Has the Pandemic Changed Dating Forever?

Boundaries. Meaningful connections. “Covid baggage.” Here’s what dating will look in a post-pandemic world.


By Sara Aridi

Eons ago, romance often involved dinner and a movie, a few drinks in a crowded bar or a goodnight kiss — intimate experiences the pandemic abruptly replaced with social distancing, mask-wearing and the threat of catching a deadly disease.

Simply put, dating in 2020 was “really scary,” as Monica Zahl, a graduate student in Brooklyn, said recently. “There’s nothing less sexy than, like, risking your physical well-being.”

About six months into the pandemic, Ms. Zahl, 23, resumed dating, starting with outdoor dates at parks and bars. Masks stayed on until both people agreed they could come off, and there had to be clear consent before moving things inside.

These days, though, Ms. Zahl is fully vaccinated and less cautious about where she meets women and how carefully she vets them. “I’m certainly more frivolous,” she said.

She’s not alone.

Now that all American adults are eligible for vaccination and many of life’s once-mundane routines are returning, dating has come back in force. But it may never be what it once was. For some people, the coronavirus brought on physical and existential fears too distressing to shake off overnight, even after inoculation. Other single people said the long periods of isolation have inspired awakenings and shifted priorities — for better or worse.

The hottest pickup line? ‘I’m vaccinated!’

Particularly for those singles who are vaccinated, the demand — or desire — to pair up is strong.

In January, Three Day Rule, a matchmaking company operating in 12 cities, started to see a boom in business.

“We’ve never been busier,” said Talia Goldstein, its founder and president.

The company’s clients are quick to mention if they have been vaccinated, Ms. Goldstein said, a trend that has almost overtaken social media and dating apps. In April, the dating website OkCupid saw a 680 percent increase in the mention of the term “vaccinated” in users’ profiles compared to two months prior, according to a spokesman. And more than half of users on the dating app Hinge reported that they planned to go on more in-person dates after getting their shots, the company said.

Duncan Giles, a union chapter president for employees who work at the Internal Revenue Service in Indianapolis, has been separated for more than a year. His first marriage ended after 23 years; he remarried shortly after and is still in the middle of his second divorce. In September, he mustered up the courage to join online dating sites like SilverSingles and eHarmony.

“I haven’t really ‘dated’ for close to 30 years,” Mr. Giles, 59, said. “This is like a whole new world to me.”

He has only been connecting with women virtually — he had his first video date in April — but said he feels more comfortable with in-person dates now that he is fully vaccinated.

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