“I just don’t think now is an ideal time for me to be worrying about dating.”
It was exactly 18:35 when I got the text (yes, I keep my devices set on 24-hour time.) The reverberation from my phone in the cup holder amplified the message, but I didn’t look immediately. I was driving around the Seaport, looking for a parking spot, a woe to begin with, and now had an unanswered text that in my gut I knew was carrying some weight.
Circling around both physically and mentally, I finally parked and began walking to Row34 for an event to support the Middle Tennessee Tornado Relief Fund. It was Thursday, March 12.
I looked at the text, and the only thing I could think to write back was ‘LOL’.
I was baffled, frustrated, defeated. Though honestly, the whole thing was a bit humorous. Plus, the person I had been seeing romantically had a point: “I just don’t think now is an ideal time for me to be worrying about dating.”
Thinking of something mature to respond with, I wrote back, “No pressure. I don’t want you to worry about anything. I’ll step back.”
Social distancing, right?
We have all been prescribed that anyway. Being dumped with the excuse of COVID-19 hurt. Initially, I was angered with what I considered petty reasoning, but that instinct resolved into acceptance quickly. Who am I to judge another person’s feelings and needs in a crisis—especially someone I only started seeing recently? It was a relationship first courted at a Hot Chix pop-up at Winter Hill Brewing in Somerville, and ended via text, as I was on a solo venture with some Nashville Hot Chicken Biscuit Sliders on special at Row 34 that evening.
A relationship sandwiched between two hot chicken dinners. I’ll take it.
Then came another ‘LOL’ response. This time, directed to an editor at DigBoston who emailed me, “You got dumped because of the coronavirus? Any chance you want to write about it?”
I didn’t, really. But they added, “It’s gotta be happening to other people, too.”
Solidarity. And bonus points for cathartic expression. Partners being cooped up together for extended periods of time. Budding young love suddenly halted. Dating is tough as it is. Factor in a pandemic, and the rules fly out to the window.
I reached out to UpDate Coaching’s Andrea Amour, a professional date coach who hosts a range of Speed Dating events, including at Somerville’s Remnant Brewing. Amour sympathizes with those searching for love at this time, saying, “This is unprecedented. Old ways aren’t going to work in this new situation. I was talking with a client and they were worried about how they were going to date right now, and things fizzling out with potential partners. Should I say to them, see you in two to six months?”
Like a physical trainer for your dating life, Amour helps navigate her clients through such uncharted territories of love. With physical distancing, things are certainly more challenging for people early in their relationship. Amour encourages contact through video messaging, or if the couple is comfortable with one another (and the current state of affairs), maybe a hike, or even going out and sitting at a bench together—farther apart than they ordinarily would, of course. Amour jokes, “Why not lean into the silliness of it all, and bring your favorite drink in a thermos and have the other guess what you’re sipping?”
On the other side of the spectrum, some in longer-term partnerships have their own problems. “Being in a relationship is really hard. It’s a ton of work. It is the most noble work to do, and it is the most rewarding work to do in my opinion,” Amour says. “But it is incredibly difficult. And [the] coronavirus makes everything even more complicated. One thing that’s important about relationships is the concept of rules and roles. It makes things predictable and understandable when you’re taking two lives and merging them into one. Now with things more obscure, is it logical that more people would break up at this time? I think, absolutely. I think it’s a given. But it’s also where your relationship is at, and where your mentality is at.”
Billy Leahy, an art critic from Copenhagen, Denmark, has been observing the behaviors of those in self-quarantine. He says, “People are breaking up with themselves … Too much head time. People [are] realizing they don’t like themselves, then projecting that on their partners.” He lists boredom, lack of sport, and stress as potential complications.
But love can also unify us now more than ever. Whether practicing self-love, care for a neighbor, love for friends and family, love shared with another, or love in finding humor in heartbreak.
“Now we have an opportunity to work inward more consciously over the next few weeks and months,” Amour says. “Being in a relationship involves constant pivoting, constantly changing, constant redrawing of rules. The best relationships survive that because they understand that the rules change every three months. COVID[-19] is one of those changes.”