Dating in a pandemic—why it’s different, and why it’s (kinda) better

I’ve barely seen anyone talk about what it’s like to start dating someone in the midst of a pandemic. It seems sort of like an unnecessary topic in the grand scheme of things, to be honest—and it really is. I feel weird writing about this when there are people all around me suffering from the negative effects of COVID-19. But every once in a while, in the privileged bubble in which I reside, good news arises of someone getting into a relationship, making new friends, letting go of toxic people, etcetera etcetera. I was fortunate enough to be one of those recipients of that good experience.

About a year into lockdown, I got into probably one of the healthiest relationships I’ve ever had—ever. But it’s constantly looming between me and my partner if we got into this too fast, or if we were victims of a whirlwind romance, because some people seem to think so.

For starters, we only knew each other for a month before we actually started dating. And I don’t mean dating as in he’s courting me or whatever, like we actually have a label, we’re committed, and we see a future with one another. But what came as a shock to about 90% of people we’ve told about our relationship is the fact that we knew each other for only a month (and if I were to be honest with you… it’s less than a month…).

Naturally this got in me and my partner’s head. Was it really too early? Was it a mistake? But how come what we share feels so familiar, like we’ve known each other for so long? We’ve had lots-ish talks about this for a pair who’ve only known each other for a month, and have dated for a month (so now we’ve known each other for two months), and I thought I’d share it with you.

Quarantine relationships means no physical façade

In real life, we always think about having to look good, about being presentable, likable, approachable, whatever. At least that was the case for me and my partner. Meeting online and talking there, without our cameras on, allowed us to be fully ourselves without worrying if we looked weird or if we came off as too strong or whatever. Personally, I’m insecure about the shape of my nose, and meeting him online without my camera on allowed me to 100% focus on the conversation we were having and being genuinely interested in him, rather than thinking about how I looked every 12 seconds or so.

Furthermore, first impressions matter. I look like a bitch and he looks like a fuckboy. We were also both introverts. So definitely if we met in real life first, there would be no conversation between us. At all.

Given that we were spared of the concept of façades, we were allowed to be fully and completely ourselves. By the time it was the third day of our knowing-one-another, we had practically stayed up all night with a mutual friend, laughed our assess off about random topics, and talked about shit that made us cry.

(I might be cheating a bit, though. Both of us knew one another existed before actually meeting; we came from the same school. We just never had the chance to talk until quarantine.)

Quarantine relationships means no more “going home.” It’s just talking 24/7

Time exists, but it exists a little bit less during quarantine. Back then we would be restricted by having class at 1 PM, errands at 3, dinner dates at 7, and returning home before 11. It was schedule here and schedule there. We were essentially tied to it, and saying ‘bye’ or ‘see you tomorrow’ was probably a lot more common than we remember.

But with the whole online set-up, I just felt like that was virtually non-existent. My partner and I got closer because we studied together with our mutual friends for whole days, during which we got to exchange random stories and take our laptops with each other every time we needed to cook lunch or take a study break. And then we also got to Netflix party whenever we wanted without caring for what time the movie will start or end, because we’d both be home anyway, and we can start whenever we want, sleep whenever we want, and so on and so forth. So for days on end we would watch movies together, and then talk until the wee hours of the morning. At one point we stayed up until 11 AM, just the two of us.

By the time we’d known each other for less than a week, we already talked for (what we calculated to be) at least 20 hours. And that’s only consistent talking—as in, we were on call and there was a timer indicating how long we had been on call. That doesn’t count the times we’d spend with one another throughout the day, either through chat or calling with our mutual friends.

Quarantine relationships means no emotional façades

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I’m so fucking done with the pandemic. I lost a lot of friends, realized many of the people in my life were toxic, processed a lot of trauma I otherwise would’ve ignored, got stressed by the incompetency of the government, and had to figure out my entire life after graduation, among other things. I had no more space for bullshit, and I expected pure sincerity and pure-heartedness from anyone I met (as I would also dispense the same), point blank period.

So meeting people in quarantine, I was getting into it genuine. I knew more than any other time in my life what I needed, what brought me peace, and what isn’t good for my growth. So I befriended people with sincere intentions and was genuinely who I was, and if they didn’t accept me then I didn’t see any reason to continue the friendship.

Now why did I say all that? Because that openness was key to me entering this relationship in the first place. I wasn’t too busy trying to maintain an image of someone strong, courageous, or put together. I wasn’t trying to make myself look like your kind, dreamy, quirky girl. I was just me. And here are my values, my interests, my beliefs; here are the things I fear and things I hate; here are the things that have traumatized me but no longer do, and here is how I’ve grown. What about you?

That openness is what allowed my partner to be open, too, and what allowed us to know one another and flourish towards 20 hours of talking in less than a week. Pure honesty, vulnerability, and peace. No bullshit, no being fake.

Concluding thoughts

Of course there’s still that looming fear that we got into this too fast. It doesn’t help that time moves so slowly because everyday is a chore in quarantine life where everyday is the same. But at the same time, well, the friendships I have in real life? It took me months, maybe even years to get comfortable with them the same way I’m comfortable with my partner. And I know it’s because it took me months to shed the façades I had, and because I couldn’t stay for some after-school bonding so I couldn’t be afforded the endless hours of talking even if I wanted to.

So, I don’t know. Maybe quarantine does have a knack for whirlwind romances. But thinking about it now, I think we were just given the opportunity to shed whatever it is that made it difficult to communicate and be genuine in real life.

And my partner and I are insanely happy together. That, I can actually say with confidence.

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