Nova Scotia

How pandemic-era dating could change the way people pair up

Dating experts say the pandemic is not only shifting how people date, but what they want in a partner. But will these changes last?

SMU prof expects fewer hookups, more long-term relationships post-COVID-19

Melodie Couturier is using FaceTime, Zoom and other social platforms to go on virtual dates without ever leaving her house. (Melodie Couturier)

There's just one way Melodie Couturier can describe her first video date: awkward.

"It had nothing to do with the guy, it had nothing to do with me," said the 29-year-old teacher from Bedford, N.S. "I remember leaving tired because ... I find when you're in person you get more back."

Couturier is abiding by public health orders to physically distance while also trying to sustain a dating life, but she's discovering that it can be a struggle.

"Everybody's life is different because [of] COVID-19 and these restrictions and these changes, whether we realize it, our brain is always processing that in the background," she said. "It takes a bit of an extra effort, I think, to get that conversation going." 

Still, there are some perks. While Couturier gets ready for her online dates by putting on some makeup, doing her hair and picking out a top, she jokes that she can now keep her sweatpants on.

With more people confined to their homes, activity on online dating platforms is on the rise. 

Social networking apps like Bumble in Canada said usage was way up shortly after physical distancing began in March, and dating experts say the pandemic is not only shifting how people date, but what they want in a partner. 

Maryanne Fisher, a psychology professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said this unusual time presents a unique opportunity to forge a relationship relatively free from outside influences.

Maryanne Fisher, a professor at Saint Mary's University, expects that once physical distancing measures end, some people might prefer deeper relationships over short-term hookups. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

People have more time to invest in someone else and there could be less unwanted input from family and friends, she said. Fisher also wonders what affect a fear of being alone will have on how people pair up in a post-pandemic world.

"I think we're going to see big shifts toward companionship and wanting to have more of an emotional connection or meaningful connection," she said. "And I think that's going to cut across a lot of different age categories, and I think it's going to cut across a lot of people's former relationship beliefs."

There's a lot of interesting ramifications this could have for the future.- Maryanne Fisher, Saint Mary's University

Before the pandemic, Fisher said research showed more Canadian women were seeking short-term relationships, and there was less stigma attached to them.

She doesn't expect that attitude to be quite as prevalent now that people are so aware of viruses and how they spread.

"There's a lot of interesting ramifications this could have for the future," Fisher said.

Jean-eva Dickie, owns J-E Matchmaking in Halifax, and has been coaching singles on how to date online. (Zahra Zaman)

Jean-eva Dickie has seen a change in how people approach dating and relationships already. 

The Halifax matchmaker said in-person matchmaking dates typically have a 33 per cent success rate — a second date, for example. These days, she said nearly 100 per cent of her matches continue seeing one another. 

Dickie sets up couples on dates using Zoom or other social platforms, like House Party. They can also go on virtual dates of the Louvre and other museums or watch a movie together on Netflix, which now has an option for people to message one another. 

"I find that people are actually quite open to … investing in their romantic life more than they had before [the coronavirus]. So it's actually a really interesting twist that I didn't expect," Dickie said.

Unlike Fisher, however, she's not convinced it will last. 

Lucas Fuller, 32, says the biggest challenge is sustaining an online relationship when you don't know when you'll be able to actually meet in-person. (Lucas Fuller)

Lucas Fuller, who's 32 and lives in Dartmouth, said trying to find love under lockdown has him confronting his own dating habits. In the past, he was guilty of rushing into relationships, he said. 

He met Dickie during one of the last weekends before the restrictions came into force and she's now helping him develop relationships online. 

"I think it really forces everybody to really take the time and really get to know somebody," Fuller said. "When it does come time to meet in-person, I think you're going to have a really better understanding of each other and I think that's going to help like me or anyone in the long run."

WATCH Tips to make the most of dating in isolation:

Tips to make the most of dating in isolation

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But he admits it's also been hard to sustain relationships online, especially since no one knows just how long public health orders will be in place.

Both Fuller and Couturier say they've had positive experiences dating during COVID-19. On a recent date, a guy played guitar for Couturier over video call and she guessed the tune. 

As much as they can't wait to return to a simpler time, they're both not rushing into anything even when restrictions begin to lift.

"I think it's definitely going to be a big change for everybody when it first happens," said Fuller. "I'll probably definitely take my time and just kind of slowly get back into it."