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Love in the time of COVID. Why lockdown made me excuse dating apps and the outcome

Something commonly repeated today is that no one expected the pandemic and that it had changed everything. I broke up with my partner at the end of January 2020. Not long after that, new social distancing restrictions were introduced that were supposed to last for two weeks. Fear? Definitely on the list of what I encountered during that time, but solidarity, too, played a key role. Social distancing and isolation definitely did not help in the process of recovering from a breakup or neither did it encourage me to step into the now known online dating world.

My head was puzzled from the continuous reading about the pandemic, COVID -19, new variants and whatever came next. The overall repetitiveness of every day was sickening. I was out of ideas when I thought that being locked down would probably be much easier with a partner. ‘Having someone around would not be such a bad idea, right?’, I asked myself and immediately imagined having meals, reading, arguing over what movie we should watch tonight and commenting on news about COVID together. Having someone to open my mouth to seemed like the most exciting idea ever.

At the first click

In 2017, I introduced myself to the online dating world for the first time. Without hope, just curiosity. Although it did not bring me a serious relationship, I had fun - went to the cinema a few times and for a walk, and even flew to Italy with someone. Still, I felt that getting to know each other via the Internet was not for me. There is no unique impression that comes with the first closeness, look, the sound of the voice. I was 23, and my friends and I were sure that great love comes at first sight - not at the first click.

Three years later, the idea of using ​​a dating app came back. That seemed the only option to get to know someone during a pandemic. Long conversations, even over the Internet, gave me the feeling that the world is not limited to my home only. While swiping through, I realised I was not the only one longing for contact. Swiping and swiping, it seemed like everyone else shared the same feeling of loneliness. However, what was still the same from what I could remember from previous experiences, the conversations often died to a standstill. And, the big difference was that no one wanted to meet. No one technically could.

To fall in love during spring

Finally, a beautiful spring came around while the Polish forests remained forbidden to enter due to restrictions. I was browsing through the dating profiles without conviction, and at an unexpected moment, I talked to someone for much longer than expected. Interested and starving for contact, we rebelled and went on a trip outside the city. We walked through forests and meadows with no one around. Yes, the choice of the meeting place with a guy from the internet did and still does both scare and amuse me. But it was unforgettable, and I felt so alive. Sometime after, we departed our own ways, and surprisingly, it was not a cause of the pandemic.

Summer. Despite the surreal reality, something was beginning to happen. Everyone wanted to make up for the lost months while the restrictions were to be lifted. People shyly began to have picnics in the parks and relax outside. My friends fell into a whirlwind of meetings. And I got fixed on the idea that with another autumn, new-old restrictions would come. While reviving my social life, I apologised to the dating app once again. The pressure to meet someone and not to be alone during lockdown was too intense.

There were many opportunities so starting to date someone was just a matter of time. There was nothing in our relationship to indicate there was a pandemic. Well, maybe apart from the fact that there were masks everywhere in his apartment. This relationship did not survive.

Right next to the information about height, hobbies and what is not liked about a potential partner, the sentences ‘I do not believe in a pandemic’, ‘I'm waiting for everything to return to normal’, ‘I wanted to travel, but COVID…’ seemed like the must-have description of the season. Suddenly, everyone wanted to talk about the pandemic, health, if vaccines were good (or not), and a potential return to normality. Although there were also people that had ‘I have a friend who illegally shares a club’ in their bios, I dated someone who made me forget about the pandemic. Despite the fact, there were face masks all over his apartment. There were other people, but it also did not work out. Not because of the pandemic, the masks or the lack of friends with illegal clubs.

Here we go again

In September, I gave up the hope of meeting someone. Hence the plan of surviving another lockdown on my own was put into motion. I would use this time to the maximum - read, practice yoga, learn to cook. And survive.

But the 2nd of October came. Although it was supposed to be my last date for a long time, I almost called it off. But we had a great date, and two days later we met again. And there it was - romantic walks, analysing the news together, and enjoying the last moments in restaurants. And we went to the protests together [Read more about the Women’s Strike in the article by Berenika Balcer in the 7th issue]. I remember the police announcing that there was an epidemic. For sure, this was one of those dates that stay with you for a long time.

Everything closed again. I never liked spending too much time in my apartment with someone. For me, dating was about meeting somewhere in the city, making surprises and having new experiences together. In the beginning, these home dates were exciting. But then having to know each other for two months at that time felt like living together for two years. It was simply impossible to break this routine because it was getting worse and worse while doing the same thing over and over again.

There were many moments when both of us preferred to be alone. The situation was stressful, our loved ones started to get sick, and it was necessary to summon up what was left of the energy to care for the relationship and just not go crazy. Spring came once again with a bit of normalcy. Vaccines became available. Although dating was going to be like it used to be again, my partner and I just did not know how to find ourselves in this normality.

You have to start over and get to know each other in new circumstances. Suddenly it may turn out that one of you has unrevealed habits and needs. Romantic relationships are always emotional. But I know that the situation of each couple is different. Among my friends, there were great loves in lockdown (after a few meetings!), but also break-ups. Really awful ones. Being in lockdown together, as it approached, also revealed what did not work but what we did not pay attention to before.

Bitter & sweet - just like always

Each of us had plans. Everyone wanted something in 2020. However, we were put to the test. I think that only in retrospect can we see what lockdown gave us and what it took away.

Is dating much different than dating in ‘normal’ times? At first, I was sure it would be weird, maybe more special. But it was not. I think it was a time when many changes took place surrounding ourselves, while the relationships always gave us euphoria, anger, love, a sense of helplessness, a sense of security, and nothing has changed in this matter. It is still, with any luck, a bittersweet experience.

Paula Krzykowska

As an art historian, she believes that here and now is all that matters. Intrigued by forgotten places and art in public spaces.

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