLillo May 8, 2020

Llamas could be coronavirus heroes

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 8, 2020

Lawmakers, Legal Experts Clash Over Much Needed Business Interruption Insurance Coverage for Small Businesses

James Duffy May 8, 2020

Rent relief in NY, JetBlue’s flyover and Trump’s valet tests positive for coronavirus in today’s news

Amanda Perez Pintado May 7, 2020

Coronavirus tears through the Navajo Nation 

Amanda Perez Pintado May 7, 2020

In Singapore, spaces close, but restaurants open

Yifan Yu May 6, 2020

Press secretary calls Fauci testifying before congress “publicity stunt”

Kathleen Taylor May 6, 2020

Harry Potter and the Magical Malady of the Movies

Ahad Sanwari May 6, 2020

Trump speaks to human loss, Cuomo lashes out at President’s comments

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 5, 2020

PPE in the city

Narkwor Kwabla May 5, 2020

Boring Politics is Good Politics – Especially in a Pandemic

Serafina Smith May 5, 2020

Stuck: Life under quarantine in Rio de Janeiro

Marina Guimaraes May 5, 2020

New York’s Emptiness

Maria Abreu May 5, 2020

In an Airbnb Room During Lockdown in Jamaica, Queens

Dayo Paul May 4, 2020

What Temporary Means: Portraits of family at home

Guillermo Manning May 4, 2020

Stockholm Stays Open

Tatiana Kireeva May 4, 2020

NYC now producing its own coronavirus test kits

Maureen Mullarkey May 3, 2020

Miss you, mom: Spending Ramadan together through a screen

Maznah Shehzad May 3, 2020

Life in front of a screen

Patricio Zenklussen May 3, 2020

Coronavirus and the Shincheonji

Bessie Liu May 3, 2020

It’s The Little Things

Sope Aluko May 3, 2020

Days In, Days Out: A doctor’s life during Covid-19

Elsa Benamouzig May 2, 2020

Contactless: Food Delivery amid COVID-19

Keighton Li May 2, 2020

Hasidic South Williamsburg Resists the New Reality

Leo Schwartz May 2, 2020

Solace in Suburbia

Susanne Schweitzer May 2, 2020

Puerto Rico rocked by 5.4 magnitude earthquake

Amanda Perez Pintado May 2, 2020