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04th Feb 2022

Dating after Covid: Has the pandemic changed everything?

Tara Trevaskis Hoskin

82% of singletons have found their dating life affected due to Covid. 

With lockdowns no more and Ireland’s booster rollout well underway, it seems that the strictest Covid guidelines will be gone, and for many single people, this means getting back into dating. 

However, that may look a little different this time round. Covid changed a lot of things, including how we date, and after two years, it may have left some lasting impacts. 

Little interaction with others has created anxieties for some around meeting new people, not to mention the hyper-awareness around transmissible illnesses like STIs.

During lockdowns, gone were the romantic days of leaving the club together and sharing a snack box at 2am with a handsome stranger. We had to move to the equally questionable online sphere – but now that we seem to be out of it, what changed about the way we date, and what’s going to stay with us into the future? 

We spoke to three Irish women in their early twenties to find out how their dating lives were affected during the pandemic, and how they see things panning out going forward. 

Online dating was for sure on the increase during lockdown, but this was more out of necessity than desire. “Initially it was boredom when I first used (dating apps),” says Sarah*, who has been single since the start of the pandemic. “I ended things with someone and realised I wanted to get back into dating, but I didn’t have any options to meet someone outside of the apps.” 

Now, of course, things have changed. But our awareness of what we want out of a date hasn’t. Dating app Plenty of Fish has found many new dating trends have emerged as a result of Covid-19. One is called ‘Dar-WIN-ing’, a trend which means refusing to date someone who does not believe in science. Their research said that one third of single people knew of someone who had done this in the past, or still continues to do it. 

Covid has also made us all more aware of our health, which ultimately impacts how we date. “The anxiety would’ve been that risk when Covid was very new,” says Sarah. “I was like ‘okay, first date is going to be socially distanced, we’re not gonna kiss, we’re not gonna touch.'”

But it’s not just Covid daters are hyper aware of catching – it’s STIs too. Sophie* says that even though sexually transmitted infections were always something she was careful about, her awareness of them – and the worries around them – have increased considerably. 

“It’s made people think more about their sexual health,” she says. “They realise ‘if I can catch Covid off this person, I can also catch other things.”

Student *Ivy adds that she’s found peoples’ boundaries regarding Covid have also changed, especially when you don’t know how someone feels about a drink in a crowded pub, or going back to a different household. She says Covid has actually made her more creative with her date ideas.

“It can be difficult to approach people on a night out or in a public place cause you don’t know how they’re gonna feel,” she says.

“It pushed me towards more outdoorsy activities. I wouldn’t mind going on a hike, I would think that would be a nice date now, whereas before I don’t think I would’ve thought of that. I would’ve always just leaned towards getting a drink.”

Sophie agrees that the pandemic highlighted how much dating relies on drinking, especially in Ireland. “That’s a huge big part of my social life,” she says, “like going out and having a drink with someone after work, and for a date. It’s kind of crazy.”

A recently study from Portland State University found that many adults dating during lockdown also felt increased Covid guilt, as they sometimes broke the rules to form connections. As well as feeling anxious around these meetings, the findings concluded that this guilt and anxiety could easily impact making a connection in the future.

67% of Her Instagram audience say that they felt more pressure to date due to restrictions being lifted, but for some, it’s also a reason to feel excited. Although a lot has changed in the last two years, this can come with its own positive results. 

“There is excitement to have freedom again, people might feel the need to go experience things that maybe they’ve missed out on,” says Sarah. 

Sophie agrees. The darkest days do seem to be over, and she thinks we’re all gonna be a lot more grateful as a result. “I think it’s going to make people more appreciative of how easy it is to just meet up with someone and go on dates,” she says. 

*Some names have been changed.